Nvidia: Remember who got you where you are today

January 12, 2010 | 13:08

Tags: #fermi #future #tegra-2

Companies: #ces #nvidia

At its main press conference this year in CES, Nvidia stamped in stone where it's heading in the future: towards a consumer technology design house, rather than a more "geeky" PC component design company.

Literally one minute was devoted to mentioning that its upcoming Fermi products are "in production", but Nvidia didn't go so far as to confirm an actual arrival date. There was a working Fermi card showed off on its stand running the DirectX 11 Unigen engine, but Nvidia's biggest and most complex chip to date didn't even make the main stage.

With the entire presentation dedicated to its Tegra 2 products, this tips in the face of the original Tegra launch at Computex 2008, where the launch was shoved in mid-week and in the middle of the afternoon - hardly prime time.
For two quarters without volume production for anything over the GeForce GTS 250 sorry, 9800 GTX+, we can see exactly how loyal Nvidia-exclusive partners are coping in what was an already weak economy: either they aren't, or the answer is defecting to the competition and making Intel motherboards ala EVGA and Zotac style.

Clearly the business motives are "move with Nvidia's whims or you'll be left in the cold" and we don't think "loyal friend" even features in Nvidia's vocabulary. Other reports from Nvidia's press conference stated that it was a "strong showing from Nvidia and its partners". It's new, and profitable partners, yes.

I don't doubt that I'd love an Audi equipped with Tegra 2, and I'm interested in the upcoming Tablet PCs, but the closest thing we, its oldest fans and long time supporters - you know, the little guys - got to a new PC product was the GT240 - a 40nm, DirectX 10.1, GDDR5-enabled 9600GT that had a quieter release than a mouse with its butt sewn up farting.

For a company that's juggling ARM CPUs, workstation products, and the odd lol-worthy chipset and 3D-everything, Nvidia seems incapable of doing two things at once within one of those product markets. For example, we've given up waiting for the 40nm shrink and cost down of the GT200 architecture for the midrange.

I will certainly acknowledge Nvidia has moved at the right time with its ARM investment and massively successful marketing machine. With the explosion of smartphones and impending bomb drop of tablet PCs, it will do very well to bring us new products in many segments that previously may have been uninteresting.

So the future looks bright for Nvidia, but I doubt it will be long until we're not invited to most of their press events and launches, and you'll start to see the company favouring more mainstream tech publications and national media. It's once dominant consumer graphics line has already become a sideline to mobile and workstation computing will the company only do "enough" to keep up in the race with ATI, but how long until that no longer becomes financially viable? How long until the other dollars overflow the investors pockets and the strain between long standing techies who have devoted entire careers to gaming and performance graphics, stretches the company internally? I hope those engineers remind the big wigs who paid for those Ferrari's.
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