Details about the first chip to emerge from Nvidia's Project Denver show how little we know about what will happen next in client computing.
For its part, Nvidia will combine its Maxwell graphics core with its first 64-bit ARM core to create Parker in 2015. It will be made in a FinFET process which by then should be readily available as a sort of second-generation 20-nm node from Globalfoundries and TSMC.
Parker will certainly power smartphones and tablets as a Tegra 6. What’s less clear is whether it will have a life in notebooks, desktops or servers.
Microsoft’s WindowsRT for ARM—aimed at tablets--has failed to gain significant traction and badly needs a makeover. Until it gains traction in tablets, Microsoft is not likely to try to drive it into notebooks and desktops. And we are still waiting to hear anything about Windows Server for ARM.
Meanwhile, Google has been mum on any plans for Android in notebooks or desktops. No surprise really--it is only now well positioned for a dominant role in smartphones and tablets.
Google has experimented with a slimmer Chrome OS layer that essentially puts a browser on a cloud-based laptop client. The effort, now in a second generation, has failed to gain much traction.
But, interestingly, the Google exec (Sundar Pichai) who ran the Chrome OS initiative was put in charge of a merged Chrome OS and Android group. Android founder Andy Rubin left the team to explore other opportunities, as the old euphemism goes.
One more wrinkle: Nvidia said in 2015 it will also roll out Volta, a next generation graphics processor using stacked memory with through silicon vias. It did not say if it will use a 2.5-D technology pioneered by Xilinx that lays memory and graphics cores next to each other on a common substrate or actually stack them on top of each other, a more ambitious goal.
Click on image to enlarge.
Huang discloses the 2015 graphics chip Volta chip with stacked memory.
Analysts say AMD and others are likely to do some form of graphics and memory stack by 2015. I suspect no one knows yet whether the 2.5- or 3-D techniques will be the best fit come 2015. But both these techniques are getting a lot of attention as the next steps in silicon process technology become increasingly costly and complex due to the delays in extreme ultraviolet lithography.
So at GTC we learned just a little bit of what Nvidia plans to do over the next couple years. The result is we now see how little we know about what anyone will do in the client computing space for the next two or three years. But we can see it is going to be something of a wild ride.