Computex has been running for more than 40 years, but has not been held for the last three years due to the strict sanitary and epidemiological regulations in force in Asia during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The first event after such a significant break more than met the expectations of experts, media and high-tech enthusiasts. More than 3,000 company stands, 10,000 visitors and a landing that is highly representative of senior management from around the world. However, this time Computex was not similar to the previous exhibitions.
In every previous year, companies brought and demonstrated new products and solutions at Computex. It was from bright shows at the stands with consumer electronics and serious b2b product presentations that the atmosphere of the exhibition was formed.
There was no shortage of brilliant exhibits this time either. Some of them even took shape in the trends. So, for example, after a chronic slump in demand that has lasted for every recent year and a catastrophic drop in PC sales in the first quarter of 2023, laptop makers appear to have found a new solution that can restore interest in this technique in the consumer segment. This year, all the major brands participating in Computex brought new models with OLED screens, a technology that has been used in smartphones for several years. Asus, Acer, Gigabyte, MSI have expanded their product portfolios in the hope of starting a refresh cycle for users’ laptop fleets and reviving sagging sales.
OLED screens really provide a very high quality image. It’s all about brighter colors, better color reproduction, and higher contrast compared to traditional LCD displays. The difference in image quality is visible to the naked eye, especially in movies and games. However, such displays consume more power and are significantly more expensive to manufacture. OLED technology has become the universal standard for smartphones since the debut of these screens in premium models a few years ago, and moved into the mainstream segment as it became cheaper. Today, the main manufacturer of OLED displays is Samsung Display, and computer vendors themselves are actively working to reduce the cost of producing displays. According to IDC analyst Annabelle Hsu, cost is the key factor holding back the use of such screens in laptops. So a 15.6-inch OLED panel costs 2.5-3 times more than a comparable LCD screen. Of course, part of this margin is passed on to the buyer.
However, despite the fact that there was something to see at the Nangang Exhibition Center, as already mentioned, the main events took place in its conference rooms. This time Computex, in addition to new products, brought ideas and concepts that, according to experts, can affect the entire computer industry.
The headliner of Сomputex-2023 was the founder and permanent director of NVIDIA Jensen Huang. His company is one of the pillars of modern microelectronics, the main developer and manufacturer of graphics processors, the sixth company in the world in terms of capitalization (1 trillion dollars). NVIDIA today is worth more than Intel and Tesla.
Jensen Huang, of course, introduced the new NVIDIA graphics card, but 90 percent of his speech was devoted to artificial intelligence, the presentation of the new NVIDIA DGX GH200 supercomputer for training neural networks, and the new server specification, NVIDIA MGX. , which provides system manufacturers with a modular architecture to create more than 100 server options to suit a wide range of AI and HPC workloads.
Huang said that by today’s standards, data centers built for today’s mainstream x86 processor architecture do not meet modern business requirements, as servers are not well suited to cooling GPUs, which the market requires. increasingly. According to Jensen Huang, the era of x86 processors is coming to an end. The NVIDIA boss reinforced his reasoning with an example of building and training a large language model (LLM), referring to the compute cluster with 960 standard servers needed to solve this problem, which costs $10 million and consumes 11 GWh to train a LLM. Huang said just a pair of $400,000 NVIDIA chip-based servers could perform the same task, consuming just 0.13 GWh.
“Of course, there are tasks for which the underlying architecture of NVIDIA GPUs and other GPUs is optimal. This fact, combined with the novelty of the solutions and approaches that NVIDIA offers, creates a lot of excitement, says Jensen Huang,” says . Head of the Integration Department at Linxdatacenter Dmitry Shchegolkov. However, in his opinion, each of the currently existing processor architectures will gain its own niche in the coming years, including in connection with the emergence of specialized equipment optimized for the specific tasks being solved.
“Versatility and performance are on different scales. When it comes to maximizing performance, one has to sacrifice universality, and the x86 architecture, by definition, belongs in the class of universal microprocessors, which NVIDIA solutions are not” , Shchegolkov believes.
In addition to the NVIDIA boss, speaking at Computex was Alex Katuzyan, Qualcomm’s senior vice president and general manager. Qualcomm is the world’s largest developer and manufacturer of mobile processors. Katuzyan noted that computing power is required today not only in data centers, and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips are already in PCs, smartphones, smartwatches, augmented reality glasses and industrial IoT. He pointed to the growing demand for artificial intelligence processors and outlined the concept that the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Hexagon chips will allow AI computing to be distributed among different devices. “You just can’t send everything to the cloud, and for some applications you don’t want to,” said a Qualcomm executive. He added: “User devices will be able to process most of the computations for neural networks on their own and then, as the complexity of the computations increases, they will seamlessly transfer some of the tasks to data centers in the future. cloud”. Kedar Kondap, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Computing and Gaming at Qualcomm, believes that on-premises devices provide greater computing efficiency than cloud-based data centers, saving a lot of energy.
The energy efficiency of processors, due to the multiple increase in electricity consumption in data centers in recent years, has become another topic of discussion at Computex-2023, and not independently, but as part of the ESG agenda. . The ESG concept (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) is a relatively new management concept, which involves the participation of companies in solving environmental, social and management problems.
In Computex-2023, a lot of attention was paid specifically to solving environmental problems in the process of production, operation and disposal of computer equipment. For example, all major manufacturers showed their developments in the field of materials and technologies that reduce environmental pollution, as well as products (mainly laptops) made using these technologies. There is a stereotypical prejudice that ESG is a concept created in the public relations and marketing departments of large Western companies to improve the image of large companies in the eyes of the public, the state and the press. Not so at all. Most of the microelectronics manufacturers that have declared their commitment to ESG are Asian companies. In addition, in the developed countries of Southeast Asia – China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – now great attention is paid to environmental issues, including by companies. For example, in 12 million Shenzhen, located in the “silicon valley” of China, Guangdong province, among the several million scooters, mopeds and scooters that the city’s population actively uses, there is not a single one with an internal combustion engine. However, their operation is prohibited, as in Beijing and Shanghai, and the manufacturers themselves have long reoriented themselves towards the production of electric models. Also, nearly one in two cars in the city, including commercial trucks, is electric. Shenzhen is undoubtedly a pioneer in the field of transport electrification, but the same trend is visible in all major cities in China. This suggests that the ESG concept in general and environmental issues in particular are relevant for any country that has reached a certain level of technological maturity.