In a surprising turn of events, NVIDIA
-built graphics cards have begun popping up at Best Buy stores across the nation. This is decidedly odd for a company that's made billions of dollars designing GPU products while leveraging board partners to bear the cost of manufacturing and marketing them, but NVIDIA confirmed that this new Best Buy partnership is a new direction for the company.
"NVIDIA and Best Buy are working together to offer PC customers the opportunity to experience firsthand the latest in PC technologies right inside Best Buy stores," a company representative said. "As part of this broad initiative, NVIDIA is supplying to Best Buy specific GeForce models built and supported by NVIDIA. These products will only be available at Best Buy and will complement GeForce products from our partners. We will provide more details on this next week."
This is a tremendous shift for the GPU designer, even if NVIDIA keeps its retail channel participation small. The move will inevitably be compared to what's viewed as a critical mistake by vanished titan 3dfx. Eleven years ago, near the height of its strength, 3dfx announced it would launch its own retail products instead of licensing its technology to a variety of third-party manufacturers. Faced with the prospect of competing against their own designer, GPU manufacturers jumped ship en masse for NVIDIA. A few years later ATI, which had previously handled all its own manufacturing, arranged its own exit from that market and began licensing its designs as NVIDIA does.
NVIDIA has undoubtedly secured a great many sound bites and PR statements affirming the mutual love and respect that exist between itself and its partners even now that the company is partnering with Best Buy. Such statements won't be worth the paper they're printed on if NV's Best Buy retail channel starts eating into the profits of other companies. The more money NVIDIA makes from its own sales, the less incentive it'll have to treat other companies as first-tier solution providers. We won't be surprised if former NVIDIA-only OEMs suddenly become more receptive to ATI overtures.