AMD has been on the ropes since the turn of the century; it was created as the No. 2 vendor to Intel back in the 1980s, and in the 1990s took a shot at becoming No. 1. Intel wasn’t amused and AMD wasn’t structured to go to actual war with Intel. Then, during that war, AMD stumbled badly and almost failed. But the PC market needed competition because without it you get price creep and slowing advancement as the remaining vendor turns its now dominated market into a cash cow and invests elsewhere. Intel effectively did just that.
And by doing so, Intel laid a foundation for AMD to come back. This week, AMD came back with a vengeance with its Ryzen processor (which it showcased outperforming Intel’s best) and the PC OEMs couldn’t be more excited (mostly because they have been feeling a bit neglected by Intel of late). As you’d expect, at the announcement event, AMD showcased that its new part was far faster, cheaper, and generally better than Intel’s best.
What was particularly interesting about this launch is that AMD showcased its new processor running both AMD and NVIDIA graphics solutions, not to demonstrate that its graphics product was better, but to showcase that Ryzen treated each technology equally; there was no unique optimization creating a better-together scenario, which is important because, if you want to run against Intel, you must be agnostic about graphics. AMD needs to showcase a real choice, and it executed on that.
It is the return of the Desktop Computer!
Desktops Are Back
With what has been a massive focus on mobile systems, desktop PCs have languished, but they are still generally favored by gamers and creators. Coincidentally, Microsoft has positioned the next version of Windows as the “Creator’s Edition,” or one that would ideally better target desktop computers where most of this work is still done, suggesting this is very well timed.
While some gamers do use gaming laptops because you can put far more performance into a desktop system and better customize it, gamers generally still prefer desktop systems, either custom, or one built by a gaming specialist like Alienware. Particularly for this group, AMD’s new line is unlocked (a feature you typically must pay extra for with Intel), which showcases that here too AMD is more closely targeting the needs of this unique, but again growing, group of customers who tend to buy high end systems as a class to begin with. (By the way, this suggests that, if you are building a system, investing in a better cooler will pay dividends for over clockers). AMD is including an overclocking utility so that doing this will be easy for everyone (though, be aware, that over clocking does reduce reliability, which is why vendors don’t over clock by default).
Maybe Desktops Were Never Really Dead
I’ve never thought desktop PCs were dead largely because I still prefer using one. Mouse, keyboard, and a huge LCD screen is always my preference if given a choice. Yes, I use laptops, I’m writing this on one, but only away from my office and, even then, if I can wait until I get back to the office to create, I do. Small is nice for portability but bigger is better for gaming and creating. So, for me personally, this focus back on desktop technology and a refocus on the desktop is incredibly important and timely. In a few days, I’ll have my own Ryzen system up and running and I’ll provide an update on my experiences once I have it in production. I can hardly wait, for the rest of you, availability will be March 2. Watch for the reviews; I expect, like me, if you are a gamer or creator, you’ll be impressed.
Wrapping Up: Choice Is A Good Thing
The Ryzen part is a powerful alternative to Intel’s offering, which will result in several new, more powerful, and affordable systems for those that game and create. It will also force Intel to either respond by upping its own game or give this market up. Given the desktop PC is the entry point to laptop PCs, and the two of them still represent most of Intel’s manufacturing volume, I kind of doubt the company will walk away. This means that this renewed competition will result in again seeing innovation and advancement in both desktop and laptop PCs, and that’ll be far better for those of us that still live on one.
You see, choice is a good thing.
President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group
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