With both AMD and Intel playing up CPU-GPU integration and Intel prepping its own discrete graphics processor, Nvidia is in a precarious position—it has graphics processors but no x86 microprocessors to go with them. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang didn’t sound too worried back in April 2008, saying GPUs were the future yet Nvidia hardware “simply isn’t for everyone.” He added, “I would build CPUs if I could change the world [in doing so].”
Nvidia Senior VP of Investor Relations Michael Hara spoke in a somewhat different tone at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference in San Francisco this week. According to Bit-Tech, the executive was asked whether Nvidia would ever launch a microprocessor. He replied, “The question is not so much I think if; I think the question is when.” Bit-tech jotted down the rest of his response:
“I think some time down the road it makes sense to take the same level of integration that we’ve done with Tegra,” said Hara. “Tegra is by any definition a complete computer on a chip, and the requirements of that market are such that you have to be very low power, very small, but highly efficient. So in that particular state it made a lot of sense to take that approach, and someday it’s going to make sense to take the same approach in the x86 market as well.”
Hara made it clear that Nvidia is aiming for a “highly integrated system-on-chip” rather than a high-end x86 processor that can compete with Intel’s latest and greatest. (Tegra already fills the system-on-a-chip description, but it includes an ARM processor that can’t run x86 software.) Hara expects such product may come out in two or three years.