AMD's Su comes to SXSW to tout AI PCs and more

AMD is looking to usurp Nvidia as the chief promoter and beneficiary of the AI revolution, and AMD CEO Lisa Su this week submitted her bid to replace Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang as the semiconductor industry’s top AI evangelist.

During an hour-long “fireside chat” (the kind without a fire in sight) on Day 1 of the SXSW event in Austin, Texas, Su rhapsodized about the the importance of AI and generative AI, theAI PC, the role of AI in the jobs or creative professionals (the main audience at SXSW), and how AMD itself increasingly relies on the technology.

“I think AI is the most important technology that has come on the scene over at least the last 50 years,” Su enthused. “As much as the internet was important, as much as you know, PCs are important, mobile phones are important, AI and especially generative AI has become the most important thing.” 

She also made clear that AMD is not just looking to sell the processors that enable AI; it is ramping up its own use of the technology. “We're using it in every aspect, to design better chips, build better software, and use it as a productivity tool," she said.

AI has surged to the forefront at least in part because generative AI has made AI “so simple” to use, Su added. The next step for the technology is to put it in the hands of as many people as people to leverage locally for their own needs. Displaying one of AMD’s 153 billion-transistor Mi300 chips, Su talked about how data centers powering the AI training and inference capabilities that make AI simple to use will feature “tens of thousands” of these chips. Moments later, she held up one of AMD’s Ryzen 8000 CPUs for PCs, saying that it will power a new generation of AI PCs.

“The goal of AI PCs is to make sure that every one of us has our own AI capability,” Su said. “You can buy an AI PC today. You don't have to go and go out into the cloud, you can actually operate AI on your own data… It'll answer [questions] for you faster, it'll answer them for you in a private manner, because maybe you don't want your data going everywhere. And it's just the beginning of what I think is the ability to make all of us much much more productive.”

Su emphasized how this particularly will be the case of the content creators that attend SXSW every year. Su was briefly joined on stage at SXSW by David Conley, Executive VFX Producer at Wētā FX, the visual effects house that has worked on many movies, including a freshly-minted Oscar winner. Conley discussed how AMD processors help his company create complete and detailed worlds from scratch, though Conley and Su both were careful to clarify that AI is another tool in the creator toolbox, and not a replacement for the person using it,

“This isn't about replacing creators,” Su said. “This is really about making creators much more productive, so that you're able to do in far less time, much, much more at a higher quality capability.”

Such cautionary comments appeared to be welcomed by the SXSW audience, though just one day after Su said this, SXSW attendees reportedly booed (according to Variety and several other publications) a promotional sizzle reel at the event that hyped AI and the importance of learning how to use the technology or risk being left behind.

Technology conferences can take strange turns like that in the course of a couple days. The thing that seems like a broadly beneficial revelation on Day 1 can sometimes feel like it is being force-fed on Day 2, and this year’s SXSW also arrived just as AI’s bulls on Wall Street appeared to be experiencing fatigue, with the stock values of AI proponents like Nvidia and AMD coming down sharply, albeit after massive surges upward in recent weeks.

“AI is not perfect,” Su acknowledged near the end of her SXSW talk. “We’re all learning along the way. I would say that I'm personally learning so every day. I'm learning new things about what the technology can do, and how we position our products as well.”