Personal computing discussed

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debriscolomun
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Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 5:42 am

Has anyone ever thought why there are only 2 brands that make CPUs and only 2 brands that make GPUs. When you think about it the CPU and the GPU are some of the most critical components in a PC. You would think that other companies would like to also make them but yet the Intel, AMD and Nvidia seem to be the only ones producing these components.
 
Igor_Kavinski
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 6:09 am

1. High cost of entry: Fabrication plants cost billions to build. R&D requires hundreds of millions or more.

2. Patents: Any company wanting to build an x86 compatible CPU would need to obtain an x86 license from Intel. Intel isn't going to just hand it over to anyone. I think AMD has it mainly so Intel doesn't run afoul of US anti-monopoly laws. GPUs are all about patents. You can't design a GPU these days without needing a cross licensing agreement with the GPU giants or expect to get sued into bankruptcy.

Anyway, that's just my two cents. I'm sure more knowledgeable forum members here will be able to better shed plenty of light on this topic.
 
meerkt
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 8:35 am

In the PC space, there used to be more. They either died or got bought. For x86, it seems Via is still alive.

Non-PC, depending on your definition of CPU/GPU company, there are a few.

For CPU there's Arm and Apple. Not sure how much customization others do, but maybe you can include also Huawei/HiSilicon, up until a few months ago also Samsung, and maybe Qualcomm. Not sure what's going on with MIPS.

For non-PC GPU there's Apple, Qualcomm (Adreno), Arm (Mali), Imagination (PowerVR).
 
Igor_Kavinski
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 10:12 am

https://valid.x86.fr/bench/didvr2/8

http://en.zhaoxin.com/solution.aspx?id=3

Thanks, meerkt. Wouldn't have found that if you hadn't mentioned it. Guess Via and the Chinese govt's joint venture has managed to make something that isn't a complete dud, as opposed to what Via alone used to make.
 
just brew it!
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 12:36 pm

Yeah, combination of high barrier to entry (hey, even AMD decided they couldn't keep up with their own fabs any more), and IP licensing. I think as any tech industry matures, the natural evolution is for things to consolidate around 2 or 3 major players. We're seeing the same thing with HDDs.

There were a lot more vendors for both back in the 1990s to early 2000s. All the smaller ones either got bought out, retreated to niche markets (heck, Matrox is still around if you look hard enough...), or went out of business.

Alternative architectures are still a thing to. Just because all you hear about any more are x86 and ARM doesn't mean other ISAs disappeared. Like Matrox in the GPU space, they've just retreated to niche segments. MIPS still has a presence in the embedded space, and IBM POWER is still a thing too (mostly in HPC AFAIK, due to their on-chip NVLink support though big Cloud players like Google have purportedly toyed with the idea of using POWER as well). Oddball legacy ISAs are also still ubiquitous behind the scenes in embedded applications, like Intel's 8051 architecture and Microchip's PIC.
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 1:29 pm

The golden and silver ages of digital computing are over. All of the low-hanging fruit are gone and we are almost out of the mid-hanging fruit. Physical and economic realities are here to stay.
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Wirko
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 1:36 pm

In this industry there's a long list of very short lists of manufacturers. One is particularly short and looks like this:

1. ASML

If you're a maker of liquid crystal displays, you go to Merck to buy liquid crystals and Corning to buy glass. If you make SSDs or DDR modules you have a choice of about 4 companies that can make storage/memory chips for you. But if your products are hard disks, you buy motors from Nidec. And so on.
 
Wirko
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 1:37 pm

Krogoth wrote:
The golden and silver ages of digital computing are over. All of the low-hanging fruit are gone and we are almost out of the mid-hanging fruit. Physical and economic realities are here to stay.

You're implying ... we're entering ... BRONZE AGE!?
 
meerkt
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 1:51 pm

just brew it! wrote:
Matrox is still around if you look hard enough

I think Matrox uses AMD GPUs nowadays.

embedded applications, like Intel's 8051 architecture and Microchip's PIC.

Embedded SoCs aren't strictly CPUs. Anyway, ISAs there have less reason to consolidate, perhaps. But even so there are just a handful of remaining camps. The above two, MSP430, AVR, and... I don't know, maybe something from Japan?

POWER is still a thing too (mostly in HPC

Fujitsu is still with SPARC, but since recently also ARM. At the same time they continue with GS21, which appears to be some evolution of IBM's ESA/390.
 
just brew it!
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 2:11 pm

meerkt wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
Matrox is still around if you look hard enough

I think Matrox uses AMD GPUs nowadays.

From their web site it looks like they still sell some of the older stuff too.

meerkt wrote:
POWER is still a thing too (mostly in HPC

Fujitsu is still with SPARC, but since recently also ARM. At the same time they continue with GS21, which appears to be some evolution of IBM's ESA/390.

Oh, I also forgot to mention RISC-V, which could end up being interesting.
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DrCR
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 4:16 pm

debriscolomun, btw, you can see if you have S&P NetAdvantage, Value Line, and Morningstar via your local library's website, which will likely provide more information than you will ever want to know for a given industry or company.
 
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sat Dec 21, 2019 5:12 pm

just brew it! wrote:
Oh, I also forgot to mention RISC-V, which could end up being interesting.

PowerPC 750 is still in play for extremely special jobs.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/11 ... nto-space/
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Igor_Kavinski
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Re: Why are only 3 companies making CPUs and GPUs?

Sun Dec 22, 2019 7:27 am

https://www.nextplatform.com/2019/08/20 ... ction-set/

Well, there you go, OP. You now have the chance to launch your own startup for a brand new Power ISA-based CPU.

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