Nvidia: Ion goes beyond Atom

Written by Alex Watson

June 1, 2009 | 11:39

Tags: #computex-2009 #gpgpu #ion #jen-hsun-huang

Companies: #nvidia

COMPUTEX 2009: Computex got into gear today and Nvidia was the first of the big tech firms to hold a press conference. Company co-founder and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang and GeForce General Manager Drew Henry delivered an hour and half keynote address to a crowd of eager journalists.

Huang began by declaring that "the era of GPU Computing starts now" - a not entirely surprising sentiment from the head of a firm best known for its GPUs - but a few more interesting facts about Nvidia's strategy did emerge from the keynote.

Firstly, the speech was noticeably conciliatory towards Intel than some recent Nvidia statements, with Huang repeatedly referring to PCs as having a "CPU and GPU co-processing architecture," and calling the Atom CPU a "wonderful achievement."

Huang was still keen to promote Nvidia's products though, trumpeting the success of its CUDA-enabled chips, of which over 100 million have now been sold. They're also, he stated, the basis for Japan's most powerful supercomputer, Tsubame, and "by next year, I fully expect us to be in many, many of the world's top 20 supercomputers."

However, the advent of Windows 7, "the world's most important OS", Huang said he believed GPU computing is now relevant to the majority of computer users. "GPU Computing has reached 'a tipping point'", as consumer applications such as photo, video, and the 'visual web' demand parallel processing and Windows 7 is set to use the GPU to do this. "We believe CPU+GPU co-processing is not just for high-end systems, it’s now general purpose and you can use the processors for more than just video games. It’s the best architecture for consumers. It is now common sense [to use GPU computing]," Huang said. "No software developer will argue with this comment. No OEM, no industry analysis will say that CPU-GPU co-processing architecture is not the future."

It seems clear that this vision is less about convincing people to buy GeForces over Radeons, but about convincing mainstream, non specialist users to start asking for PCs with Nvidia graphics rather than integrated graphics. In other words, Ion is key, and in his part of the keynote, GeForce main man and Lex Luthor-a-like Drew Henry announced Earth must surrender to his demands that Ion was "specifically introduced with the vision to build small, low power, but capable PCs," and that in future it wouldn't solely be partnered with Atom CPUs. It will be seen with Celeron, Pentium and Core 2 Duo products, a decision Nvidia PR told us that Intel was happy with. Furthermore, although not announced in the keynote, Nvidia has 20 new Ion design wins, some of which were on show after the press conference.

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