At the Develop Conference 2017, the one-time lead engineer on the Xbox One and Xbox Live founder Boyd Multerer stated that mobile devices are driving innovation in CPUs.
“Mobile phones drive the research of CPUs, there’s no question about it,” Boyd Multerer, said at Develop. Processor developers like Intel and ARM have prioritised their mobile projects because “the market is phones. Who cares about a couple of hundred million PCs anymore? This is about billions of phones.”
When desktop processors were a priority, Multerer explained that it was about making faster CPUs. Now he believes that it’s all about cutting power usage.
“If they can lower the amount of power use of that instruction by a little bit, that gives them a competitive edge against other chips. […] The phone industry says I can have 16 CPUs so that when you want to run a complicated app I can go into high power mode and I’ll have all of them working at the same time and work really fast. As soon as that app goes to the background, 14 of those CPUs get turned off and sit there drawing zero power while the next app is in front.”
According to him, this trend is here to stay, with the shift from power efficiency “not going to happen in the next ten years.”
Although, this doesn’t help PC gaming directly, it does impact servers necessary for PC gaming.
Speaking to PCGamesN after his talk, Multerer said that “the effort into having lower power performance on mobile is absolutely benefitting us on the servers.” Reason being ongoing power and cooling costs are a large chunk of the expenditure needed to keep servers running.
“That’s why Facebook put a data centre in the northern part of Norway,” Multerer explained, “because to cool it they just have to open the windows and the roof and it’s cold.”
Nonetheless, Multerer feels that this “leaves the desktop PC as the confused, kind of forgotten platform.” The physical size of a desktop is “limiting,” he says. “The more you can take off those desktop PCs and put it on servers, [the more] you’re getting power efficiencies” but there are some things that you want to keep running on your own computer to reduce lag.
Multerer points out that with programs like Photoshop, Adobe “have done the work to get it running across all the cores and getting them all going at 100%, so they’ve seen the benefit.” Game developers on the other hand, don’t make full use of multicore processors, he opines, so we don’t see the full benefit of the hardware used.
For what it’s worth, Multerer exited Microsoft in 2014 to start a subscription-based interactive erotic fiction website, Silkwords.