NVIDIA tries to pull another Apple-like coup in the netbook market

NVIDIA and Intel have a long and checkered past together. The two firms battle in the integrated graphics market, where Intel dominates. NVIDIA covets Intel's integrated graphics business at the same time Intel would like to see its future processors with GPUs built-in oust NVIDIA from computers altogether.

The rivalry between the two firms heated significantly when NVIDIA took Intel's graphics and chipset spot inside the new MacBook computers. Intel has vowed to win the Apple business back even as NVIDIA has vowed to grab 30% of the integrated graphics market with its new 9400M GPU.

Last week, NVIDIA officially unveiled its Ion platform that integrates a 9400 GPU with an Intel Atom CPU. The Ion platform brings the two competing firms together on one platform that integrates an NVIDIA GPU and an Intel Atom CPU for the netbook and small form factor market.

The ironic part about Ion is that it combines the two firm's components into one platform while Intel believes that its integrated graphics, CPU, and chipsets are all that the netbook world needs. Any netbook user will tell you that most machines can handle intensive tasks like decoding HD video. However, many will tell you that the task of rendering HD video isn’t ideal on a netbook.

NVIDIA says that this is because the graphics core of the netbook is underpowered for the needs of today's multimedia users. NVIDIA feels that the lack of graphics horsepower will become more apparent as more netbooks move to larger 10 to 12-inch screen sizes and higher resolutions.

Intel has long desired to keep the netbook out of more traditional notebook space in terms of power and performance to keep from cannibalizing its more profitable Core 2 and other processor lines. On the other hand as CNET News reports, NVIDIA feels that the screen size and other limitations that Intel wants to stick to on a netbook are artificial and are due to GPU restrictions. What NVIDIA has to do is convince netbook makers that Ion is the key to unlocking the potential of the market, without causing the cannibalization of more profitable machines.

As things are shaping up, CES 2009 will be a good indicator of how well NVIDIA is doing promoting its platform. You can bet that NVIDIA was working with OEMs during the design process and new netbook and small form factor computers are set to be introduced at CES 2009 in a few weeks.

Larger computer makers with heavy ties to Intel may be the last to jump on the new Ion platform. Intel is sure to offer the Dell's and HP's of the world significant discounts on bundles to keep Intel GPUs and CPUs in netbook systems.

Due to this, many believe that at CES the most likely firms to show off Ion-based netbooks will be the ASUS' and MSI's of the world. We know both of these firms have new netbooks up their sleeves for debut at the show. Whether or not the new systems will be using Ion will unfold in a few weeks.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
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December 18, 2008, 1:36 PM

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