Nvidia could call itself the Intel of graphics, but maybe that doesn't tell the whole story. In the meantime, the company is on the leading edge of the graphics technology curve, and is gung-ho on the workstation market.
Nvidia is the hottest company in graphics. Just check out the company's recent third quarter results. They're making money, and growing revenues at a very impressive rate. As for Vegas, the buzz surrounding Nvidia at Comdex was on the company's workstation version of GeForce, the Quadro. Elsa of Germany has the Quadro in its Gloria II product, and is gunning to get back into the professional space after being left out for much of the last two years as a result of its main supplier, 3Dlabs, going vertical. Before I go any further, I'd like to define the market at the high end, as I see it.
First of all, I don't really like the term workstation. It's anachronistic, and doesn't really reflect the state of the PC market. I don't mind calling the proprietary systems of a Sun, or SGI, workstations, but in the PC space I don't think you can be so cavalier in making a distinction. The way most PC OEMs seem to make the distinction is whether a system ships with one or two CPU sockets. Any dual CPU ready system is a workstation. Of course, the number of actual desktops that have more than one CPU (I'm not talking about servers at all) is very small. Fine. However, there are also a number of high-end PC systems, a lot of which do not have dual CPU motherboards, but are being used for professional graphics applications, such as 3D Studio MAX, or AutoCAD. That's why I prefer to think of the high-end of the graphics market as being a professional graphics market.
Once we get to this level it is safe to say that the vast majority of users, over ninety percent, are happy to use a mainstream graphics board. A small fraction, perhaps no more than three hundred thousand users, would be willing to fork a couple of thousand dollars for a product from Intense3D, 3Dlabs, Diamond, or HP. In the past, Matrox has succeeded in capturing the larger audience of professional graphics users, while 3Dlabs dominated the high-end, although Intergraph (now using the Intense3D brand for its graphics products) had the performance leadership with a high-end rendering and geometry acceleration combo. Presently, Matrox seems to be building its products to order, and dissatisfaction in the channel and among OEMs has created a sterling opportunity for Nvidia and Elsa.
That's not to say that others having been taking advantage of that opportunity. 3Dlabs, and Diamond with their Fire GL line, have been hovering in the $600-700 price range with very capable OpenGL accelerators blurring the lines at the mid-range and high-end of the professional graphics market. Quadro may blur the lines even further by coming in below 3Dlabs and Diamond, and dragging GeForce behind it to cover the lower end of the professional graphics market.
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