CPU vs GPU wars

I just finished reading this great interview on Tom’s Hardware with Epic Game’s CEO Tim Sweeney (of Unreal fame). This is actually the second part of a three part series and I really like his opinions on the state of PC gaming and what the future may hold.

The part that got me interested in writing about it was his conjecture that in the future, as was in the past, graphics rendering is going to be done in software instead of hardware. As GPU (Graphical Processing Units) become more powerful and general purpose, and with CPUs going multi-core, it just makes more sense to leverage that power in a flexible way with software renderers. He figures it’ll get to the point that game programmers won’t use DirectX or OpenGL, but will bypass it all and write code that runs directly on the hardware.

He then takes it a step further. If CPUs adopt wider vector computation, or GPUs adopt general purpose instructions, we could see the dividing line between the two blur until you can’t tell. He predicts GPUs will reach a point where you can run a Linux kernel on them. If that happens, why would you need a CPU?

As it has been of late, the gaming industry is really driving the investment going into PCs architectures. I doubt any of this would be happening in the consumer space at least without it. But this could really change the players. Could nVidia build their own PC architecture without the help of Intel and AMD? Is this why AMD bought ATI? Is this why Intel is investing so much in multi-core architectures? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to see what unfolds.