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Hard Choices: Ask AMD Part 2, The Answers

Here it is, folks. The answers to all your AMD questions. Well, not all of them. Dropped some, reworded others, added a few twists of my own. The usual. The senior AMD suit in question is Roy Taylor. His official title is Corporate Vice President, Global Channel Sales. That's right, Corporate Vice President, Global Channel Sales. Soak up the seniority. He's been at AMD for 12 weeks having spent the previous 12 years at arch enemy Nvidia. So let's just say he's got plenty of insight into graphics, CPUs and gaming. Did I mention he is indeed quite senior?

Little bit of house keeping first. Roy was not pre briefed, the interview scenario was highly informal and the device of humour, gasp, was used in some of his answers. So read what follows with a sense of bonhomie and don't take all of it completely seriously. Or complain about the bloody Poll Tax (that'll make sense later).

Oh and I've flagged up who asked the questions. Apologies if you asked the same question and didn't get a mention. The editor's decision is final and all that jazz.

Why does AMD have such bizarre and confusing product branding? (Vandelay)
We used to have great names. Then we sent people to Harvard Business school and they came back and messed them all up.

Do you expect APUs to outperform and replace dedicated GPUs? (Keyrock)
If you look at the history of our business and the trend of greater integration, it's inevitable. Take audio. Audiophiles will kill me for saying this, but you could argue that [in terms of digital audio fidelity] the job is done. Once the GPU is capable of full photorealism, that job is done, too. And at that point it automatically starts to become integrated. But this is a long way off.

When are you going to ship a PS4-style APU in something like a SteamBox and without the Sony baggage? (james.hancox)
Well, we can't ship a SteamBox, we're humble pedallers of chips. We enable technology, we don't make the boxes. I know it's very annoying, but as for the PS4 chip, until it comes out, it's not something I can talk about.

Why is your driver support so shoddy? (PatrickSwayze)
This is my most often asked question on Twitter. Somebody once said he thought our drivers are so bad, they must be written by a moose. I said the problem is that without thumbs, we can't hit control-enter. In all seriousness, we have an absolute obligation to keep improving drivers. However, to keep every single user happy among the millions of different configurations is a very difficult task. I can say I worked at Nvidia for 12 years and we had all the same questions.

Specifically with regard to games that are sponsored by AMD. People who buy those games have a right to expect them to run not only faster and better on AMD hardware, but also to run faultlessly.

What does AMD think about the optimisation race among triple-A titles. Is it healthy or does it fracture the gaming community? (DigitalSignalX)
In general it's good, because the competition to support the developer results in better, higher quality games. Whatever money we give them or work we do with them, it results in a better game. However, if it results in shader replacement which is only designed to make the performance better [in benchmarks] and not in interests of the gamer or the developer, that's wrong. So it can be done right. Or it can be done wrong.

Why does the Mac edition of the 7950 have such a ridiculous markup over the PC version? (FuzzyPuffin)
I don't know, I wasn't aware that it did! My bad, I'll go take a look!

What are your plans to support VR in general and Oculus Rift specifically? (snorkel)
That's an interesting question. Brendan Iribe [OR's CEO] is a very good friend of mine. I haven't had chance to try it yet. And before I comment professionally and personally, I want to try it. Brendan keeps inviting me down, but I just haven't had a chance.

Will AMD solder chips onto motherboards? (analydilatedcorporatestyle)
Permanent attach and no socket? We have SoC parts that are 'soldered' in that parlance. But we're committed to sockets. In the channel business and the enthusiast space, we're committed to sockets.

Has AMD given up on the desktop CPU horse race with Intel? It would be terrible if Intel became the only game in town. (Snargelfargen)
Absolutely it would be terrible and good Lord, no. We hope to have some news for you very shortly on that [apologies, legalese disclaimer alert: AMD is in what's known as a 'quiet period' and due to financial markets strictures is limited in what it can say about future product plans, but I'm thinking Steamroller].

What are AMD's priorities with regard to single-thread performance versus multi-thread performance? How's Steamroller looking regards single-thread performance? (Parge, my good self)
Both are important. That sounds like an easy-out answer. But both are important. Unfortunately, prior benchmarks favoured one side. A new generation of benchmarks are coming that will better show that both are important.
Apart from the corporate-correct standard answer that we can't comment on unannounced products, the truth is both have their place, so you can expect us to address both with new products. But you can also read into all this that we put an emphasis on one aspect more than the other [I think Roy's talking about multi-thread here, folks].

Why isn't AMD making a more serious push into the mobile market. Intel has thrown itself headlong into the market with Atom. Nvidia has pursued mobile with Tegra. What is AMD doing? (Brun)
In terms of mobile, we certainly have not done a good enough job communicating our products and I've been hired to fix that.
We've actually done a pretty well in mobile, but we haven't communicated that. As for tablets, that's a separate question. Watch this space, I'm very excited about tablets, especially Windows tablets.

Can we have an update on inconsistent frame timing / micro stuttering that some benchmark outfits have been harping on about recently? (particlese)
What happened to my former employer that I loved for so long [Nvidia]? So much effort into such a negative issue! We do take it very seriously. But I believe it's intellectual rather than experiential. This is something that requires you to dig very deep to expose it, that requires you to run your game at 75 per cent below normal speeds to even see it. It's a bit like the Poll Tax. I don't recall anyone calling up and complaining about it!

What are AMD's wins in the new consoles going to do for PC gaming? And will they help AMD take the fight to Intel and push game engines to support more efficient threading? (Parge and my good self)
It will make a big impact on PC gaming. We're going to be able to take the benefits of development work and scale. Any rational and logical examination will say that if games developers are developing for our hardware, there will be a natural benefit. Having said that, it's important to be clear that we do not support proprietary standards or features. We will continue to introduce new technologies and improve gaming, but we won't do anything proprietary.

As for competing with Intel, if you look where Intel is going in terms of GPU investment and the selection of an APU by Sony [for the Playstation 4], all that reflects the fact that heterogeneous system architectures [google it, folks] are the future. I believe that so sincerely that I voted with my own wallet and my family's future by joining AMD. The future is HSA.

Are you going to make CPUs that aren’t a steaming pile of shit anytime soon? (wuwul)
That's a little harsh! They're not. Come and ask me face to face!

No senior suits were harmed in the course of this interview and Roy Taylor has never threatened to overrule anyone. Well, not much, anyway.

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About the Author

Jeremy Laird