by Anton Shilov
09/16/2009 | 02:03 PM
UPDATE: Changing paragraph regarding Nvidia CUDA-based software that only works on GeForce hardware.
Nvidia Corp. said during a conference for financial analysts that the emergence of next-generation DirectX 11 application programming interface will not drive sales of graphics cards. The firm believes that general purpose computing on graphics processing units (GPGPU) as well as its proprietary tools and emergence of software taking advantage of these technologies will be a better driver for sales of graphics boards than new demanding video games and high-end cards.
“DirectX 11 by itself is not going be the defining reason to buy a new GPU. It will be one of the reasons. This is why Microsoft is in work with the industry to allow more freedom and more creativity in how you build content, which is always good, and the new features in DirectX 11 are going to allow people to do that. But that no longer is the only reason, we believe, consumers would want to invest in a GPU,” said Mike Hara, vice president of investor relations at Nvidia, at Deutsche Bank Securities Technology Conference on Wednesday.
Nvidia believes that special-purpose software that relies on GPGPU technologies will drive people to upgrade their graphics processing units (GPUs), not advanced visual effects in future video games or increased raw performance of DirectX 11-compliant graphics processors.
“Now, we know, people are doing a lot in the area of video, people are going to do more and more in the area of photography… I think that the things we are doing would allow the GPU to be a co-processor to the CPU and deliver better user experience, better battery life and make that computers little bit more optimized,” added Mr. Hara.
There are several problems for Nvidia, though. While ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, is about to launch its Radeon HD 5800-series graphics cards that fully support DirectX 11 in the upcoming weeks, Nvidia yet has not disclosed any plans regarding its DX11 GPUs, which means that in the eyes of computer enthusiasts the company is not a technology leader any more.
At present there is a lot of software that takes advantage of Nvidia’s proprietary CUDA software development and runtime environments, which provides numerous benefits to owners of Nvidia GeForce hardware now. However, such software at present is incompatible with open-standard DirectCompute 11 (DirectX 11 compute shaders) and OpenCL environments, which are supported by ATI Radeon HD 4000 and 5000 families of graphics processors in addition to Nvidia’s latest chips. Even though Nvidia has advantage in terms of higher amount of installed GeForce GPUs and at least some makers of software will decide to develop software using CUDA set of tools and aimed only at GeForce GPUs, the majority will settle with industry-standard DirectCompute and OpenCL, which puts all the interested parties – ATI/AMD, Intel, Nvidia, etc. – into the same boat, where there will be no advantage of exclusive software. It is not completely clear why Nvidia’s vice president of investor relations claims that DirectX 11, which enables next-generation GPGPU software through DirectCompute, will not catalyze end-users to upgrade their graphics cards.
Next-generation graphics processors will naturally not only outperform Nvidia’s and ATI current GeForce GTX 200- and Radeon HD 4000-series lines, but also offer support for future games, something, which is more than likely to catalyze many gamers – who usually buy high-end graphics cards for $300 or more – to upgrade their graphics sub-systems. The new graphics cards will allow to increase resolutions of video gaming and increase the amount of enabled visual effects.
Nvidia believes that in future computing performance will matter much more than graphics performance, which seems to make sense as forthcoming video games will demand a lot of purely computing power to process not only visuals, but also physics and artificial experience. Nevertheless, Nvidia seems to put a lot of hopes onto its proprietary technologies, such as CUDA, Stereo 3D Vision, PhysX and others. This is understandable as the aforementioned technologies allow Nvidia to differentiate itself. However, as all proprietary standards (3dfx Glide is one example), they may not continue to be on the leading edge in the longer term.
“Graphics industry, I think, is on the point that microprocessor industry was several years ago, when AMD made the public confession that frequency does not matter anymore and it is more about performance per watt. I think we are the same crossroad with the graphics world: framerate and resolution are nice, but today they are very high and going from 120fps to 125fps is not going to fundamentally change end-user experience. But I think the things that we are doing with Stereo 3D Vision, PhysX, about making the games more immersive, more playable is beyond framerates and resolutions. Nvidia will show with the next-generation GPUs that the compute side is now becoming more important that the graphics side,” concluded Mr. Hara.