Our hands-on preview of the Lucid Hydra GPU load-balancing chip included some reporting about the status of the first Hydra-based product, MSI’s Big Bang Fuzion motherboard, and the rumors that have swirled around that delay, some centering on a possible role Nvidia might have played in the whole drama. As we noted in that report, when we first asked Nvidia about this issue, we received a carefully worded reply from spokesman Ken Brown, who said he "wasn’t aware" of Nvidia having played any role in the delay. He also confirmed that Nvidia would not block its partners from designing motherboards based on the Hydra chip.
As we said then, we found MSI’s claims that the product was delayed simply due to the need for futher refinements to the Hydra’s drivers, particularly for Windows 7 and for mixed-vendor configurations, to be credible.
However, some mystery has remained about whether Nvidia might have quietly encouraged MSI not to release the Fuzion board immediately—or not until the mixed-GPU-vendor feature was fully supported. We’ve also heard whispers around the web that Nvidia might choose to sabotage the Hydra technically by modifying its ForceWare graphics driver to be incompatible with the chip. Such poor citizenship in the PC gaming ecosystem would be troubling, but it wouldn’t be entirely inconsistent with some of Nvidia’s stances on issues related to SLI licensing, PhysX interoperability, and a few other issues of late. (Not that Nvidia doesn’t have reason to throw a few elbows, with Intel and AMD essentially having pushed it out of the chipset business.) The fact that the Hydra’s potential success could threaten Nvidia’s SLI licensing regime, through which it earns royalties from motherboard makers, also gave some credence to the rumors.
Fortunately, Nvidia has decided to clear the air on these issues with an unequivocal public statement. Brown contacted us earlier today and informed us that Nvidia "had nothing to do with MSI’s decision to postpone its Big Bang Fuzion motherboard." Furthermore, he affirmed that Nvidia would not place any technical roadblocks in Lucid’s path, stating: "As I mentioned, we welcome Lucid to the market and have no intention of blocking them with our drivers, etc."
To underscore that first point, Brown relayed a statement from MSI product manager Jason Lee, who denies any Nvidia involvement in the Fuzion’s delay. Here’s the statement in full:
We have seen a lot of speculation about our upcoming Big Bang motherboards, and we wanted to take this opportunity to clear up some misconceptions.
First, the MSI Big Bang is a line of products targeted at enthusiast gamers. Big Bang is not a single motherboard or product. The first motherboard in our Big Bang line is the MSI P55 Big Bang Trinergy which uses the nForce 200 SLI chip to deliver 3-way SLI on P55. With Trinergy, gamers can combine the latest Intel CPUs with the power of 3-way SLI. The product, which was originally debuted at Cebit 2009, is on track for a release in Q4 2009, as planned.
The second product in our Big Bang line will be the MSI Fuzion motherboard featuring Lucid Hydra technology. Although we had planned to release this product by now, we decided to postpone it until early next year to make sure it delivers the best possible experience for our customers. We are continuing to work closely with Lucid to bring this exciting product to market.
We want to be clear that the reason for the delay has to do with software, and not external pressure from others. NVIDIA did not delay or impede the production of Fuzion in any way.
We’re very excited to bring these products to market, and will share further details for the Big Bang line in the weeks to come. Stay tuned!
That, it would seem, settles that. Perhaps. We certainly will stayed tuned, especially now that another potential roadblock for Lucid has fallen.