Take a look at this News.com article that speculates about the identity of a "mystery chip" that NVIDIA is designing for Microsoft's Xbox. No, not the graphics chip; we already know they're doing that. In the words of Hans Grueber, "This is . . . something else."
The articles makes a strong case for the new chip being a "custom 3D audio processor" that Microsoft has previously stated will be part of the console. NVIDIA's CEO apparently made the comment recently that there are three chips for the Xbox; the processor (which we already know is a PIII), the graphics chip (which we already know is NVIDIA's baby) and this third mystery chip (which I'll call "Chip X." Get it? Damn, I'm funny.).
One obvious question is: Does NVIDIA have what it takes to make a competitive audio chip? An analyst quoted in the article says "It's supposed to require a whole lot of math. Nvidia certainly has a whole lot of know-how to do that." True, but I think there's possibly a little more to it than that.
Upon reading this article I was immediately reminded of a July 6 news post over at Vortex of Sound. According to an Aureal ex-employee:
Having been at Aureal for a long time, I can tell you many companies approached Aureal and its investors to buy out the technology in pieces or as a whole. Unfortunately, none moved fast enough or had good intentions. Nvidia, proceeded to hire 9 key people from Aureal after they indicated they did not want to get into Audio and after Aureal disclosed all personel [sic] and organizations under NDAs. Pretty cut throat and ruthless.
Talk about syngergy; take each of these separately and they fall squarely into the "maybe, maybe not" category. Look at both of them side by side and each does a great deal to bolster the authenticity of the other. If all this is true, it means two things. One, chances are very good that the Xbox's sound chip is going to kick some major butt, and two, Kyle at the HardOCP is gonna have a fit about the latest chapter in NVIDIA's business practices.
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