In Part 1 of our interview with Gregory Bryant, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Client Computing Group, Intel, we got some insight into the thought process that went into developing the 12th Gen ‘Alder Lake’ CPU family, which introduces heterogenous CPU core types to mainstream PCs and laptops for the first time. He also spoke about progress with low-end CPUs for affordable computers, as well as what we can expect from the emerging segment of foldable-screen laptops.
Our chat happened on the sidelines of the CES 2022, right after Bryant announced a huge lineup of new 12th Gen CPUs for mainstream PCs and high-end laptops, as well as updates about the Intel Evo certification programme and Arc GPUs. We were able to iron out a few more details one-on-one. Bryant also spoke about the challenges of the current global semiconductor supply shortage and what impact the pandemic has had on demand and supply.
Gadgets 360: In light of the current chip shortage, how are things going to be over the next year or so for Intel, both in terms of the CPUs that you are manufacturing in-house and the GPUs that you are using external services for?
Gregory Bryant: Pat Gelsinger, our CEO, has been on the record to say we think there are still going to be constraints in the supply chain through 2022. There are various small components – many of them on legacy nodes, not even on the latest technology – that are are actually the most constrained and that are getting in the way of our customers shipping their products. So we continue to work with the supply chain in the industry. Some of that is just forecasting the market, although I think it will get better as we go through time.
When you turn to Intel in particular, we’re in very good shape. Our team has done an amazing job of supplying our CPUs, chipsets, Wi-Fi, Thunderbolt… you can imagine all the components we build! Our team is working with both internal and external suppliers to provide our products to customers.
CPU supply year on year is up; solidly into double-digit territory. Huge investments in capacity and supply [have been made] on my end and I’m not constraining my customers’ ability to ship their products today; it’s really about these other small and legacy components. I feel good about the shape we’re in. We’re also working with third parties on their capacity. But as I said, overall, I think there are still some supply chain constraints on components next year that we’ll have to work through.
Gadgets 360: On the GPU side there’s a demand problem as well as a supply problem, and Intel has previously stated to Gadgets 360 that Arc GPUs will not have any hardware or software to discourage mining. Do you think you will still be able to hit reasonable volumes when those are ready to launch?
Bryant: We have strong demand for Arc GPUs. You saw the products, and the 50 design wins across mobile and desktop that were announced on stage at CES. Yes, I feel like we’ll be able to ship millions of units at a reasonable level of supply.
Gadgets 360: We also heard during the presentation about Deep Link and how laptop/desktop OEMs will be able to manage thermals and power, plus enable benefits like simultaneous video encoding. Will these features also work for DIY PC builders and enthusiasts who buy retail Arc graphics cards? What kind of experience can you expect with Arc+Core vs another manufacturer’s CPUs? What about previous-gen Core CPUs and motherboards?
Bryant: Many of our Deep Link features will work across both mobile and desktop integrations of Arc graphics, but there will also be some differences. For example, the ability to manage power delivery between the CPU and GPU is not impossible but definitely more complicated in the desktop space due to the variance of motherboards, memory, coolers, etc. Other features like Hyper Encode will be able to function as long as the Core CPU in the machine has the right capabilities enabled. Our plan is to bring as much of the goodness of Deep Link to all Arc users as possible, but there will be some platform differences.
Gadgets 360: How are things going in terms of consumer behaviour with the pandemic? We thought we’d be back to normal around now, but it looks like it’s going to be a long-term situation in terms of work and living patterns. Is that now starting to affect your roadmaps and your product design philosophies and decisions for the future?
Bryant: Yeah, absolutely it is. We talked about Key Experience Indicators, which is how we drive our roadmaps. A very clear example is the third-generation Evo spec. We added intelligent collaboration capabilities since we’re all spending time in video calls. It’s not just about performance and multitasking, it’s also about the use of AI and machine learning to do eye gaze correction and noise cancellation. There’s all sorts of things we can do to make this experience better.
I get asked a lot about the PC market and demand as a result of the pandemic and there are still some people out there who think, “Hey, this cycle is really just a refresh of older PCs” and we’re going to revert to the pre-pandemic “normal” levels of demand. I think if you look at the use of PCs for students in education; the way people are changing how they work; I believe hybrid work is largely here to stay. So as we plan the roadmap in terms of experiences as we do on our Evo platform, it’s really changed everything.
I think technology can play a key part in the new normal; in trying to help people work, learn, play, collaborate, and communicate with their loved ones. Going forward, it’s up to us to make the experience as good as possible.
Gadgets 360: You announced that H-series [45W mobile] CPUs are now part of the Evo spec. Does that mean that there are going to be different tiers or segments? How will third-generation versus second-generation Evo be distinguished, will there be “Evo for Gamers” and “Evo for Creators”?
Bryant: We’re not doing tiers per se, from the badge standpoint. There have been options in the spec before, and OEMs can target different optimisation points. They can make choices about the performance and the battery life they want to deliver. It’s not one size fits all; there are 100+ Evo designs and more coming. So all we’re doing now is including in this spec a way to use H-series processors and Arc discrete graphics. There will be a wider range of choices. Evo with discrete graphics and an H-series processor will make great sense for some folks. I don’t think we have to call it literally “Evo for Creators” on the badge.
Some responses have been edited slightly for clarity and length.