AMD CEO – Why the PC is not dead

PC gaming has come under a lot of fire over the past few years. Many claim that the PC is a dying platform, and that console gaming will eventually swallow it completely. AMD obviously has something to say about that though, and the CEO has recently done exactly that, sending out an editorial which claims just the opposite. 

Why The PC Is Not Dead

Written by AMD CEO Dirk Meyer

Pundits have been predicting the death of the PC for some time now. The introduction of each new exciting computing device or software app considered outside the narrow scope of the traditional PC triggers the same, tired PC obituary again and again to the point of a Groundhog Day experience.

But from my industry vantage point, Punxsutawney Phil is nowhere in sight. To the contrary, each new, disruptive innovation is actually a sign of health, and of sustained public desire for the life-enhancing benefits of personal computing and being connected online. In many ways, we’ve only just begun to experience what a truly “personal” computing experience can look and feel like.

Netbooks, smartphones, tablets, cloud computing, virtualization, mobility, new operating systems–the introduction of each has sparked and stoked this “death of the PC” debate. Yet these are all personal computing devices. Taking the long view, the entry of these new devices and form factors along with their new capabilities expands the market as each new development extends the reach and power of personal computing.

Industry veterans are not immune to such speculation. John Dvorak’s Sept. 3 piece inMarketWatch, “The hot PC market is gone for good,” proclaimed “any [personal computer] built within the last five years…can be kept in service until it literally dies … This industry is dead in the water.”

In terms of longevity, Dvorak is right: Computers built within the last five years do last longer. But his mistaken prognosis of the market’s demise overlooks two key facts.

First, millions of people around the world are just now purchasing their first PC, millions aspire to buy one, and millions who already have a PC or multiple personal computing devices would love to do more than their current ones allow.

Second, we are in the midst of one of the most dramatic shifts ever in the way people use computers. PCs, for years mostly text-based machines manipulated with mice and keyboards, are rapidly becoming rich, visual multimedia hubs controlled by users’ hands and bodies for which no amount of processing power seems to be enough. This shift will soon be introducing PC users to immersive, interactive, vivid new computing experiences beyond their wildest imaginations, while making older or underpowered PCs look antique.

Let’s also look at the facts on the ground. Despite the worst economy since the Great Depression, the PC market grew in 2009. This year PC makers remain on track to sell more than 360 million PCs, according to industry analyst firm Gartner–about 1 million PCs every day. Analyst firm IDC predicts the PC market will expand to approximately 630 million units per year by 2015, an annual growth rate of more than 12%. That’s real, tangible growth; growth that will continue because the industry is working at the frontiers of innovation to give customers the experiences and capabilities they demand.

For example, AMD’s creation of the first Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), which combines computing and graphics processing on a single chip, represents a promising inflection point. Until now, PCs have been powered by two kinds of chips–central processing units (CPUs) for everyday computing tasks, and graphics processing units for visual and video tasks. With the advent of the APU, PC makers will expand the market for their products by delivering the vivid, photorealistic, touch-based, 3-D experiences customers increasingly demand–in sleek form factors with all-day battery life.

The advent of APU-powered devices addresses a key question Dvorak asked in MarketWatch, “What do we wait for to reignite [PC] buying?” I believe the answer may well be found in the vivid computing that APUs will enable, delivering the visually compelling, immersive, interactive experiences PC users want–in offices, homes, or going mobile.

There is growing global appetite for multimedia content created, edited and enhanced on PCs. That content is consumed downstream by any number of devices. Video–the lingua franca of the global village–will comprise 90% of all Internet traffic by 2013, according to Cisco ( CSCO – news – people ). Right now, 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. More than 1,000 pictures are uploaded to Facebook every second. PC users worldwide have an estimated nine billion high-definition video files stored in their systems, waiting to be e-mailed through an expanding global network of high-speed connections. 3-D films and gaming will soon be mainstream–a disruptive opportunity for the PC industry.

As content becomes richer, exciting new user interfaces such as multi-touch, gesture recognitionand machine-controlling “depthcams” are coming, and can tap into the powerful processing APUs deliver in a way that will completely redefine the PC experience.

Imagine the possibilities for immersive games and body-interface multimedia when vivid computing delivers a “personal cloud” in a wireless network to give homes computing horsepower comparable to that found in today’s Fortune 500 data centers.

It will not be long before APUs allow road warriors to routinely carry ultrathin notebooks with supercomputer power. You don’t have to be a geological engineer to find that desirable. Compared to all but the most high-performing current generation of PCs, even entry-level APU-powered devices will offer immensely more processing power, challenging developers and game designers to unleash even more engaging, entertaining and productive applications controlled via visceral interfaces.

As developers turn their attention to office applications, the newly-available combination of 3-D, motion capture and high-definition video and audio will enable brilliantly visual and interactive productivity as well as collaboration apps that are simply not possible or practical today.

Discuss AMD CEO Dirk Meyer’s opinions on the future of the PC gaming platform on the MyGaming forum.


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AMD CEO – Why the PC is not dead