After a longish hiatus from blogging. I’m back!

It seems either too difficult or way too easy to analyse the current situation of business dynamics of computer semiconductor manufacturers, namely: Intel, AMD and nVidia.

vs. vs.

Let’s see how it all started…

AMD, second highest desktop CPU market share holder and performance leader till first half of 2006, bought ATI, the highest GPU market share holder but not the performance leader, in late 2006. It forced AMD to directly compete both Intel and nVidia, chipzilla and grahpzilla in lingo. It yielded only shame for AMD till the end of year 2007. During this time, AMD lost both its CPU performance leader crown and highest CPU market share crown. AMD reportedly bought ATI for some $5 billion. By the end of year 2007, the net worth of AMD, previous AMD and ATI combined, was $3.83 billion including its cash in the bank. But AMD is AMD. It bounces back after all hope has faded. It’s managers also boyishly rejoice unlimitedly the little pleasures they may have, once in 5 years, for beating Intel in performance numbers.

Intel, the CPU performance and market leader, bought Havok, the software physics game engine market leader. This gave Intel a killer app solution for its multi-core CPU fanaticism. Intel immediately killed the Havok’s plan to release an SDK, HavokFX, which was supposed to run on conventional GPUs for bringing improved and detailed physics effects in games through its physics engine. A sad point in time for all the gamers out there who were drooling for making better use of their graphics card other than just, well, graphics rendering.

Most interesting of these acquisitions was that of nVidia buying Ageia, world’s only hardware physics manufacturer and the second highest software physics game engine market holder. This brought it into some competition with Intel due to the Havok deal. The real tragedy, in fact the tragedy of tragedies happened when nVidia spokesperson announced that they will not produce hardware physics processors, more generally dubbed as PPUs. [Since this is reported by and considering fudo’s rumor mill I would want to think that nVidia is still strategizing about Ageia and nothing about discontinuation of PPU has been announced.]
However, in contrast to analysis, I believe that nVidia, being a semiconductor hardware manufacturer, needs to diversify its hardware products portfolio by introducing whatever they have in their arsenal. They can prove to be a monopoly in PPU market if they put their marketing muscle and game developer relationships into Ageia offering. They have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

Now a new broth is about to be cooked regarding nVidia’s acquisition and/or possible merger of VIA.
VIA is the only third x86-64 CPU manufacturer and their CPU designs come from their US division Centaur, previously producing Cyrix CPU. Since buying VIA will not transfer x86 license from VIA to nVidia according to VIA’s deal with Intel therefore nVidia and VIA might have to become partners in crime. This brings nVidia in league with Intel and AMD as premium semiconductor manufacturer.

Apart from acquisition, Intel has announced multiple times that it is working on a project code-named Larrabee. This might turn out to be a CPU+dedicated GPU and/or CPU+GPU multi-core design. Only time will tell what it turns out to be.

We all know that Intel, nVidia and AMD (ex-ATI) already manufacture motherboard chipsets. Considering the above strategies, it seems that all the three BIGG chippery firms are going to compete fiercely in CPU, GPU, chipsets and PPU domain. Only AMD will miss out the opportunity of PPU or software physics engine offering. However, nVidia seems to be open in bringing its Ageia software SDK to work on both nVidia and AMD GPU platforms thus bringing acceleration of physics on AMD’s hardware.

2010 will be an exciting year when the three semiconductor giants will have their full arsenal armed and ready. By 2012, I expect that one of these three giants will lose the battle and will be bought by the other. This is a pure speculation based on the fact that “nature has never allowed triopolies to settle peacefully”.



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