NVIDIA’s CPU ambitions
An introduction to R21
Top Gear may have the Stig, but we've got the R21 division dedicated to figuring out if technology rumors make sense or not. R21 does not sign or violate any NDAs. The group insists that it's all good analysis from publicly available knowledge. We think they just built a time machine. The author(s) have asked to remain anonymous given the speculative nature of this document, but we consider the group trusted FiringSquad sources."
NVIDIA set to launch x86 CPU?
Just a month ago, an article at DigiTimes suggested that NVIDIA was getting out of the chipset business. Now, in the days before NVIDIA's NVISION expo, The Inquirer is reporting that NVIDIA is set to launch a new x86 compatible chipset.
Impression: The rumor, as reported, is wishful thinking, but R21 isn’t counting it out.
NVIDIA faces challenges from both Intel and AMD. Intel already maintains CPU dominance in the industry and has made its intentions to bring its graphics technology up to the same level as NVIDIA and AMD. Likewise, with ATI absorbed into AMD, the company is decreasingly dependent on NVIDIA for developing high performance motherboard chipsets. How can NVIDIA survive? Make their own CPU. If Intel can make GPUs, then certainly NVIDIA's own engineering wizards can make a decent CPU too, right?
The best rumors are the ones that almost make sense. In a way, development of the CPU to combat AMD's and Intel's increasing independence is a great way to maintain relevancy in the upcoming future. AMD has already shown with their current Radeon line-up that they continue to be a formidable competitor and Intel's Larabee shows the outside-the-box thinking that Intel is bringing to the graphics world.
NVIDIA certainly has the capabilities. With the acquisition of Stexar, NVIDIA gained access to Randy Steck, the man that led the development of Intel’s Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Pentium III, Pentium 4, Gary Brown, program manager of the Northwood and Willamette Pentium 4’s, and Darrell Boggs, a lead architect on the Pentium 4. Naysayers claim that Intel's manufacturing capabilities cannot be challenged by a fabless company such as NVIDIA. That's hardly true. Should NVIDIA develop an x86 CPU, 45nm fab capabilities can be found at IBM or TSMC.
The R21 Analysis
We would be surprised if NVIDIA didn't have an x86 project. We’re actually sure of it. The question is if NVIDIA is planning to create a flagship gaming CPU and how far along they actually are. Well-run technology organizations maintain competitiveness by combining forward looking research while maintaining tight product cycles to ensure continuous growth. If NVIDIA announces a desktop CPU next week at NVISION capable of replacing our Core 2 Quad’s, NVIDIA will have to be so far ahead of the development schedule that it approaches the realm of impossibility.
Behind ever rumor is a grain of truth.
An announcement of an x86 processor at NVISION would still be unlikely in our mind, but there are two key areas where we suspect NVIDIA does have the technology and desire to launch x86-processors: CUDA and SOC.