SAN JOSE, Calif. – Nvidia could develop chip stacks for Apple that would make for some pretty interesting iMacs, Macbooks and iPads. I’m just speculating on industry rumors, but it makes a lot of sense.
Nvidia could lay two to four graphics chips down on a 2.5-D substrate using through silicon vias to create an ultra powerful graphics-card-on-a -chip driving a muscular iMac. It might even add a memory chip to the mix to create a device with fast memory access, good for either an iMac or Macbook.
What’s more, Nvidia could place one of its new Project Denver ARM cores next to a graphics chip and maybe some memory to enable a high performance, low power Macbook running iOS. A low cost iOS laptop could leapfrog anything we have seen to date out of the Windows 8 crowd.
Here’s the kicker: Apple could supply its A-series SoC to Nvidia which could add graphics and memory to a stack for a high-end iPad. It would create a novel premium product injecting fresh life into tablets at the high end, putting more distance between Apple and its growing Android tablet competitors.
The stacking technology is still too expensive, hot and power hungry for smartphones. But come 2015 or so, it may start appearing there, too, in the form of full 3-D stacks.
This isn’t rocket science. Xilinx started the trendof 2.5-D stacks in late 2011 with an ultra dense chip that put two of its top FPGAs on a single substrate. Huawei said it is working on a similar device using an Altera FPGA and a memory chip for a router.
In computers, IBM is working on 2.5-D chips that marry its Power server processors and memory. IBM is already pitching to customers it a ability to make such stacks as is TSMC which helped make the Xilinx part. One market watcher tells me there are as many as a dozen of these designs in the works for 2013.
I think the time for Apple or Intel to use Nvidia graphics seems over. Imagination Technologies PowerVR graphics have cornered mobile graphics. If more than 50% of Apple revenue is iphone why would they need Nvidia. Also they could have bought IT or Nvidia years ago. Why would they switch to Nvidia? The Apple chips are in gen 6. If Apple were to truly control everything it would need to make their own core and own graphics. Only buying Nvidia would give it full control. What is the major benefit?
ugh. it would be so much more imaginative to use stacking to create a lower-power module containing compute and memory. imagine a smallish chip dissipating maybe 50W, but which can gluelessly be tiled with a bunch more such chips. a 1U node containing, say, 16 of these would be pretty awesome, and a data-parallel programming model like Cuda could leverage it pretty well...
Nvidia's philosophy has been to use brute force to implement graphics. In contrast, ATI (AMD now) took the other approach and arguably offered the best mobile graphics in the past. Just imagine the steam (i.e. heat) coming off the Nvidia graphics cores inside the 3D package. Unless there is a liquid nitrogen pipe going through the 3D package, or unless 5nm is made available to Nvidia and Apple assuming the current transistor count, this rumour is simple a pipe dream!
Nvidia does not have any graphics IP that can compete with SGX554MP$ in the current ipad, in terms of performance/area/power. 1st half of next year, we are likely to see Apple implement IMG's next gen graphics, rogue, which will increase processing performance considerably. Nvidia have failed to be leading edge in soc tech, despite throwing $100s millions at it, securing only a tiny market share. Just because they can technically do what you are postulating, doesn't mean they have a better overall solution to what is already out there.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.