Desktop AI isn’t happening, says AMD, and might not for quite a while

Chip designer has extended support for modest desktop CPUs, citing Intel setting expectations for cheap and not-so-speedy silicon

AI-on-the-desktop is not yet a thing, and its uses may not be apparent for some time, according to Justin Galton, director and worldwide segment leader for AMD’s commercial client business.

Speaking to The Register at an event in Sydney today, Galton said AMD has put its dedicated AI accelerator into just one CPU – the Ryzen 7040 - because AI is currently only needed a “the top of the stack”.

“I don’t think small to medium business will be bullish on AI,” he added. Microsoft’s not helping, he added, because it’s currently prioritising moving its customers from Windows 10 to Windows 11 and seeing off Apple. Even though Microsoft’s various AI Copilots will offload processing to AMD’s AI engine, the company isn’t rushing it to market in more CPUs.

As The Register has reported, Intel plans to add a “VPU” AI co-processor to all models of the “Meteor Lake” CPUs that might start to appear in late 2023. That would leave Intel with many more AI-ready desktop processors than AMD.

Galton promised AMD will announce “several” releases of AI-equipped silicon in 2024.

Whether anyone has a reason to buy them remains moot. Galton said AMD is working with developers and vendors of vertical industry applications to help them add AI to their wares, but admitted the resulting products will also debut in 2024.

Galton said AMD hopes that once it has more AI-enabled processors for sale, it will suggest them as the ideal acquisition for outfits refreshing their PC fleets. The exec said AMD assumes many customers work on five-year PC refresh cycles and should therefore be open to the argument that they’ll start using desktop AI during the working life of their next PC fleet and will therefore be open to acquiring CPUs capable of handing off AI computation to dedicated circuitry.

Glum gaming outlook

One of AMD’s stronger markets is CPUs and GPUs for gaming PCs, but analyst firm IDC on Monday predicted a 10.5 percent drop in demand for the machines in 2023.

IDC predicted shipments of gaming monitors will grow 10.8 per cent year over year in 2023, the first upturn in five years.

“With a typical gaming monitor costing a little over $300, it presents a cost-effective way to improve user experience both in and out of gaming,” said Jay Chou, research manager for IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Monitor Tracker.

Gaming PCs cost far more than that, leading consumers to shop for cheaper upgrades such as monitors or second-hand computers.

For now, Galton said many buyers are happy to acquire modest and modestly priced PCs packing Ryzen 5000 and 6000 models, in part because Intel has so much unsold inventory of its own comparable processors that buyers want product at the same price.

AMD has therefore extended technical and marketing support for the Ryzen 5000 and 6000 family. Galton said support will extend into early 2024 for both processor families.

Beyond AI, Galton sees plenty of reasons buyers will soon shop for more exciting kit, among them ASUS prepping AMD-powered business machines for 2024 release. The exec also teased a forthcoming tool that will model the environmental impact of AMD products, with Galton confident the chip design firm’s silicon will see it produce numbers that buyers find compelling.

AMD, Galton said, currently has between 15 and 20 percent market share of commercial PCs. In 2024 it wants to crack the 20 percent mark. ®

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