Corporate restructuring strategies are rarely the stuff of edge-of-the-seat reading. I get that. But the news of AMD’s dedicated GPU division, Radeon Technologies Group, feels a bit like FIFA announcing that they’ve launched a task force focusing solely on football. To understand what the move actually means, you need to go back in time a few years.
Nine years, actually. For nine years, AMD has been about fusion; integrating CPU and GPU functionality to coax improved performance and efficiency from both. It was the motivation behind their $5.6 billion buyout of Canadian graphics giant ATI back in 2006 – the technology and expertise they gained in that deal set team red down a path of improved graphics cards and impressive APU processors that wound their way into PCs, mobile devices, and two generations of both Sony and Microsoft’s consoles in some form.
What the formation of Radeon Technologies Group actually tells us, then, is that AMD are shifting their focus from integration. They’re playing the game in the graphics card market more like NVIDIA have been. Headed by long-time ATI/AMD graphics guru Raja Koduri, AMD’s graphics division will focus on making GPU innovations their own responsibility – not, as has appeared to be the case until now, a shared responsibility across all divisions that at times led to a lack of focus and momentum.
AMD president and CEO had this to say in an accompanying statement:”With the creation of the Radeon Technologies Group we are putting in place a more agile, vertically integrated graphics organization focused on solidifying our position as the graphics industry leader, recapturing profitable share across traditional graphics markets, and staking leadership positions in new markets such as virtual and augmented reality.”
That last part – the name-checking of virtual reality – is especially interesting. Though the company never quite came out and said it, AMD’s efforts to integrate GPUs and CPUs gave the impression they wanted to do away with the graphics card as we know it and have all processing tasks handled by one chip, an APU. The current generation of hulking, whirring graphics cards the width of your PC case are testament to the inaccuracy of that vision.
So with virtual reality, AMD spy another opportunity to get in on a technology at the ground floor – albeit with Facebook’s Oculus buyout and Sony’s Morpheus PS4 VR headset, while the elevator doors are closing.
What does it mean for the immediate future? Well, AMD have been fairly bullish in the wake of NVIDIA’s Maxwell GPU async compute debate, noticeably keen to assert some measure of technical superiority over their long time rival and project the image of a market leader. This announcement means you can expect a lot more of that. In effect, it’ll likely spark more of a straight fight between red and green in the coming year.