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Research and investment firm Goldman Sachs said in its recent report it did not expect NVIDIA Corp. to release a new graphics architecture earlier than in late 2005 and any significant market share changes between ATI Technologies and NVIDIA Corp.. The company said it expected NVIDIA’s handset products revenue to grow significantly.

No New Architecture Shortly from NVIDIA

“In terms of the core discreet desktop graphics (58% of revenue) franchise, NVIDIA will not release a new architecture until the end of 2005. This could allow ATI Technologies a window of superior performance if its gets its R520 products out on time (mid-2005). Overall, we expect little movement in desktop discreet market share in 2005 between NVIDIA and ATI Technologies,” Goldman Sachs’ report claims.

While NVIDIA remains extremely tight-lipped over its future products, it is known that the company is readying its code-named NV47 visual processing unit, a massively revamped GeForce 6 architecture with 24 pixel pipelines. The NV47 is expected to be released sometime in Spring, 2005, but it is unknown whether NVIDIA is ahead, or behind ATI’s R520 product. With 24 pixel pipelines NVIDIA Corp. is likely to feel itself competitive with ATI’s R520.

The status of NVIDIA’s future architecture code-named NV50 is also uncertain: some reported recently that the chip had been cancelled, but officials decline to confirm or deny the information.

NVIDIA Optimistic About Growth, Cell Phones Hold Most Potential – Goldman Sachs

“The company is optimistic about growth in 2005, cell phones hold most visible potential,” Goldman Sachs said in its note.

“Our discussion with NVIDIA focused on their organic growth opportunities in 2005, particularly related to the cell phone. NVIDIA is expecting growth in all its businesses in 2005, with the most growth coming out of its wireless handset processors. NVIDIA expects handset revenue to be $25 million or more for the January quarter (we are modeling $27.5 million), and for this figure to grow again in April,” the report states.

“NVIDIA’s key win is with Motorola 3G handsets, which our checks have indicated had a very solid Q4 2004 in terms of units. Overall, for NVIDIA, we believe there is very good visibility on the $83 million of revenue growth we are modeling for wireless processors in calendar 2005, delivering 4% to NVIDIA’s revenue growth, with some potential for upside,” Goldman Sachs wrote.

ATI R520 Taped Out, Yields are Key Risk

“ATI has completed test wafers on 90nm at TSMC and has hit its milestones to date for its next generation R520 product due out in Spring 2005,” research firm Credit Suisse First Boston claimed in a report releases in early December, 2004.

In early November a high-ranking source close to ATI Technologies confirmed that the chip known as the R520 had been taped out, which means that the completed design of the processor had been sent to an ATI’s foundry partner.

“Key risk ahead is achieving strong yields on 90nm, a point too early to call but potentially less risky since low-k and copper issues were resolved at 130nm. ATI noted that the next two years will see major architectural jumps (likely Pixel Shader 3.0 in 05 and DX10 for Longhorn in 06), raising the bar but requiring execution as well,” CFSB’s analysts Randy Abrams and Michael Masdea believe.

ATI’s current generation high-end visual processing units, such as RADEON X850 XT Platinum Edition, are made using 130nm low-k process technology. While it remains to be seen, whether this chip that contains more than 160 million of transistors is able to achieve strong yields with 540MHz – 550MHz clock-range, it may be assumed that 90nm design even with larger amount of transistors will offer clock-speeds in-line or higher than current high-end chips.

Neither NVIDIA Corp., nor ATI Technologies commented on the news-story.


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