Graphics-chip maker NVIDIA recently announced that it would be licensing out its Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) technology to anyone willing to pay for it, and the company’s new strategy will kick off with the licensing of GPU cores based on the company’s latest architecture, code-named Kepler. This move comes in response to the meteoric rise of smartphones and tablets which has caused a significant decline in desktop PC sales and thus demand for NVIDIA’s desktop graphics cards.
As a result of the new strategy, future smartphones, tablets and even potentially desktop graphics cards will be built by other companies using technologies licensed from NVIDIA. Licensees get the benefit of the billions of dollars NVIDIA has spent on graphics tech R&D over the years, along with all the support and direction necessary to make the most of the technology.
This “new” strategy isn’t actually all that new: the company licensed out its GPU technology to Sony for use in the PlayStation 3 back in the early 2000s, and receives an annual license fee from Intel from that company’s use of several of NVIDIA’s “visual computing” patents; NVIDIA is merely expanding on the strategy to adapt to changing market conditions.
For anyone keeping abreast of developments in the world of graphics, this is actually pretty good news. NVIDIA has a well-deserved reputation for creating incredibly fast and highly efficient graphics chips, and once their technology makes its way into designs from other companies, there is tremendous potential to see smartphones and tablets with the ability to display high-definition, richly-detailed graphics with faster frame rates than today’s products can manage.
While this creates many new opportunities for NVIDIA as a company, it also potentially undermines the market for their Tegra line of mobile processors. Presumably, this factor has been taken into consideration, and NVIDIA stands to make more money in the long term by licensing their tech than they would with Tegra on its own. We’ve reached out to NVIDIA’s representatives for comment on Tegra’s future, and will update the story when that comes in.
It’s hard to see how this change could possibly be a bad thing. While the quality of mobile graphics has come a long way, we wouldn’t be disappointed to see it take a quantum leap in the detail, realism and smoothness departments, which is exactly what this move by NVIDIA has the potential to deliver in the coming months and years.