Currently, NVIDIA is really missing out on the netbook market, which is dominated by all-Intel platform designs. NVIDIA has finally woken up to this reality, and the outspoken cofounder, president, and CEO of NVIDIA, Jen-Hsun Huang, has launched an all-out campaign to promote his company’s Ion platform – and he isn’t shy of flinging some poo to Intel and netbooks in general.
NVIDIA’s Ion platform combines the well-known Intel Atom 1.6Ghz processor to the GeForce 9400M GPU, providing a powerful graphics core in netbooks (in fact, the same GPU powers Apple’s new MacBook). While release dates are as of yet unknown, the platform is supposed to arrive in the coming months.
In any case, NVIDIA is in a precarious position. Basically every netbook sold today is an all-Intel machine, from the graphics core down to the processor. Considering the use-case of most of these netbooks – quick, on-the-go computing – most users probably won’t need a really powerful GPU. The screen is mostly the limiting factor here. This obviously hurts NVIDIA, because they see a fast-growing market they’re not part of.
So what do you do when you missed a major market explosion because you were caught sleeping on the job? Well, you do what all other big companies do in the same situation: you start talking said market down (see Apple and AMD). Huang does so by the book, and leaves no stone unturned. However, in doing so, his complaints borderline on clinging-to-straws. About netbooks, he says:
The Atom platform is creating an installed base that doesn’t run modern applications. It doesn’t run anything well from Electronic Arts, it doesn’t run anything well from Adobe, it doesn’t run anything well from Microsoft. I just mentioned the top software companies in the world. So in a way, the Atom platform is creating an installed base of PCs that’s going to eventually hurt the PC software industry.
I think we all have to be very thoughtful about the proliferation of PCs that are inferior to what people think a PC should be, yet still is a PC.”
Despite the fact that his claims are debatable, at best, one also has to wonder if, assuming his complaints really are true, they actually have any relevance to people buying netbooks. Is the prime reason you buy a netbook to play the latest and greatest Electronic Arts game? Do you buy it to do serious Photoshop editing?
To me, it simply seems as if NVIDIA is a little scared it won’t ever make serious inroads into the netbook market, especially now that Intel’s second generation Atom processor will have the GPU on-die. Ati obviously doesn’t have this problem, being part of AMD and all.
Curiously, Huang has a lot of nice things to say about Via’s Nano platform. “Nano is a fabulous processor. You could argue that it’s architecturally one generation beyond Atom,” he states, “The amount of software and hardware outside of the CPU is so much, unless you have tier-one capabilities, you can’t build a tier-one-capable machine. That’s really VIA’s weakness. They don’t have the resources to build the GPU in the system to be competitive.”
While the Atom chip isn’t much, it was accompanied by millions of votes for smaller less expensive computers. The age of the 10 inch form factor is upon us, and the computer is officially a commodity, a true consumer item, and regrettably, for the first time–disposable.
So, where does that leave Nvidia, well, that’s up to them. As far as the small computer market, they have a lot of work to do because the integrated thing they are talking about, will be a 45nm GPU, and if I worked up the peninsula at nVidia, I wouldn’t sleep so soundly.
Incidentally, tell nVidia, Rhinoceros 3D CAD runs on my netbook, not as fast as if nVidia had made a GPU for it, but it does run. Tell Adobe, when I want the software updates off–I mean off! Meaning that doing things such as having a bloated insubordinate updater that does what it wants to–isn’t going to give them a good face in the world of netbooks. Tell EA, I’m not buying a game from you, until I hear articles about how you respect your employees better, and honor your contracted commitments.
[It’s just a gut feeling, but I believe that the Atom will be refined, and multiplied into a massive multi-core setup. Meanwhile, Nvidia is pulling punches with Intel, not trying to replace the CPU with the GPU on the desktop. As a consumer, I want to see both of these fights.]
Edited 2009-01-29 12:41 UTC