Nvidia made quite a splash with its GeForce 9400M chipset last October. Several laptop makers—including Apple—found the 9400M’s speedy integrated graphics, single-chip design, and compatibility with Core 2 processors too tempting to resist, choosing it over Intel’s own mobile chipsets.
The 9400M and its ilk may soon be but a distant memory, though. Both PC Magazine and PC Perspective report that Nvidia has essentially put chipset development on hold, and we won’t be seeing GeForce or nForce chipsets made to work with Nehalem-based Intel processors anytime soon, if ever. Nvidia spokesman Robert Sherbin explained why to PC Magazine:
“We have said that we will continue to innovate integrated solutions for Intel’s FSB architecture,” Sherbin said in an email. “We firmly believe that this market has a long healthy life ahead. But because of Intel’s improper claims to customers and the market that we aren’t licensed to the new DMI bus and its unfair business tactics, it is effectively impossible for us to market chipsets for future CPUs. So, until we resolve this matter in court next year, we’ll postpone further chipset investments.”
The chipset licensing brawl between Nvidia and Intel erupted in February, although back then, Nvidia said it was “aggressively developing” chipsets for Intel’s DMI interface. DMI is what Nehalem-derived processors on LGA1156 and mobile sockets use to talk to their chipsets, as opposed to the QuickPath interconnect of LGA1366 Core i7 CPUs.
This situation doesn’t bode well for Ion, the GeForce 9400M’s netbook (and nettop) iteration. Future Atom processors will have on-die graphics, so PC Perspective says Nvidia simply plans to offer a discrete, Ion-branded GPU without chipset elements. System makers will be able to combine that product with Intel’s Pine Trail platform, which includes Atom SoC and I/O hub chips.
On the AMD front, Nvidia told PC Perspective it’s still seeing “a high volume of MCP 61-based sales” at the low end, although demand for enthusiast, AMD-bound nForce chipsets has withered. AMD doesn’t plan to switch platforms until 2011, so Nvidia chipsets may survive in that niche for a little while longer.