Is 2017 the year Moore's Law is finally broken? What might an all-GPU future look like?

PC Gamer's recent piece on the end of Moore's Law is not the first article ever written on the subject; reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated, circulating since last year.

However, the recent reveal of Intel's new Coffee Lake processor series has revived sentiments in the tech industry that advancements in CPU speed and power are beginning to slow down. With this in mind, it is easy to see how individuals such as nVidia's Jensen Huang see the "death" of Moore's Law as related to the rise of GPUs within today's in-demand computing areas, such as machine learning and virtual reality.

As GPUs continue to become more and more cost effective, they could eventually evolve to replace the traditional CPU as the workhorse of consumer computing. Inevitably, the onboarding costs for high-end PC-based VR would be dramatically reduced. This is in addition to the already obvious benefits of powerful desktop devices, which could also benefit from new applications in AI and cloud computing. Already, cloud technologies are being used to achieve similar goals in PC-based VR. As the next market cycle of XR begins, companies should pay close attention to how GPU manufacturers devise new potential solutions to VR's current biggest problem.

In a future in which personal computing devices are powered exclusively by GPUs however, the most drastic challenge facing software developers would be the development of new computing interfaces and operating systems which take advantage of the unique strength of the graphics co-processor (parallel processing) over the traditional CPU. The differences between the two can be thought of as the difference between information throughput and latency, and processing power is just one factor in this process. In fact, unless serial computing of simple tasks is phased out completely within the consumer market, it is unlikely that the GPU will replace traditional chips, regardless of how powerful or efficient they become.

GPUs excel at alleviating high-volume computational tasks from the CPU's workload. Courtesy of NVIDIA

In the consumer space, VR is the task most likely to drive growth of GPU manufacturers in the near-future. Moreover, as prices and operational costs continue to fall while performance rises, buyers will become more and more aware of the significance of GPUs as a crucial component of a standard machine, as opposed to a niche luxury item relegated to serious gamers or producers.