Summary: Earlier this month, NVIDIA bought chipset manufacturer ULi Electronics for $52 million USD. In today's interview we speak with NVIDIA's Drew Henry on the acquisition. See what NVIDIA has in store for ULi in our latest article!
1. NVIDIA isn't specific on which technologies they aim to get from ULi. Perhaps that is because it would provide a clue into areas where NVIDIA is currently weak, and because there's always the possibility that a regulatory agency will determine that NVIDIA is not allowed to acquire ULi.
If I was forced to speculate, I would suggest mobile chipsets and SATA-II. Although NVIDIA offers nForce3 mobile chipsets, they've been unusually quiet for the last few years. From this interview, we now know that 2006 will be the year that NVIDIA will return to the mobile market in greater force. The ULi acquisition could be beneficial because ULi has a license for Pentium M bus as well as a fully developed chipset. NVIDIA could adapt and augment technologies developed at ULi.
The second area for potential technology transfer is with SATA-II. Although NVIDIA's SATA-II is good, Intel's implementations have been better. Although we haven't tested a modern ULi chipset ourselves, our colleagues at Anandtech recently published some benchmarks showing excellent SATA-II performance from the ULi chipset. Although it's unlikely that improved SATA-II performance was the driving force for the acquisition, I would be surprised if NVIDIA did not adapt ULi's SATA-II implementation into their next-generation product.
2. NVIDIA has motherboard teams in the US and India, but surprisingly they did not have a presence in Taiwan. The ULi acquisition should give NVIDIA additional strength in field engineering support in Taiwan as well as kickstart the Taiwanese division of NVIDIA's motherboard business. The full acquisition of ULi seems to be a more cost effective solution than trying to recruit an entire division worth of engineers in Taiwan from scratch.
3. NVIDIA "intends to continue ULi's business and [they] expect no change in service to their current customer base."
Many assumed that NVIDIA would choose to terminate ULi's deal with ATI. After all, ATI has been largely dependent on ULi southbridges for their motherboards and terminating this support could deliver a significant blow to ATI. That said, it's possible that the continued support ATi/ULi would, over time, give NVIDIA the monopoly on the know-how for producing high-quality south bridges. Likewise, because ATI presumably must design their northbridge to work with ULi southbridge and vice-versa, maintaining this support would give NVIDIA extra insight into the workings of their competitors. Third, continuing support for ATI may ensure continued support from ULi's other customers, which is one of the reasons for the acquisition in the first place.
The full interview is reproduced for you on the following pages:
FiringSquad: Why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers?
Drew Henry: My name is Drew Henry. I am the general manager in charge of the MCP product group here at NVIDIA.
FiringSquad: How long has the ULi deal been in the planning?
Drew Henry: Our discussions with ULi have gone on for many months.
FiringSquad: What are the strengths that ULi will bring to NVIDIA?
Drew Henry: The acquisition will significantly enhance NVIDIA's core logic/MCP design team and overall business. It will also significantly strengthen NVIDIA's sales, marketing, and customer engineering presence in Taiwan and China, critical business and engineering hubs for the PC industry. In addition, NVIDIA will acquire a suite of products and technology that are complementary to our current MCP business. NVIDIA will also be able to leverage ULi's world class team for the design of future NVIDIA products.
FiringSquad: How will NVIDIA resources help ULi engineers do more?
Drew Henry: The ULi team is excellent. Our plan is to merge them into our NVIDIA engineering organization that is responsible for building all our nForce products. Our nForce MCP business is growing very rapidly. We now have a complete line up of discrete motherboard products for the Intel market and ship more AMD desktop products than any other company. We are also the largest supplier of PCI Express-based core logic for AMD Opteron servers and workstations and include HP, IBM, and Sun as users of our NVIDIA nForce Professional products. In 2006, you will find our NVIDIA nForce products shipping in top notebooks as well. As you can see, we have grown quickly and plan to continue to do so. Adding the talented ULi team to our business will help us deliver our new products.
FiringSquad: Will NVIDIA’s core logic teams be split between Taiwan and the US?
Drew Henry: Our MCP engineering organization already has design centers in the US and India. We will use the ULi acquisition as the catalyst to build our Taiwan center. Taiwan is a very important location as it is the center of global motherboard development.
Drew Henry: No decision on future product lines will be made until the acquisition is completed, subject to all regulatory and shareholder approvals. NVIDIA intends to continue ULi's business and we expect no change in service to their current customer base.
FiringSquad: Since we have you here, we have to ask. Although ActiveArmor and the NVIDIA Firewall work well for many people, there seem to be just as many people who experience download corruption when they have the hardware firewall installed and end up using the non-NVIDIA powered Ethernet port. Any comment on that?
Drew Henry: Security on networks is extremely important. Hackers will located and begin attacking unprotected PC within minutes of being connected. We invented our ActiveArmor Secure Networking technology to counter this threat. The engineering team that designed it is one of the best in the world and responds quickly when any issue is discovered. We did recently find that under certain conditions, a buffer address for a specific connection would be corrupted, resulting in a write to the wrong memory location. The fix for this was integrated into our latest drivers, which were posted to NVIDIA.com in November.
FiringSquad: If you had a chance to tell our readers how the ULi acquisition will affect gamers, what would you say?
Drew Henry: NVIDIA is already world renowned for designing and building the most feature rich and fastest performing core-logic solutions in the world for a variety of different markets, including gaming. Stay tuned for some exciting product announcements from NVIDIA in 2006!
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|