Sure, the world has seen the rise of smartphones and tablets running ARM processors, and plenty of people buying mobile devices, some even in lieu of a traditional notebook or desktop PC.
But while the smartphone revolution has roared, with billions of iOS and Android devices out there combined, the reality is that the PC market for desktops, notebooks, servers, education, home computing, gaming, high-performance computing, workstations, VR, high-end video, animation and so much more is still a massively strong market.
Yes, we have heard that PC sales have declined for many quarters in a row, but there are still hundreds of millions of PCs sold every quarter, and despite claims five years ago that the desktop was dead, AMD stats show 51% of PCs sold today are actually still desktop computers.
It’s a tactic Apple has steadfastly refused to consider for even a nanosecond, and look where Apple’s Mac sales have been – steadily increasing while PC sales have continued falling!
With plenty of PC buyers just not bothering to update their computers as often as they may have done in the past, you have to wonder where to point the finger.
A pretty damn big target is Intel. There are plenty of people using 2nd, 3rd, 4th and newer generation Intel-Core powered computers and notebooks, because they’re still running just fine – especially if you replace the HDD in most of those systems with an SSD, or if possible, PCI-e based NvME storage that is even faster.
The situation is the same for me. I have a 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina display. It is a fantastic computer, and does everything I want it to do admirably. Its Intel processor is still doing a fabulous job today, and while a brand new MacBook Pro will obviously have a faster processor, faster storage and more, there is no urgency to upgrade.
Now, that’s bad for Apple, who presumably would want me to buy newer Macs on a more regular basis, but it’s bad for Intel too, who would presumably also want the same thing.
This has come at a time when Intel’s processors have given relatively low percentages of improvement per year, forcing Intel to say things like “a new PC this year is way faster than one from five years ago – please upgrade!”
This is thanks to Intel’s incremental updates - partly a consequence of AMD not being a strong enough competitor in the past - and allowing Intel to more-or-less coast along, even though it has nevertheless been busy with process improvements, shrinking chips down to ever smaller nanometer sizes and more.
What has been missing is the old fashioned “doubling of computing power every 18 months” as the saying goes, even if that saying has been mangled.
So, after years of effort, AMD came out this year with its Ryzen processors which delivered, in most cases, a mix of both dramatically improved or similar performance (depending on the workload) but at much keener pricing than Intel, with more cores and more threads than Intel has innovated on - in literally years.
AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper processor took all of that to an even higher level, forcing Intel to launch a new processor for the first time in years and years – the Core i9 processor, something Intel could theoretically have done years ago, but clearly made a business decision not to.
Now, it is true that Intel has now announced its “8th-generation” processors, and has even spoken of what you can expect in its 9th-generation, presumably due next year, but the challenge for Intel is simple: it still sells processors at too high a price, with new versions promising too slim performance improvements too far off into the future.
AMD’s processors are here and now, they’re demonstrably better in virtually every single way, they pair up beautifully with AMD’s vastly more powerful graphics processing capabilities than Intel’s otherwise anaemic graphics offerings, despite years and years of Intel trying to improve its graphics - again, only seemingly able to do so incrementally, as AMD's graphics capabilities have soared.
AMD has absolutely rocketed back into the zeitgeist, once again top-of-mind for PC enthusiasts and indeed anyone who wants to build a powerful computer without having to pay the Intel tax, and without having to now suffer with Intel’s slower performance, fewer cores, fewer threads, higher prices and vastly lower excitement.
This all comes at a difficult time for Intel. The company was recently knocked off its perch as the biggest chipmaker – that honour has gone to Samsung, to Intel’s eternal shame.
It harkens back to the time when upstart AMD beat the massive and mighty Intel to the 1GHz processor game, and when AMD ushered in the era of x64-bit computing with Intel was off with the fairies on the ultimately sinking ship "Itanium", which instantly made everyone including snarky British tech journalists calling it the “Itanic.”
Itanium is now long since dead and buried, sitting at the bottom of the Cannon Lake (or Coffee Lake or whichever watery grave it is this time).
In the meantime, despite AMD’s relative quietness and obvious ceding of the mainstream and business CPU market to Intel, it is AMD processors that are powering Playstation 4s and Microsoft Xboxes, so even though fabless AMD has been quiet, 2017 has been the year that AMD has come back with such a Big Bang, that Intel almost immediately dropped a bunch of stuff to market as quickly as possible in an attempt to fight back.
Well, it is clear that Intel has a major, re-invigorated competitor back on its hands in the form of AMD.
Of course, Intel is still massively powerful and mighty, with plenty of resources to hand to fight back against AMD as hard as it can. Intel isn't going to disappear, and no doubt the company, under surprise attack, is internally redoubling its efforts to ensure it does its best to stop the AMD incursion and to re-assert its own dominance.
This too is happening in the face of AMD naturally already preparing for Ryzen’s successors between now, 2020 and beyond, and process improvements too, quickening the pace of improvement and change, for clearly, AMD does not want to slow its renewed momentum down one iota.
The benefits here, as always, are we the people, we the consumers, we the buyers, we the spenders, we the decision makers, we the upgraders, we the ones who pull out our wallets and decide where to spend our money.
Now look, to be fair to Intel, I am going overboard a bit with a bit of faux outrage, but by the same token, AMD has deservedly earned the absolutely rave reviews its brand new processors have received this year.
AMD has worked its butt off to deliver something very special, with claims like a 270% improvement in performance per watt compared to its previous generation.
AMD has worked hard to break Intel’s mould of a certain number of cores and threads per processor.
AMD has eliminated the artificial constraints in processors for things like security that were denied to Core i3 processors, forcing businesses to buy more expensive Core i5 based computers.
And indeed, we saw the tech press note that AMD’s advancements and improvements are good for everyone – except Intel.
So, harsh I certainly am being on Intel, but the company is merely reaping what it has sown in the last decade, and everyone has definitely noticed AMD’s arrival back on the scene.
Now comes another epic development rising over the horizon: the Ryzen Pro processor.
This is AMD’s competitor to Intel’s vPro range of business focused processors, and again, AMD can demonstrate very impressive features, benefits, performance and power compared to Intel’s range.
And, for the first time in many, many years, AMD has the support of HP, Lenovo and Dell who are all launching Ryzen Pro based business desktops at the same time, on stage together at AMD's Ryzen Pro event – and in Dell’s case, a Ryzen Pro powered range of portable notebook computers (even though there’s no mobile-specific Ryzen Pro processor, or at least, not yet).
It was certainly impressive to hear from these top three PC makers, noting strongly that the PC desktop is far from dead, especially for performance workstation desktop users who are able to really appreciate the power AMD’s processors truly deliver to efficiency, multitasking and so plenty more.
Now, HP, Dell and Lenovo have not yet issued pricing for their new Ryzen Pro-powered ranges, but within the next 60 days or so, we should be seeing global rollouts, with HP, Dell and Lenovo in your local area no doubt happy to get you information on their new Ryzen Pro ranges.
I’m typing this article on a plane going between New York to Los Angeles, after which I will be catching a flight back to Australia, having been AMD’s guest at its Ryzen Pro launch, so for now, I will end this article here with some videos of the event that I recorded in full, where you will be able to watch the presentations for yourself and have the same experience that I did in learning about the information first hand.
The embargo lifts while I will be in the air, and due to the plane departing late, and thus arriving late, I don’t have time to place all the videos here and will publish more later, with this article set to go live at the appointed time as Qantas has no international Wi-Fi, or at least, not as yet.
So, without further ado, here are the two launch videos of the AMD Ryzen Pro event. I hope you enjoy them, with more videos from the event to come after I’ve arrived back down under.
Finally, I do wonder whether you’ll be thinking about getting a PC with an AMD processor the next time you decide to upgrade and buy a new PC, and what other major moves Intel will make keep up the competitive spirit with AMD.
The first video is from the morning of the AMD Ryzen Pro launch, up until the first break.
The second video takes us through the offerings from Dell, HP and Lenovo, through until we get to the lunch break.
The writer travelled to the New York Ryzen Pro launch as a guest of AMD.
More videos from this event can be seen here.