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Apple boots nVidia out: Jobs tells Jen Hsun “No thanks” for 2 years

Reports coming out of hardcore news sites like Fudzilla earlier today paint a bleak picture for nVidia. Fascinating stuff. But what exactly does it mean for nVidia, what caused it and how long will it last?

First, what has Apple chosen and what is Steve Jobs saying?

Well, for a start, Apple is saying that its customers don’t really need PhysX. Apple uses Intel CPUs. Intel owns the Havok physics engine. Havok is, according to Intel’s web site, the proven leader across a range of platforms – including Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PSP and the PC.

Apple is also saying that its customers don’t need Cuda. Not surprising. Apple defined the industry standard for this field itself when it created OpenCL. Developing GPGPU solutions etc for ATI Radeon graphics is made easy because there is already a mature SDK for Stream on the web. Might we see significant Snow Leopard improvements here in the future ?

Also, Apple is saying that its customers don’t need 3D Vision. Given the multi-screen 3D environments being shown off by Sapphire at Computex 2010, we’re not surprised.

Will we be seeing 3D EyeFinity on Apple computers soon?

The major manufacturers talk in terms of design wins. When you go into McDonald’s and order a Coke – that’s a design win. Pepsi lost. Go into McDonald’s and ask for a Pepsi, they will tell you “Sorry, we only serve Coca Cola”. Powerful stuff. The right design wins prevent your opponent from selling – at all. When a product line-up changes quickly, losing is less painful. You know that, soon after, you will have a chance to get back in.

Apple has a really slow product cycle.

Intel began pushing out its latest Core i3/i5/i7 chips a long time ago. Yesterday, the Apple site was finally updated to offer a spread of the new processors. That’s a pretty slow roll over. The point? Once you’re in at Apple, it takes ages to get you out.

Right now, Apple still maintains a Macintosh page that highlights the fact that (almost) the entire range is powered by nVidia. We’ve taken a snapshot. Will be interesting to see if/when this changes.

How has this come about? Well the background could be both quick and simple. Two former ATI Chief Technical officers, Raja Koduri and Bob Drebin, left to join Apple. At the time they left AMD, everyone was asking them “So how long until nVidia gets booted out?”. They laughed off these suggestions and said that it was going to be all about “What is the best choice for Apple, without fear or favour”. On 23rd April 2009, Raja left AMD. Four days later, Bob Drebin left. Less than 18 months later, Apple appears to move to a 100% Radeon line up. Pure coincidence.

Bias? What bias?

KitGuru has spoken to industry insiders today and we feel confident in saying that nVidia is out for the next 2 years.

Team GB will be hauling gold in the Olympics before Apple looks to leave AMD and its Radeons

How much of Apple’s line up will move across? Well we know that much of Apple’s phone-based stuff has been the result of its investment in Power-VR. As Apple moves phone chips into mainstream products like the iPad, there’s little reason for that to change. In the laptop and mobile space, if it wants the latest, low-powered graphics technology then there simply isn’t an option avaiable from nVidia yet. As for higher-end graphics, it isn’t something that Apple really does. Its created a reputation for being ‘good for graphics’, without ever really specifying the fastest chips around. The image of a graphics chip at the heart of Apple’s home page has been changed to an ATI Radeon. Under the ‘picture paints a thousand words’ heading, this is probably all you need to know about Steve Jobs’ direction right now.

KitGuru readers have been pinging us with all sorts of useful data. For example, that Apple uses around 12 million graphics chips a year and that, right now, 8 million of those are nVidia. Allowing for stock in the channel, if (you decide how big) there is a 75% movement on the graphics sold over the next 12 months, then that would mean a 6 million unit drop for nVidia and the same gain for AMD. Substantial stuff.

KitGuru says: The UK market for graphic cards is around 800,000 units a year. Moving 6 million units from green to red/green would be like 7.5 countries the size of the UK choosing Radeon. Radical. Let’s see if this pans out the way it’s being reported. Right now, we’re waiting on a strong denial from nVidia HQ if this story is not correct. Whatever we hear, we’ll report directly to you dear reader.

Wanna comment quick? Do it below. Wanna rant in full? Head to the KitGuru forums over here.

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  • Phil

    Looks like you’ve been drinking too much Charlie Kool-ade again!

    All the iMacs, apart from the base-entry model, were updated with ATI GPUs last October
    – so it’s not a big change there
    – also, the GPU is on a plug-in Module (MXM), which means that Apple can swap back & forth between manufacturers at a moment notice.
    – but at the moment, nVidia just doesn’t have anything relevant at the price/performance points that suit Apple (HD5750 & below)

    Of course, all the MacBooks & the Mac Mini still use nVidia GPUs (designed into the motherboards, not on MXM module), and these were all recently updated with newer nVidia GPUs

    So, at the moment, Apple are shifting about 2 million nVidia GPUs per quarter, and 1 million ATIs

    – not quite the slam-dunk for ATI that some would like you to believe!

  • Tres Bien

    Faith is a good fun writer 🙂 I saw this earlier on fudzilla also……

  • faith

    @Phil: Interesting points. We’ve now heard the same thing from 4 different sources. if Apple launches something new with a Fermi card, then we stand to be corrected. For now, we’re sticking with the Flags of our Predictions and saying that we don’t expect any new Apple SKUs with nVidia to be launched before the Olympics.
    If we’re correct and there has been a sea change from nVidia to ATI, then you’re saying that AMD stands to gain up to 16 million GPU sales before the Olympics – correct?
    We’ve previously calculated that with the average desktop GPUs, AMD and nVidia probably pick up around £24 per chip. So losing one person at £30,000 p.a. means the company does not have to sell 1,500 GPUs.
    Your numbers look to be welcome news for anyone left at AMD who was nervous about their job 🙂

  • Phil

    Dear Faith, I think you misunderstood my comment GPU usage, so just to re-iterate
    *After* this update, *all* MacBooks & the Mac Mini *still* use nVidia GPUs
    – and *these* are selling at the rate of about 2 million units a quarter

    Since October last year, all iMacs, apart from the base-entry model have been ATI based
    (also, they have had i3/i5/i7 as well – so I don’t know why you mention Apple moving over to this line)
    Anyway, *after* this update, *all* iMacs are ATI based – so the old Core2 Duo/9400M iMac is dropped, and everything moves along one
    – so the increase in Apple’s ATI GPU usage is going to be quite small (i.e. how many base-entry iMacs was it selling)

    Also, before October 2009, Apple offered a choice of nVidia or ATI
    – to the switch to nearly all ATI at this point was a bigger event than this week’s announcement.

    But the take home numbers are:
    Until the next MacBook update (say Spring 2011)
    nVidia: ~2+ Million GPUs / Q
    ATI: 1 Million GPUs / Q

  • Phil

    Haha! That Flag of Prediction didn’t last very long, did it!
    (see new MacBook Air(s) in case you were wondering…..)
    – a case of smoking too much ‘Charlie’, I think!

  • Paul

    And now in the year 2011, not a single Mac currently being sold by Apple has an Nvidia card installed. 🙂