SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Nvidia Corp. here today formally enter the PC chip set business by rolling out an integrate product that is designed for PCs based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Athlon microprocessor line.
Nvidia's new product line, called nForce, has been anticipated for some time. Last fall, the Santa Clara-based company announced plans to develop an integrated product that combines its graphics chip line with PC-based core logic on the same device (see Sept. 18 story ).
As expected, Nvidia's nForce is geared for mainstream PCs based on AMD's Athlon processors. Nvidia is not going after systems built around Intel Corp.'s MPUs--yet. This is because Nvidia has not been granted a license by Intel to develop a chip set for Intel's Pentium 4 processors, analysts said.
"Our focus is strictly on the Athlon," said Michael Lim, product manager for Nvidia. "With nForce, we will open up new market opportunities for AMD's Athlon," Lim said in an interview with SBN.
Until now, the company has mainly focused on the graphics chip market for PCs, notebooks, and workstations. It is also developing a graphics chip for Microsoft Inc.'s X-Box game console.
It will continue to offer discrete graphics chips. But by announcing the nForce product today, Nvidia will now compete in the so-called integrated PC chip set market against Intel as well as the "Big Three" core-logic makers in Taiwan--Acer Laboratories Inc., Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. (SIS), and Via Technologies Inc.
Nvidia believes it will have a competitive advantage in the market. "We can leverage our expertise in graphics to enter this market," Lim said. "If I was Via, I would be running scared," he added.
Nvidia claims that Via is its main competitor in the market, especially for sockets in the Athlon-based chip set business. For months, Taipei-based Via has experienced explosive growth, thanks in part to sales of its chip set lines for use in Athlon-based PCs.
Some believe that Nvidia will face an uphill battle in the market. For years, Intel and others have offered integrate chip sets, but the market for these types of products remains a niche, analysts said.
Integrated chip sets promise to reduce PC costs, but they provide little or no flexibility for systems manufacturers and end users alike. If a system incorporates an integrated chip set, end users are unable to upgrade their systems with the latest graphics cards in the market.
Still, Nvidia's new product is impressive, according to analysts. The chip set--said to be 20-to-25% faster than competing products--consists of two components: the integrated graphics processor (IGP) and the media and communications processor (MCP).
The IGP is the so-called North Bridge portion of the chip set. This part comes in two versions, including 64- and 128-megabit configurations. Each version supports 266-MHz double-data-rate SDRAM.
The IGP also integrates a chip core based on the company's GeForce2 graphics IC line. It also consists of a dynamic adaptive pre-processor and a high-speed I/O bus called HyperTransport. Nvidia licensed HyperTransport from AMD, it was noted.
The MCP portion of the product line consists of an audio processor and another HyperTransport I/O link. It also includes support for several communications protocols, such as V.90, Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Universal Series Bus (USB), and home networking based on the HPNA standard.
The nForce product is sampling, but prices were not given. Several Taiwanese board makers, including Asustek, Abit, Giga-Byte, Micro Star, and Mitac, will offer products based on nForce.