Why did NVIDIA buy AGEIA?
So why the NVIDIA buyout? The press release, demonstrating once more NVIDIA’s love of capital letters, said “PhysX on GeForce Will Bring Amazing Physics Dynamics to Millions of Gamers.” This strongly implies that they intend to put a PhysX chip on some or all of their graphics cards. We reckon, however, that the smart move might be to put it in the mainboard chipset instead. This could resolve the chicken-and-egg situation as now the customer will automatically have PhysX whenever they buy an NVIDIA board and developers will be reassured by a much larger install-base of that technology.
This may well also give consumers an additional reason to buy NVIDIA mainboards as, even if there aren’t many games requiring PhysX out now, they will at least be future-proofing their PCs to some extent.
So this is the only competitive advantage NVIDIA has bought itself over AMD in the short term. But if, and it definitely is an if, it does succeed in catalysing demand for improved physics processing, then the victory will be considerably greater.
From AMD’s point of view this is definitely a setback. However, it must also reside near the bottom of its fire-fighting priority list. In the GPU space it needs to start giving NVIDIA a regular run for its money before it starts worrying about other technologies. But the number one priority has to be where the main volume of PC sales occurs – the cheap-and-cheerful laptop sector (see below), where Intel currently dominates. If AMD doesn’t address these markets effectively then the game could be over long before physics becomes a major factor.
Sign of the times: a £269 laptop with your baked beans
Related reading: Dell axes AMD consumer range