NVIDIA Gets Aggressive, Dismisses CPU-GPU Fusion

NVIDIA held a Financial Analyst Day yesterday, where representatives spoke about the company's strengths, market share, technology, and direction.  There was a lot of discussion regarding current products and competition, which seemed to get NVIDIA's CEO Jen-Sun Huang fired up in a way that's not often seen publicly.

The always outspoken Jen-Sun really went on the offensive and essentially dismissed CPU-GPU fusion and Intel's upcoming discreet graphics product (codenamed Larrabee).  He also downplayed the erosion of NVIDIA's market share in the mobile segments and promoted the APX 2500 "system on a chip", CUDA, and other NVIDIA initiatives.  Jen-Sun even went so far as to say NVIDIA plans to "open a can of whoop ass" on Intel.  Them's fightin' words.

A CEO vehemently defending the company he helped found is nothing new, but the manner in which Jen-Sun attacked upcoming competitive offerings is clearly a sign of things to come.  Ever since AMD's acquisition of ATI and news of Intel's Larrabee hit, many began to wonder what these developments would mean to NVIDIA in the long run.  If AMD and Intel both had strong graphics divisions, both companies would be able to offer complete top-to-bottom platforms to consumers and more importantly OEMs (processor, chipset, graphics).  In addition, if AMD and Intel both offered CPUs with integrated graphics processors - i.e. Fusion and Nehalem - what would that do to NVIDIA's motherboard IGP business?  Many analysts are predicting doom and gloom for NVIDIA, since the company doesn't have a desktop CPU and won't be able to compete with a total platform.

Jen Sun, it seems, isn't worried in the least, however.  His thoughts on CPU-GPU fusion were that it won't be any different than current attached IGPs and that all Intel and AMD plan to do is integrate what is already an essentially "free" component onto the chip.  And due to long CPU development cycles, the next-gen motherboard IGPs available when CPU-GPU hybrids finally arrive will be far superior.

When Intel's upcoming Larrabee was brought into the discussion, Jen-Sun remained aloof.  Although Intel has publically stated that Larrabee will be fully DirectX and OpenGL compliant, with an integrated ray tracing engine, Jen-Sun didn't believe Intel would be successful.  Jen-Sun claimed NVIDIA didn't just build chips that met some predetermined standard, but that the company innovated and helped design and set the standards, which Intel has no experience doing.  He also said that by the time Intel even had working Larrabee samples, NVIDIA would be multiple generations ahead of current offerings.  NVIDIA's CEO was also dismissive of Intel's claim that ray tracing was the "future of gaming".  NVIDIA believes some combination of ray tracing and traditional rasterization could be used at some point in the future, but ray tracing alone was not going to revolutionize the industry.  Jen-Sun then spoke of the importance of the current installed base of GPUs and said that he doubted application developers would somehow choose to adopt Intel's vision for graphics, when NVIDIA will have already shipped hundreds of millions of GPUs before Intel even had a working Larrabee-based product back from fab.

NVIDIA's Optimized PC Configurator

Other representatives from NVIDIA, including Ujesh Desai and Tony Tamasi, also covered topics like CUDA, partnering with VIA, and the APX 2500. NVIDIA brought up a number of customers who have used CUDA to develop massively threaded applications that run many times faster on a GPU than any current general purpose CPU.  NVIDIA also spoke of their plan to work with VIA to offer an ultra-low cost platform built around the Isaiah microprocessor, which will compete against Intel's upcoming Atom.  And NVIDIA showed off their APX 2500 platform processor, which should debut in the coming months.  The APX 2500 integrates an ARM microprocessor core, with a GeForce-based graphics processor and HD video engine and is designed to power next-gen mobile devices.  We've actually played with a prototype APX 2500 handheld device and suspect NVIDIA will have much success with the chip.

One of the more telling developments in the last few days, that shows NVIDIA's intent to take Intel (and AMD) head-on, has to be the company's "Optimized with GeForce" PC configurator.  NVIDIA wants consumers to re-learn how to buy a PC and are extolling the virtues of pairing a more powerful GPU with more affordable, lower clocked processors, to design a more balanced PC.  Although NVIDIA would obviously love to sell more GPUs, there is no denying their argument makes sense in many customer usage models.

Whatever the future holds, one thing is for certain - NVIDIA is a strong company with aggressive leadership.  If big competition is aligning against them, as seems to be the case with Intel's recent announcements, you can rest assured NVIDIA isn't going to back down without a fight.

If you'd like to listen to a recording of the presentations from the event, NVIDIA has made it available here.

Tags:  Nvidia, GPU, CPU, Fusion, SSE, Ive, ses, AG, id