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Orton on R500, R600, R700, R800
With respect to engineering resources its been suggested to us that the
"West Coast Team" (Santa Clara - Silicon Valley) has become the main focus
for all the PC parts coming from ATI and that now even R500, which we
initially understood to be an "East Coast Team" (Marlborough) product, is
being designed at Santa Clara. Is it the case that Santa Clara will mainly
produce the PC parts now, while Marlborough will be active with "special
projects" such at the next X-Box technologies?
We had this concept of the "ping-pong" development between the west and east
coast design centres. On paper this looked great, but in practice it didn't
work very well. It doesn't work well for a variety of reasons, but one of
them is the PC architecture, at the graphics level, has targeted innovation
and clean sheet innovation and whenever you have separate development teams
you are going to, by nature, have a clean sheet development on every
generation of product. For one, we can't afford that and its not clear that
it's the right thing to do for our customers from a stability standpoint.
Its also the case that's there's no leverage from what the other development
team has done, so in some cases you are actually taking a step backwards
instead of forwards.
What we are now moving towards is actually a unified design team of both
east and west coast, that will develop our next generations of platforms,
from R300 to R400 to R500 to R600 to R700, instead of a ping-pong ball
between them both. Within that one organisation we need to think about where
do we architecturally innovate and where do we not in order to hit the right
development cycles to keep the leadership, but it will be one organisation.
If you dissect in, for example, to the R600 product, with is our next, next
generation, that development team is all three sites - Orlando, Silicon
Valley, Marlborough - but the architectural centre team is in the Valley, as
you point out, but all three are part of that organisation.
Would I be correct in suggesting that mainly Marlborough and Orlando would
be the R&D centres - with the design of various algorithms for new 3D
parts - while the Santa Clara team would be primarily responsible for
implementing them in silicon?
No, because the architecture of the R300 and R500 is all coming from the
Valley, but we've got great architects in all three sites.
Bob Drebin in the Valley is in charge of the architecture team and so he's
in charge of the development of all the subsequent architectures but he goes
out to the other teams key leaders and that forms the basis of the unified
architectural team. At an implementation level, you're right - Marlborough
is mainly focused on the "special projects" and that will probably be
another 18 to 24 months for them. So the R600 family will mainly be centred
primarily in the Valley and Orlando with a little bit from Marlborough, and
then the R800 would be more unified.
As we go through each architectural change we begin to see that an
increasing number of chips are being produced by the IHV's - first only one
ASIC was produced to meet the entire market, then two, and last year it was
three. Does ATI have the engineering resources to produce that many parts in
a timely manner?
Well, I think four is needed now.
What's interesting is that you could argue there are more offerings down
below, but that's not the case. We used to design to a 10x10 die, then a
12x12 and then the R300 was 14x14 and now we're at 16x16, so you see what's
really happened is we've added more SKU's in the high end as time has gone
by, so if you're at 16x16, what's the next one down?
We think that there still is a market for a $10 part. Integrated isn't
taking over the world, so there's a huge opportunity for discrete parts out
there for about a $10-$12 selling price. So, with that at the bottom end and
you're high end part you ask if one will fill the gap, and the answer is
probably not, you might need two. So, how you implement those total 4 SKU's
is the question - is it 3 design centres and some migrant technology or is
it 4 design centres?
However, as you'll see this fall from us, and our RV lines, a total of 4
parts too. But the key is, from an architectural level, if you architect it
properly it becomes more of a system level design question, and that's what
we're looking to do.
Just after the introduction of R300 you talked about R400, however shortly
afterwards that appeared to go off the roadmap and R420 appeared - what
happened during that period? And would that be related to upcoming contracts
with console vendors?
We changed the roadmap.
You can look at cause and effect. That was not the cause, internal changes
was the cause and the outcome was that we decided the best way to go forward
was to do "this" with the PC roadmap and take "that" and use it with
X-Box. But that wasn't the cause of the roadmap change, we had to make this
change anyhow due to execution issues.
We' like to thank Dave for his frank and detailed answers to our questions.
you can see that it he has highlighted a number of changes in ATI's
engineering structure over the past year or so and it should be interesting
to watch their development and execution over their coming architectures.
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