Enough with the Bitcoin/GPU FUD

The tech press is not immune to a too-good-to-check story, and right now a doosy is tearing through the hobbyist/chip junky sites that needs to be knocked down right now, because even Seeking Alpha is falling for it.

When Bitcoin first hit in 2009, you could earn Bitcoins by running an app on your CPU to "mine" coins, which you could then use. Rather quickly, it switched to the GPU because GPUs were so much faster. People built special rigs with multiple GPU cards to mine Bitcoins, and there are some pretty expensive rigs out there on YouTube and other sites. In Asia, whole farms were set up.

In particular, AMD's Radeon cards really cranked through the Bitcoin hashes and they became so popular there was a shortage of R9 290 and R9 290X cards. Eventually, the price of Bitcoin increased to the point where an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) was more economically viable. So all the serious Bitcoin miners have now switched to ASICs. Supposedly ASICS are a thousand times more efficient than GPUs.

That's where our FUD comes in. An article on DigiTimes said that GPU makers could take a big hit due to Bitcoin farmers all abandoning GPUs and no longer buying them by the dozen.

"Worldwide graphics card shipments are expected to decline 30-40% sequentially in the second quarter as vendors are suffering from excessive inventories, according to sources from graphics card players," the story said. This story has been picked up and people have run with it without so much as a check with anyone here Stateside who might put it into perspective.

The facts are the PC industry, even in the tough shape it's in now, is very cyclical. Q1 sees a big drop from Q4 (Christmas) and that's when inventory is pushed with small discounts and or backlogs filled. Q2 is when the channel dumps the old Q4 inventory it couldn't sell in Q1 and given it's time of year (March to June) is a slow period for buying. The building for Q3 (back to school) and Q4 (Christmas) then begins. That's why Computex takes place in early June, to show off what's coming in the next few months.

Q2 is always a lousy quarter, but no one ever dropped 40% year over year, even in the crash of 2008. And it won't now. Inventories and supplies have returned to normal at retailers. Nvidia released its 800 series of GTX cards in Q1, and AMD released the R7 and R9 late last year, so a refresh this year is likely.

AMD might see a dip, but if anyone takes a hit it will be the card makers left with a ton of inventory. The only thing the end of GPU farms for Bitcoin means we are likely to see a flood of cheap R9 290s on Craigslist and eBay, and hey, I'm all for that. My GTX 670 is getting long in the tooth.

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