As SemiAccurate said in April when we reported about Nvidia’s cancellation of the GK114 Kepler update, the company is showing severe financial stress related cracks in the development roadmap. Hawaii and the Volcanic Islands family is coming this fall and a late September public show likely means an October silicon launch. This is a massively updated GPU vs the minor tweaks in the last round. Given the timing, Hawaii is unquestionably a 28nm part so no shrink related performance bump but the architectural changes should more than make up for that. It is unlikely to be an incremental advance.
Nvidia in the mean time canceled the minor update that was due out last quarter and surprisingly canceled the first big Maxwell set for next spring. This leaves them with nothing to compete against AMD with for the fall “back to school” market and the winter holiday season. The next minor blip will be in the spring as described in the link above, but that is not competition for AMD, it is Nvidia salvaging the scraps they have left. Dire is barely adequate to describe their competitive situation for 2013 and 1H/2014.
Development costs are spiraling and Nvidia added to their development costs by bifurcating their GPU architectures. This lead to an unsustainable cost structure, something visible in their reshuffling architectures for cost, not technical reasons. The path Nvidia has locked itself into is unsustainable and they are unquestionably aware of this, their reactive roadmap changes are short-term holding actions but fatal long-term.
Meanwhile AMD is doing the sane thing and keeping one architectural development path. Hawaii is the next step and it will go in to devices top to bottom, APUs included starting with Kaveri in Q4 or early Q1. Please note that unlike what some are saying, there are no delays to Kaveri, the roadmap hasn’t slipped at all since earlier this year when SemiAccurate last looked. To make things even easier for AMD they have synergies with all three game consoles so 100% of next generation game engine development is AMD architecture focused.
Anecdotally speaking, AMD is doing the obvious for the Hawaii launch. Any guesses where it will be? If you are thinking Hawaii you would be right on. AMD seems to have a knack for doing launches in odd locations that are very interesting to see and counter-intuitively cheaper than most dull locations. What is more interesting is the way that locations reflect changing press demographics.
Update 8/7/13 @ 4pm: AMD has clarified that it is the Hawaii/Volcanic Islands tech day in September, not the launch. The launch will officially happen in Q4 some time, the dates in this article are our speculation.
The Radeon 2900 launch was in Tunisia, an odd place to do a GPU launch but one that actually makes sense. At that time most of the tech press was from Europe and the US with Asia being a much smaller population, think many Europeans, a fair number of Americans, and a few Asians. How much does it cost to fly lots of Europeans to the US vs Tunisia? How about the cost of a few Americans to Tunisia vs Austin or Toronto. Remember Austin has very few airlines flying in, it is quite expensive based on SemiAccurate’s personal experiences. The Asian press is pretty much a wash either way.
Same calculus for the 4000 series launch in Iceland, it was cheaper to fly many Europeans to Iceland along with a few Americans than to drag many Europeans to Austin or Toronto. Then there is the hotels, any guesses on what a hotel costs in London, Paris, Berlin, or San Francisco vs the ~$100 a night in Reykjavik or Tunis? You have trouble finding a place in San Francisco without bullet holes in the windows for $100/night. It may be an odd thing to say but going to these ‘exotic’ locales is usually net cheaper than going to Austin once you factor in the demographics of the dozens of attending press.
As an aside, years after the 4000 launch in Iceland the author was talking to an AMD PR person about the event. It seems that the hotel and local events were paid for on credit cards during this August, 2008 event. There were dozens of journalists there so you can probably guess that it wasn’t a small sum. Literally days after we all left the world economy took a dive and the Icelandic currency collapsed. The charges for the entire event, not including airfare, was billed in the local currency of Krona. When the credit card statement was sent at the end of the month that was when the currency conversion went through. The net cost of the event was about half what it was when the cards were run. How often do you hear stories like that involving credit card companies where the consumer wins?
Step forward to 2013, the press demographics have changed a lot. The North American press corp has shrunk a bit, the European press has shrunk more than a bit, and the Asian press has exploded, all of which mirrors sales demographics. How much would it cost to fly dozens of East Asian journalists to Austin or Toronto? How about Hawaii, and do note that it is the tourism off-season in Hawaii in late September. Even with that in mind which would you rather go to? Hotels are probably about equal, but the flights and the scenery are a pretty one-sided win for Hawaii. The whole Hawaii/Hawaii synergy doesn’t hurt the messaging either.
So now you know what AMD is launching, a 28nm new-generation GPU called Hawaii in late September. You also know what Nvidia is doing as a counter, basically nothing, and subscribers who follow the links will also get the reasons why, this being a key one. And lastly but somewhat anecdotally you have an understanding about the demographic changes behind Hawaii in Hawaii, it does actually make sense beyond the name. That said SemiAccurate has been to both and would unquestionably still vote for Reykjavik.S|A
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