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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.

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