Nvidia Corp. has been very quiet about its next-gen graphics processing units (GPUs) based on Kepler architecture and publicly said that the chips will only be available in 2012. At the recent conference call with financial analysts, Nvidia's chief exec broke the silence and hinted that thanks to Kepler-generation GPUs the company had managed to win massive amount of notebook designs and that the chips would hit mass production shortly.
When asked about continuously increasing operating expenditures (OpEx) - $359.6 million OpEx in Q3 FY2012 is expected to increase to $372 million in Q4 FY2012 - chief executive officer of Nvidia said that the company needs to spend additional amount of money on 28nm production ramp up and customer engineering. Apparently, Nvidia has managed to win an unprecedented amount of contracts with its next-generation GPUs based on Kepler architecture and made using 28nm process technology. Since all notebooks are different, Nvidia engineers help laptop makers to integrate the GPUs into their systems and balance specifications in order to enable flawless operation.
"The vast majority of the increase is coming from the very significant increase in design wins that we have in several areas. We have more notebook design wins for the Ivy Bridge cycle than we ever had in notebooks; this is likely the most successful notebook cycle we have ever experienced. And so we have got a lot of engineers dedicated to getting those notebooks into production," said Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive officer of Nvidia.
Besides, the company is in the beginning of the 28nm ramp up curve, which means that it needs to invest into new designs tape outs. What is important is that there are GeForce "Kepler" GPUs that will go into production shortly and will thus be available early next year.
"There is a portion [of operating expenditures] that is related to 28nm tape-out of new processors that will go into production shortly," said Mr. Huang.
Kepler is Nvidia's next-generation graphics processor architecture that is projected to bring considerable performance improvements and will likely make the GPU more flexible in terms of programmability, which will speed up development of applications that take advantage of GPGPU (general purpose processing on GPU) technologies. Some of the technologies that Nvidia promised to introduce in Kepler and Maxwell (the architecture that will succeed Kepler) include virtual memory space (which will allow CPUs and GPUs to use the "unified" virtual memory), pre-emption, enhance the ability of GPU to autonomously process the data without the help of CPU and so on. Entry-level chips may not get all the features that Kepler architecture will have to often.
"The reason for our [design win] success, I believe, is because our Kepler generation of GPUs was designed for intense energy efficiency. With energy efficiency, we were able to translate that to simultaneously higher performance, as well as longer battery life," explained Mr. Huang.