Nvidia To Go The Way Of ARM And Imagination, License Chip Designs To Others

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The GPU manufacturer wants to expand its reach even further

Nvidia, the world’s leading manufacturer of GPUs, has revealed plans to license its intellectual property to other companies in order to reach more markets.

It follows in the footsteps of UK’s ARM and Imagination Technologies, which have built a global business on chip design licensing deals.

“This is a way for us to engage customers who don’t like to buy chips because they like to create their own, because they have the capacity, creativity and now the scale to build their own,” co-founder and CEO of Nvidia Jen-Hsun Huang told Reuters at the news agency’s Global Technology Summit in San Francisco.

Mo’ mobile

In the last few years, Nvidia has distanced itself from the traditional PC market, making a serious effort on mobile platforms and in the High Performance Computing (HPC) field. It is also due to launch an Android-powered handheld gaming console, dubbed Nvidia Shield.

NVIDIA-Kepler-GPUHowever, its mobile strategy is hampered by competitors in Asia, such as Qualcomm, and companies choosing to manufacture their own chips.

“It’s not practical to build silicon or systems to address every part of the expanding market. Adopting a new business approach will allow us to address the universe of devices,” wrote executive VP David Shannon on Nvidia blog.

IP on offer will include Nvidia’s upcoming Tegra chips with in-built 4G/LTE capability, and the Kepler architecture, which powers the company’s latest generation of desktop GPUs as well as its Tesla supercomputer accelerators.

Meanwhile, Nvidia has managed to optimise Kepler to consume just half a watt of power, and the architecture is due to appear on mobile devices in the foreseeable future.

Licencees will receive all necessary designs, collateral and support to integrate Nvidia’s graphics cores into their devices.

The company is eyeing Apple, Samsung and other smartphone and tablet manufacturers as potential customers. This means it will compete with Imagination Technologies, a world leader in GPU IP which already supplies Apple, Samsung, ZTE, Huawei, Blackberry, ASUS and Lenovo.

“This opportunity simply didn’t exist several years ago because there was really just one computing device – the PC. But the swirling universe of new computing devices provides new opportunities to license our GPU core or visual computing portfolio,” wrote Shannon.

Earlier this week, Nvidia announced that its CUDA parallel programming and computing model has been adapted to run on ARM processors.

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