by Anton Shilov
03/29/2007 | 08:25 AM
Nvidia Corp., a leading designer of graphics processors and chipsets, has formally announced its new core-logic for Intel processors that should make advanced features and capabilities available to broader audience. In conjunction with the release Nvidia started to promote its new program called “Designed by Nvidia”, which encourages motherboard makers to resell Nvidia reference design mainboards rather than to create their own.
In the past all add-in cards, mainboards and other kinds of devices were designed by their makers themselves, which allowed manufacturers either to squeeze all the juices out of chips that were developed by respective designers, or to make a very affordable product.
But then computer hardware became very complex to make and manufacturers of graphics cards had to start following reference designs of ATI and Nvidia. However, several years after, both leading designers of graphics chips found that add-in boards based on the high-end of their lineups were too complex to allow everyone to make them and decided to make them using capacities of a contract manufacture and then sell those cards to graphics cards suppliers, such as Asustek or Gigabyte.
Now, Nvidia believes that even mainboards based on its chipsets are so tricky to manufacture that it would be better to its partners to sell motherboards already made according to Nvidia’s reference design and under Nvidia’s supervision. But will it really help end-users to get proper products? Well, looks like the real beneficiary of advantages will be Nvidia’s chipset business division.
Nvidia actually launched the “Designed by Nvidia” program back in November ’06, along with the release of the nForce 680i SLI motherboards by a bunch of companies who only put their sticker on the mainboards that were made by a contract manufacturer under the supervision of Nvidia. The move allowed several companies to be on the market with a flagship product much earlier than the renowned leaders of the market, namely Asustek Computer, Gigabyte Technology and MistoStar International.
Nvidia says that “Designed by Nvidia” mainboards are manufactured under the direction of Nvidia to ensure high-quality components and are tested to offer stable and reliable operation under extreme conditions. The company also claims that it is responsible for responsible for the design, development, and dissemination of all software and BIOS updates for motherboards that are sold by suppliers like BFG or EVGA.
Even though Nvidia claims about superior end-user support with the “Designed by Nvidia” program, in reality it means that end-users have to turn to technology support of companies like EVGA and the latter would work with Nvidia on the solution for issues. This was the case with the well-known Serial ATA issues with the nForce 680i SLI motherboards, besides Nvidia had to disable LinkBoost technology for the core-logic (implying that the particular combination of hardware, software and firmware contained problems) and causing manufacturers like Asustek to disable it too. Moreover, end-users who bought motherboards from Asus, still need to download nForce drivers (which are provided “as is” and without any warranties) from Nvidia’s web-site.
To sum up, end-users hardly really benefited from “Designed by Nvidia” program when issues with the Nvidia nForce 680i SLI core-logic emerged: it still took Nvidia more than a month to fix the issue and the problem seems to have been finally resolved when a feature of a core-logic was disabled.
Nvidia Corp. has been concentrating on high-end core-logic sets for years, enjoying great profitability and getting accolades from both reviewers and end-users. However, with the merge between Advanced Micro Devices and ATI Technologies, the company has to refocus on the market of Intel processors-supporting chipsets, where the margins are lower and where Intel holds the lion’s share of the market.
Nvidia promises that “a broad product family of ‘Designed by NVIDIA’ motherboards will be available by the end of April starting as low as $99”, which indicates that the firm plans to unveil products for all market segments. While on the market of AMD-compatible mainboards Nvidia already has a name, on the market of Intel-compatible platforms there is only one strong brand – “Intel” – but it is really hard to compete against it in the mainstream segment. For example, when it comes to competition between Asustek’s Intel P965-based mainboard and Asustek’s Nvidia nForce 650i Ultra-based motherboard the former would be certainly more preferable to the mainstream market.
Given the current situation on the market, Nvidia needs to find new channels to sell its hardware. One of the best way to do that would be to get new motherboard suppliers to the market and avoid direct comparison against Intel-based offerings. Nvidia decided that companies like BFG, EVGA, XFX and some others are already known by the community of gamers and it makes sense to use their channels (and consequently shelf space in retail stores) to get its Intel-oriented mainstream chipsets onto the market. Since those companies have no experience in designing mainboards and would hardly like to spend a lot of money on supporting motherboard products, Nvidia rolls-out its “Designed by Nvidia” program, which makes it very easy to sell mainboards by novices.
Even though Nvidia and members of “Designed by Nvidia” program will not avoid competition with first-tier manufacturers and Intel’s chipsets, Nvidia will deliver a full product family onto the market, which would give end-users a lot of choice and will help the core-logic designer to better understand the requirements of the market, its strengths and weaknesses.