64-Bit Twits

A number of people asked me to comment about these items, so I shall.

A little while back, Intel expressed the opinion that the desktop market as a whole had no pressing need for 64-bit processing.

We thought about it a bit and generally agreed with Intel. We thought that while Hammer in 64-bit could do well in certain niches; it was going to swim or sink as a mainstream processor based on its 32-bit performance.

The following two rather disagreed:

“I Am The World”

The founder of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, recently posted some comments on Slashdot about 64-bit.

He begins by saying, “Intel’s claims are wholly out of touch with reality” then goes to prove that he’s the one out of touch by saying nothing other than why he needs 64-bit computing.

It’s the all-too-common human error of confusing “me” with “we,” a disease especially epidemic in geekdom.

He actually goes even further elsewhere and essentially says “You gamers better go 64-bit or else.”

I must admit, the man has gumption:

“We tell Intel this all the time, begging and pleading for a cost-effective 64-bit desktop solution. Intel should be listening to customers and taking the leadership role on the 64-bit desktop transition, not making these ridiculous “end of the decade” statements to the press.”

Hmmmm. Intel sells over one hundred million processors a year, the vast majority of whom belong to people who not only do not play games coming from Mr. Sweeney’s company but are blissfully unaware of even its existence.

Mr. Sweeney and the employees of Epic Games consist of a grand total of . . . twenty people.

So Intel has to rip up all its plans and begin a major transition of the personal computing industry just to get twenty CPU sales. OK, maybe Id Software feels the same way, too. Now we’re up to forty. 🙂

Gee, if Mr. Sweeney expects that kind of response with his big market share, what could I expect to get if I just get the people in our forum organized? We buy many, many, many times more CPUs than they do.

Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

OK, maybe those companies can influence a few more sales than that.:)

But even if you assumed that every single person who has bought a game from Epic would go 64-bit just to play an Epic game, we’re still talking considerably less than 5% of the total PC market.

Please notice that Mr. Sweeney isn’t satisfied with AMD giving him what he wants. No, sir, not at all. As he said above, he knows damn well only Intel can do the dirty work for him.

“Don’t Listen To Their BS, Listen To My BS”

It’s really hard to call this piece anything else. The article greatly resembles those foaming-at-the-mouth posts you often see in stock market forums.

Apparently, no one has the slightest reason to honestly wonder if a company suffering repeated heavy losses, repeated delays in product, loss of market share and having to keep piling on debt despite a junk bond rating in an extremely capital-intensive industry might not make it. Oh no, you have to be evil to think like that.

Actually, the IBM guy didn’t even say anything like that. He just thought that IBM and Intel would be the only two around doing 64-bit in five years, apparently for the reason that they’re the only two with the wherewithall to fight it out.

He may end up being wrong, but it’s hardly an unreasonable position to take.

I have news for you. I wouldn’t mortgage the house betting that AMD will be around five years from now. either. Wouldn’t mortgage the house betting that it won’t, either.

I will charitably ignore many of the amazing statements made in this piece to not that this person, too, believes that a “huge number of ‘early adopters'” will save AMD and make Intel repent from the evil of its ways.

Intel Calls the Geek Bluff

I suspect the reason why there’s so much angst in these articles is that they basically said “Give us what we want or else,” and Intel effectively said, “Else.”

What Intel is basically saying to the geeks is, “Let’s see your army. We dare you to make x86-64 a threat to us. We don’t think you can. Go right ahead and buy your Hammers.”

In short, “Show me the money.”

A Two-Level Game

In this competition, there’s the little game, and there’s the big game.

The little game will be fought mostly at the Xeon level: workstation and low-end servers. The question becomes, “Can Opterons savage Intel’s Xeon market?”

The big game is “Can AMD make 64-bit mainstream and start slicing away big chunks of Intel’s market share?”

It’s much more likely the first will happen than the second.

This doesn’t mean AMD can’t do well with Hammer, just that it’s unlikely that in the overall CPU market, it’s going to become a PIV killer. It could do a good deal of damage in certain niches, but let’s not exaggerate the importance of those niches in the overall picture.

Niches, Just Niches

If you look at servers or workstations or even high-end gaming platforms, they are niches in the overall computer market. They tend to be rather profitable niches and good business to have, but those inside those niches have the bad habit of thinking that they’re the universe when in fact they are only a few percentage points of it.

I have no doubt that Opterons will do very well in certain niches, and that certainly would be a big help to the company, but that in and of itself isn’t good enough.

In the mainstream CPU business, the desktop processors pay the bills. Period. These niches are gravy, not the meal. Sorry if that doesn’t leave you feeling like a Master of the Universe, but you’re not.

Do You Rule or Drool?

And now there’s going to be a “money talks, BS walks” test of that. If you’re so powerful and influential, then you should be able to bring Intel to its knees in no time. Just like you brought Microsoft to its knees with Linux. 🙂

Linux is the primary reason why I can’t take this geek talk seriously. The boy has cried “Wolf” so often that it’s just laughable at this point.

The last couple months, we’ve been monitoring our traffic, and one statistic we get is the OS used by our audience.

Would you like to know what the score is (in percentages)?

Windows 97 Linux 2

I must admit, our numbers are terribly skewed in favor of Linux. The service indicates that the Internet average is:

Windows 97 Linux 0.34

These are Lions vs. Christians kind of scores.

Now I don’t care if you use Linux or not. I have nothing against the OS per se, but these numbers don’t exactly represent inevitable world conquest 🙂 When I see claims of such for the desktop, I just think, “That person is obviously reality-challenged and cannot be taken seriously.”

If you saw a football or basketball team losing 97-2, how seriously would you take any we’re-kicking-ass trash-talking from the people with the “2?”

I would predict we’ll see something roughly along the same lines for 64-bit. In a few small niches, the numbers will be significant, but outside of that, outside of those who warez their copy of Windows x86-64 to run a few games, the numbers will be tiny (and much smaller than the number of Clawhammer sales, most of which will only run 32-bit).

I could be wrong, Intel could be wrong. But the only way to prove us wrong is serious wallet-talk. Put up or shut up.

Email Ed

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