Inside Advanced Scale Challenges|Wednesday, January 23, 2019
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Samsung Said to be Readying New GPU Design 

Samsung, the South Korean electronics giant, is reportedly developing a new graphics processor and has hired a former Nvidia GPU architect to bring the chip to fruition.

Jon Peddie, an industry analyst who tracks the graphics market, reported this week on his website that Chien-Ping Lu has been hired by Samsung to spearhead its GPU effort. Lu’s LinkedIn account lists his current position as “VP GPU at Samsung.”

Peddie characterized the secretive Samsung graphics chip effort as “the first new GPU design in over a decade.” While he and others suspect Samsung is targeting consumer applications like gaming smartphones, the new GPU design has implications for enterprise applications like the Internet of Things and AI, where Samsung has already made heavy investments.

“The world can’t seem to get enough GPUs for all the AI ambitions being explored,” Peddie noted. “Samsung already has a big AI team, [and] they must certainly be eyeing this development.”

The analyst notes that Lu’s hiring indicates Samsung (KRX: 005930), which recently surpassed Intel Corp. as the world’s largest chip maker, is serious about dominating the booming GPU market. After stints at Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA)—where he served as senior GPU architect and senior architect manager—and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), Lu most recently held the position of senior director at MediaTek (TPE: 2454), the Taiwanese fabless chip maker.

While at Nvidia, Lu oversaw development of discrete and integrated GPUs used in Apple Mac Books and Sony PlayStations. According to his LinkedIn page, he also helped establish Nvidia’s GPU development team in Bangalore, India.

Peddie reported this week that Lu was hired by Samsung late last year and will oversee the chip giant’s GPU development effort, codenamed SGPU. The company’s development teams in Austin, Texas, and San Jose are reportedly hiring engineering teams to handle hardware, software, testing and verification of designs.

“Simulations have indicated an even better performance than predicted, and the batch instruction processing holds the promise of significantly reducing the latency in the motion-to-photon path, and bringing low-power (consumption) [virtual reality], with fast recovery very high-resolution dynamic display capability,” Peddie reported.

So far, Samsung has kept the GPU effort under wraps. Peddie speculates that the chip giant won’t officially disclose the project for another year or so. “What remains to be seen is how far Samsung will take it,” Peddie noted. “If they have the breakthrough we think they do, will they keep it in house for competitive advantage, license it to one of their partners, or maybe even go bigger and make it multi-platform from mobile to TV, game consoles, and PCs?”

The other guess is that Samsung would fold its new SGPU capability into its growing AI development efforts, thereby presenting a serious challenge to current market leaders like Nvidia.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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