The graphics geeks were a-buzzin' this weekend, spurred on by an interview with an AMD product manager that suggests the company might not be releasing new Radeon HD 8000 series graphics cards until late in 2013--or possibly until 2014. Could AMD really be content to sit pat with the current Radeon HD 7000 lineup for the rest of the year?
PCWorld reached out to AMD in the wake of all the hub-bub to get a feel for the situation, and while there are still plenty of questions up in the air, I was told by a chortling AMD representative, "We will certainly have new [GPU] products in 2013." The company plans to clarify its 2013 plans for the Radeon brand later this week.
The rabble became aroused when Japan's 4Gamer.net published an interview with AMD product manager Devon Nekechuk. The details are a bit blurry, mostly because the Google translation of the interview isn't especially clear, but it appears as though Nekechuk said that AMD will lean on the current-gen Radeon HD 7000-series lineup throughout 2013, implying that the release of the Radeon HD 8000 series will not be a major focus for most of the year--though Nekechuk never actually says as much in the shoddy Google translation.
Nekechuk also provided 4Gamer.net with the chart below, which indicates that the Radeon 7000 series will be "Stable throughout 2013." Note, however, that the timeline ends with the third quarter, not the end of the year--and that the Radeon HD 7000 and 8000 series could both be available at retail simultaneously, as is often the case during transitions to new GPU generations.
The official @AMDRadeon Twitter account added fuel to the fire by retweeting a senior executive who linked to 4Gamer article, calling it the 2013 GPU roadmap. Just a few days prior, AMD marketing manager Robert Hallock took to the @AMDRadeon account to tell a follower that "The HD 7000 Series will remain our primary focus for quite some time."
Why did that cause such a hub-bub? The GPU road map AMD showed off at CES gave equal billing to both "Sea Islands," AMD's internal code name for the Radeon HD 7000 series, as well as "Solar System," the code name for the next-gen Radeon HD 8000 series. Additionally, the Internet rumor mill has been claiming for months that the Radeon HD 8000 series would be released in early 2013, and in early December DigiTimes--a website with a vexingly hit-or-miss accuracy rate on its reports--said that AMD's new graphics cards would hit the streets in the second quarter of the year.
Given all that, many enthusiasts were hoping for a Radeon HD 8000 release to occur sooner rather than later.
Gossip vs. genuine news
Of course, AMD has never released any official information about plans or a potential launch date for the Radeon HD 8000 series. Robert Hallock said as much when Legit Reviews approached him about his @AMDRadeon tweet: "I should note that HD 8000 Series has never been so much as hinted at for a channel release. Anything to the contrary is an unsubstantiated rumor fabricated to drive traffic."
More concrete information should be coming down the pipeline in the near future, however. The AMD representative I spoke to indicated that the 4Gamer article lacks proper context, and said the company will be clarifying its 2013 strategy for the Radeon brand in a conference call later this week.
I've been invited to participate in that call, and I'll bring you the official word from AMD as soon as it's over. There's a lot to analyze in AMD's 2013 GPU strategy, as well as Nvidia's possible response toward it--but I'll wait after the call to do so in depth. There's no need to add fuel to the rumor mill fire without that oh-so-valuable dose of context and clarity.
Personally, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Radeon HD 8000 lineup released later in the year given how powerfully the 7000-series currently competes with Nvidia's current offerings, and AMD's rumored inclusion in both Microsoft and Sony's next-gen gaming consoles.
An earlier Radeon HD 8000 release could help drag AMD's slumping graphics card sales out of their fourth quarter quagmire, however, though both Nekechuk's comments to 4Gamer and past comments from AMD CEO Rory Read suggest that the company may use bundled game deals like the recent "Never Settle" package to stimulate interest instead of a new product release. AMD global channel sales director Roy Taylor recently asked developers who "want to work with AMD and see your games played and promoted the way they were meant to be" to reach out to the @AMD Twitter account.
No matter where the truth lies, here's hoping the picture becomes much clearer later on this week.