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AMD On Graphics: 360 and Wii GPU Guru Speaks


October 29, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4
 

So when you guys provide a technical solution for a gaming console, how do you look at it -- in terms of what people are going to be doing with it. Discussing the Cell, IBM's James Kahle was saying that they began the project in 2000 and tried to guess what would happen with games in 2007. Obviously, your window probably wasn't that wide with the 360, but how does that work for you?

BF: Yeah it's almost -- it's related to the question that you asked before, as to how we interact with game developers. How we figured out -- we try to do that kind of marketing thing, where we say, "Hey, where do you want to go? What's interesting to you?" We say, "Where's the technology going?"

My gut feeling is now, since we've moved to shaders, what we try to do is make something that is flexible enough that people can find whatever they want within it. Sometimes it'll go slower than it will if it'd been designed five years hence, or something, but they can find within it -- the programmability now is available.

We make the right paradigms, we make it simpler enough, we provide the libraries to abstract some of that stuff away -- but we make a design that is really accessible to the designer, and is extensible by him, because he makes of it what he wants. And that's a nice thing about where graphics is going; from the 2001, 2002 days, and before, 'til now, 2003 and afterwards, it's become more and more. I think you've got to have a lot of flexibility. Because I can't predict the future, and I'm not smart enough. Maybe there are people who are, but...

So, AMD didn't do the main processor in the 360.

BF: No, it wasn't. It was an IBM PowerPC processor -- or, three IBM processors... and so we did the GPU.

Right. I know you guys did that. But you weren't involved with the main processor.

BF: No. I think that's the thing that you'll see changing next time. Because, like I said, the balance is going to change. You're going to actually mix what a processor is, and what a GPU is, you'll have all the elements in one place, and that's what's going to happen.

Now, this is sort of a leading question, but is that what precipitated the ATI-AMD merger, do you think?

BF: Absolutely. In a simpler case... they talk about "integrated graphics". Are you familiar with that?

You mean in terms of a PC?

BF: In terms of the PC and integrated graphics.

The crappy ones on the motherboard?

BF: The crappy ones on the motherboard. And so now you kind of merge the graphics and the CPU. Why have this gap between the two? Because now they're separate; merge them, make them better, and then, over time, make them the same thing. Instead of having a certain number of ALUs to do your math in the CPU, and a certain number of ALUs to do it in the GPU, hey put 'em together, and make the right balance. Because they're different kinds of things.

And, as the fellow from NVIDIA said -- Josh, there -- they're both capable of solving problems beyond graphics, and both capable of solving graphics. Put 'em together, get the right system balance, and all the sudden have... So this is what precipitated the AMD...

JC: And we're targeted at multiple segments. Consoles, PCs, desktops and handheld devices, digital televisions, and other integrated technologies.

BF: Yes. You'll see it across the whole, yeah. It's fun.

One thing that you said during the roundtable was that the GPU and the technology for the 360 was the "go-forward point". There was a discussion about what's incremental, and what's a new start marker. How does that work for you?

BF: So what happened is, so -- I hope I'm answering your question right -- we came up with an architecture for the GPU for the 360. It was based around this unified shader that itself was a balanced system, that balance -- and I don't want to get into the deep, dark details -- vertex shaders and pixel shaders, and it kind of balanced those into one thing that was identical.

And we decided, hey, we'll put the effort into this for the 360, because we're going to base our future architectures off this. And that's exactly what we've done. So we've announced last year a project, and we're announcing another product soon. I don't know where we are on that announcement...

JC: 360, obviously, we first started talking about the processor at E3, three years ago. And then the first discrete graphics processors for PCs were released into the market that used that unified shader technology were this past May, the HD 2000 series. So it was an interesting thing for us, because really, I don't think people fully understood the processing power that was put into that GPU.

BF: So that's going to be a board for a few years.

And that's obviously the same case on the PS3 side, with both NVIDIA's graphics and with the Cell.

BF: Certainly. Cell is, you know, it's Cell.


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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