Much has been made of the cryptocurrency mining craze, which has recently seen the value of Bitcoin balloon past $10,000 for a single coin. Its effect on demand for graphics card hardware has been keenly felt, with prices skyrocketing throughout 2017 as miners seek the best bang for their buck. According to AMD CEO Lisa Su though, demand for GPUs from cryptocurrency miners is actually a "very small percentage" of AMD’s overall business, clocking in at single digits.
Instead, Su claims it’s a generally increased demand for all things high-performance computing. PC gaming has been on the up and up for years, while AMD also has high-profile custom chips in both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One X.
"I think the important thing is to really understand what are we all about, and AMD is really about high-performance computing," Su said during CNBC’s Power Lunch show. "We are in so many different applications, we are in some of the newest game consoles from Microsoft and Sony, we're in Apple's new iMac Pro, we're working with some of the largest datacenters, and yes, there are some people who buy our graphics processors for mining."
The general consensus is that cryptocurrency miners have been picking up graphics cards in obscene numbers, although AMD’s numbers don’t necessarily bear this out. Clocking in at mid-single digits, it’s not actually a highly profitable sector for AMD. It’s worth bearing in mind though that once we split AMD’s business down, first between Ryzen and Radeon, and then specifically down to dedicated graphics cards, even single-digit demand from miners is sure to eat into PC gamers’ market in a big way. The results are clear to see - we’ve been paying over the odds for graphics cards this entire year.
"Well actually what we're seeing is gaming is a tremendous growth market for us”, argues Su. “We love gaming, we are in the game consoles, we sell a lot of add-in board graphics cards, we actually sell quite a few graphics systems and what we've seen is that this is going to continue to grow.”
While the surge in popularity of cryptocurrencies has proven disruptive, Su is more interested in the overall impact of the blockchain currency behind Bitcoin, Ethereum, et al. “I think cryptocurrency is just one piece of it. It's a small piece of our business today … I view blockchain as a positive foundational technology that can change the way we interact on a daily basis. When you think about blockchain technologies, it's really an opportunity to transform how we do business on the internet.”
From AMD’s point of view, cryptocurrency mining is a very volatile form of income. Demand could rise and fall unexpectedly, and it’s a risk to cater specifically to mining while success is assured in the gaming, high-end computing and server farm markets. Even right now there’s instability surrounding Ethereum, with talk of forking to a new proof of stake system rather than proof of work that could result in reduced demand for GPUs from miners. Meanwhile, gaming is a stable market that shouldn’t be going anywhere, and AMD seems perfectly aware that this is where the core of its market lies.
What are your thoughts on the future of cryptocurrency mining? Is AMD right to focus on its core markets, or can you only see crypto demand only ballooning in the coming years? Let us know below!