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NVIDIA @ ECTS 2002 - part 1
This is the first part of our interview with NVIDIA. We intended to conduct this interview at ECTS 2002, however due to the event being so noisy we were taken to the hotel at which NVIDIA representatives were lodging. NVIDIA graciously provided the below as our transport.

The chaps in the blue shirts are our victims interviewees. In the middle is Adam Foat, who we interviewed last year when he was working for the now bankrupt ELSA. Adam is the "Technical Marketing Manager" for Northern Europe. On the right we have Andrew Humber who used to work for 3DFX. Andrew is the PR Manager for Europe.

Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers.
I am Andrew Humber, European PR manager for NVIDIA. My colleague is Adam Foat who is the Technical marketing manager for Northern Europe at NVIDIA.
Last year NVIDIA's share price rose over 300% over the course of the year, how much of that would you put down to OEM deals as opposed to retail sales?
It's around an 80/20 split. 80% being OEM and 20% coming from the retail market.
Whilst this year (so far), it seems to have decreased. What do you feel are the main reasons for this?
This figure has actually not changed that much but there are a number of reasons why this has been a tough couple of quarters for the whole industry.

In Q1, a significant inventory of last generation, low-end Pentium 4 and 3 processors and chipsets had accumulated. The channel focused on moving that low-end inventory out to make room for the next generation chipsets. This created an anomaly in the historical mix of performance-to-value PCs, with the mix shifting towards the value segment.

Also, as overall sales were down, Xbox became a larger percent of our business. The effect of this increase was compounded by the fact that Microsoft reached a volume discount milestone on the Xbox chipset, meaning that our margins, which are historically below our corporate average, went down further while our costs remained the same.

Our Geforce4 product remains the market leader and the choice of OEMs so we are still very happy with our current position and as we get through Christmas and the New Year you'll see a lot of very cool things coming up from NVIDIA.
In December 2000 you announced that NVIDIA will acquire key technologies from 3DFX, how do you feel these technologies have helped you develop future products?
One of the unique advantages of NVIDIA is that we have a fantastic mix of talent from many great companies. We have engineers who have previously worked at 3dfx, Gigapixel, Appian, Silicon Graphics etc. all who have been instrumental in the development of NVIDIA technology.

The best way of looking at this situation, rather than saying this team was responsible for this feature, is that the accumulation of all the different engineers and the subsequent accumulation of all their ideas has produced technology better that any one of these companies could have done on their own. This is one of our strengths.
For a while it looked like NVIDIA were the only graphics card company on the market, however now that ATi have upped their game, does this put extra pressure on you to produce better products?
NVIDIA always works hard to produce better products, regardless of what the competition is doing. The entire market works better with competition, it makes everyone work harder and it's great for the end user.

Having only one big player in the market is always a dangerous position to be in and it does result in less choice for the end user.
Will the extra competition mean lower prices for your products?
The Geforce4 represented the first complete top to bottom range of desktop GPU products. We redefined the mainstream with the MX brand and gave the high end sector the Titanium badged boards. By doing that we are "talking" to every segment of the market and subsequently producing products at many varying price points.

We are very aware that there are varying levels of end user who want different kinds of products. We will always strive to provide a product for each segment. We will always try and be as competitive as possible in the lower end as well as producing products that are compelling both from a feature set perspective and price.
NVIDIA outsource production to companies such as MSI, Chaintech etc. Will you ever consider going back to producing video cards in-house?
It's unlikely at this time. We have excellent partners with very strong brands and routes to market - this in turn means that there are 15 companies doing sales, marketing and PR around NVIDIA based products, this is quite a compelling strategy and one that works extremely well for us.
Does NVIDIA intend to continue with their 6 month product cycle?
The intention of the six month product cycle is that we are in line with the PC cycle, namely the Spring and Back-to-School periods. With such a product cycle it means that PC manufacturers have a new card to integrate when they are creating their new line of products. If they are going to upgrade the CPU, memory and other components, we feel they should be able to upgrade the GPU as well.

It has been a very successful cycle for NVIDIA but it's bold to think that this cycle will never move. For example our next generation product is going to a whole new micron process, 0.13, and it's a very complex part. When you move to a new process, there is always more work to do, new issues to face etc. and as NVIDIA will be the first to market a 0.13 product, we are ensuring that it's 110% before we start talking in more details about it.

Another important factor is with a six month product cycle you can bring an enthusiast's product down to the mainstream every 18 months. For example, the kind of features and performance available for the high-end now will filter down to the mainstream market within 3 6 month cycles, which is great for people that don't want to spend $400 on a graphics board now as they have the opportunity to own a board a little further down the line with the same feature set.
The people that spent in excess of 300 (around $400) on a video card a few months ago won't be very happy, however do you intend to give them some sort of rebate with future products?
People who are spending $300-$400 on a graphics board are enthusiasts. At that price point you are not targeting the mainstream market. If you are an enthusiast or a high end user then you are upgrade hungry and you want the best - I would hope these guys won't be too disappointed because they are getting such good products so regularly.

Mainstream users generally upgrade at a much slower rate and generally buy products that are sub $200 like the GeForce4 Ti4200 or the GeForce4 MX range of products. They also will usually keep these cards for a longer period of time and are less affected by the refresh rate of graphics products.

As we only make the chips and our partners bring the graphics cards to market, they would need to comment on the rebate question I'm afraid, although I personally do think it's a good idea.
Is there much interest from OEMs for a card that is only intended for high end gaming/professional use?
It would very much depend on the OEM and the markets they talk to. Companies like Compaq, Dell and IBM have workstation divisions alongside their desktop one, so they are very interested in our Quadro4 XGL which is designed for the CAD/high-end design market. A lot of the smaller system builders in Europe build smaller quantities of fully featured, highly specced, ultimate gaming machines - for these guys, enthusiast cards like the GeForce4 Ti4600 are a must-have.

So there is a lot of interest in our high end products, but there is greater interest and a larger marketplace for that $200 sweet spot.
Recently you announced backing for AMD's Opteron platform. Was this influenced by the success of building the nForce motherboard chipset for the current AMD platform?
The original nForce motherboard was the first chipset we made. We chose AMD because any good business goes after the market in which you can make the biggest footprint in the shortest timeframe. The AMD market is perfect for NVIDIA, an ideal split between add-in card graphics and on-board graphics. We have a very good working relationship with them and have always worked closely with them.

We want to continue the success we have been enjoying in this market and we will build upon the success of nForce with nForce2 - it's going to be an exciting product. By combining AMD's forthcoming processors with NVDIA's graphics, audio, networking and streaming technologies, NVIDIA can deliver the fastest, most feature-rich, multimedia and networking experiences for both the consumer and commercial desktop PC markets.
nForce has had some success in the motherboard chipset market. However in the Socket A sector, it seems to be dominated by VIA. However, VIA has made very little headway in the Pentium 4 chipset market, are you considering to produce a chipset for this market?
If we were to pursue an Intel license then yes, of course we would consider this but at present we will stick with AMD and place our focus here.
In the second part of this interview we will be discussing the NV30 (the next generation card from NVIDIA), mobile markets, more on the nForce 2, future products, Cg, drivers and third party manufacturers. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment of NVIDIA @ ECTS 2002.