In a shocking announcement, Intel has confirmed that former Radeon Technologies Group head Raja Koduri will join the company as a chief architect and senior vice president of its newly-formed Core and Visual Computing Group. In that role, Intel says Koduri will bolster Intel's leadership in integrated graphics processors and—incredibly—complement those products with "high-end discrete graphics solutions for a broad range of computing segments."
With what is sure to be a wide-ranging mandate, Intel says Koduri will be responsible for delivering "differentiated IP across computing, graphics, media, imaging, and machine intelligence capabilities for the client and data center segments, artificial intelligence, and emerging opportunities like edge computing."
My jaw now sports a third bruise from hitting various flat, hard surfaces this week. Although we're likely a long way from seeing shipping products shaped by Koduri's team, Intel seems to be taking an incredibly pointed and aggressive step forward in challenging Nvidia's white-hot energy in machine intelligence and massively parallel computing applications.
In the near term, Koduri's influence could help to bring much-needed order to Intel's AI and visual-computing efforts, which have until now been scattered across a range of internal projects like the Xeon Phi accelerator and external acquisitions like Movidius and Nervana. Although those technologies are all exciting and potentially important on their own, the proceedings that have led to their home under Intel's big blue umbrella have all felt a bit disordered.
Koduri undoubtedly has a clear vision for the future of GPUs and massively parallel computing that's independent of any one company or technology, and Intel will be fortunate to have that vision on its bench of talent going forward.
Although machine learning and visual computing are perhaps the most important challenges he'll face, Koduri's hire also suggests that Intel is ready to fully embrace the excitement around PC gaming that's continued to strengthen even as the broader PC market has contracted quarter after quarter for multiple years in a row.
Many a budding gamer has likely used an Intel IGP to dip their toe into Dota 2 or League of Legends, but the company has never been able to hold onto that excitement as that same gamer sets their eyes on higher-resolution displays, higher refresh rates, higher-quality graphics, and the accompanying bottomless thirst for pixel-pushing power that those gaming experiences require. Assuming I'm reading Intel's press release correctly, that's all set to change.
Koduri's expertise leading teams that have produced those high-end graphics products, combined with Intel's massive resources, world-class process technologies, and an apparent newfound commitment to producing high-end discrete graphics processors, has the potential to be an epochal shift in the balance of power among Intel, Nvidia, and AMD.
Presuming Intel puts its Carolina Reapers where its mouth is, we could see a remarkable reshuffling of the names on the chips that power high-performance PCs. The only question is how soon that new era will dawn, but one thing is for sure: the road to that point will be long, contentious, and above all, exciting. I can't wait to see what happens next.