Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA; /nˈvɪdiə/ in-VID-ee-ə) is an American global technology company based in Santa Clara, California. Nvidia is best known for its graphics processing units (GPUs). Nvidia and chief rival AMD Graphics Technologies (formerly ATI Technologies) have dominated the high performance GPU market, pushing other manufacturers to smaller, niche roles. Nvidia's best known GPU product line labeled "GeForce" is in direct competition with AMD's "Radeon" products.
In addition to GPU manufacturing, Nvidia provides parallel processing capabilities to researchers and scientists that allow them to efficiently run high-performance applications. They are deployed in supercomputing sites around the world. More recently, Nvidia has moved into the mobile computing market, where its Tegra processors powered phones and tablets, as well as auto infotainment systems. In addition to AMD, its other competitors include Intel and Qualcomm.
Nvidia's product portfolio includes graphics processors, wireless communications processors, PC platform (motherboard core logic) chipsets, and digital media player software. The community of computer users arguably has come to know Nvidia best for its GeForce product line, which consists of both a complete line of discrete graphics chips found in AIB (add-in board) video cards and core graphics technology used in nForce motherboards, Microsoft's original Xbox game console, and Sony's PlayStation 3 game console.
The following are the most notable product families produced by Nvidia:
- GeForce (The gaming graphics processing products for which Nvidia is best known.)
- Quadro (Computer-aided design and digital content creation workstation graphics processing products.)
- Tegra (A system on a chip series for mobile devices.)
- Tesla (Dedicated general purpose GPU for high-end image generation applications in professional and scientific fields.)
- nForce (A motherboard chipset created by nVidia for AMD Athlon and Duron microprocessors.)
- Jen-Hsun Huang (As of 2008 CEO), a Taiwanese-born American, previously Director of CoreWare at LSI Logic and a microprocessor designer at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
- Chris Malachowsky, an electrical engineer who worked at Sun Microsystems.
- Curtis Priem, previously a senior staff engineer and graphics chip designer at Sun Microsystems.
The founders gained venture capital funding from Sequoia Capital.
Major releases and acquisitions
The autumn of 1999 saw the release of the GeForce 256 (NV10), most notably introducing on-board transformation and lighting (T&L) to consumer-level 3D hardware. Running at 120 MHz and featuring four pixel pipelines, it implemented advanced video acceleration, motion compensation, and hardware sub-picture alpha blending. The GeForce outperformed existing products by a wide margin.
Due to the success of its products, Nvidia won the contract to develop the graphics hardware for Microsoft's Xbox game console, which earned Nvidia a $200 million advance. However, the project drew the time of many of Nvidia's best engineers away from other projects. In the short term this did not matter, and the GeForce2 GTS shipped in the summer of 2000.
In 2000, Nvidia acquired the intellectual assets of its one-time rival 3dfx, one of the biggest graphics companies of the mid- to late-1990s.
In July 2002, Nvidia acquired Exluna for an undisclosed sum. Exluna made software rendering tools and the personnel were merged into the Cg project.
In August 2003, Nvidia acquired MediaQ for approximately $70million.
On April 22, 2004, Nvidia acquired iReady, a provider of high performance TCP/IP and iSCSI offload solutions.
December 2004 saw the announcement that Nvidia would assist Sony with the design of the graphics processor (RSX) in the PlayStation 3 game console. In March 2006 it emerged that Nvidia would deliver RSX to Sony as an IP core, and that Sony alone would organize the manufacture of the RSX. Under the agreement, Nvidia will provide ongoing support to port the RSX to Sony's fabs of choice (Sony and Toshiba), as well as die shrinks to 65 nm. This practice contrasts with Nvidia's business arrangement with Microsoft, in which Nvidia managed production and delivery of the Xbox GPU through Nvidia's usual third-party foundry contracts. Meanwhile, Microsoft chose to license a design by ATI and to make its own manufacturing arrangements for the Xbox 360 graphics hardware, as has Nintendo for the Wii console (which succeeds the ATI-based Nintendo GameCube).
On December 14, 2005, Nvidia acquired ULI Electronics, which at the time supplied third-party southbridge parts for chipsets to ATI, Nvidia's competitor.
In March 2006, Nvidia acquired Hybrid Graphics.
In December 2006, Nvidia, along with its main rival in the graphics industry AMD (which had acquired ATI), received subpoenas from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding possible antitrust violations in the graphics card industry.
Forbes magazine named Nvidia its Company of the Year for 2007, citing the accomplishments it made during the said period as well as during the previous 5 years.
On January 5, 2007, Nvidia announced that it had completed the acquisition of PortalPlayer, Inc.
In February 2008, Nvidia acquired Ageia Technologies for an undisclosed sum. "The purchase reflects both companies' shared goal of creating the most amazing and captivating game experiences," said Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO of Nvidia. "By combining the teams that created the world's most pervasive GPU and physics engine brands, we can now bring GeForce-accelerated PhysX to twelve million gamers around the world."
In April 2009, a court consolidated multiple class action suits into one case, titled The Nvidia GPU Litigation. Nvidia agreed to replace faulty chips in or reimburse purchasers who already spent to get their laptop repaired. Nvidia also gave replacement laptops to many users in lieu of making a repair. The replacements and payments were not made until the settlement was finalized in 2011. Users were required to show proof of purchase and mail in their original faulty laptop. The chips were present in a number of Dell and HP laptops, as well as two Apple MacBook Pro models. Although the settlement cost Nvidia millions of dollars, many of the individuals were unhappy with the settlement, and multiple websites and blogs reflected this. The website entitled Fair Nvidia Settlement was one such site.
On January 10, 2011, Nvidia signed a six-year cross-licensing agreement with Intel which marks the end of all outstanding legal disputes between these two companies. According to the agreement Intel will pay Nvidia $1.5 billion in licensing fees payable in five annual installments.
On February 15, 2011, Nvidia announced and demonstrated the first quad-core processor for mobile devices at the at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This chip is expected to ship with many tablets to be released in the second half of 2011.
In May 2011, it was announced that Nvidia had agreed to acquire Icera, a baseband chip making company in the UK, for $367 million in cash.
Open source software support
Nvidia does not publish the documentation for its hardware, meaning that programmers cannot write appropriate and effective open-source drivers for Nvidia's products (compare Graphics hardware and FOSS). Instead, Nvidia provides its own binary GeForce graphics drivers for X.Org and a thin open-source library that interfaces with the Linux, FreeBSD or Solaris kernels and the proprietary graphics software. Nvidia also supports an obfuscated open-source driver that only supports two-dimensional hardware acceleration and ships with the X.Org distribution. Nvidia's Linux support has promoted mutual adoption in the entertainment, scientific visualization, defense and simulation/training industries, traditionally dominated by SGI, Evans & Sutherland, and other relatively costly vendors.
The proprietary nature of Nvidia's drivers has generated dissatisfaction within free-software communities. Some Linux and BSD users insist on using only open-source drivers, and regard Nvidia's insistence on providing nothing more than a binary-only driver as wholly inadequate, given that competing manufacturers (like Intel) offer support and documentation for open-source developers, and that others (like ATI) release partial documentation and provide some active development.
Because of the closed nature of the drivers, Nvidia video cards do not deliver adequate features on some platforms and architectures (However this is credited[by whom?] to be due to lack of the proper kernel API needed for implementation). Support for three-dimensional graphics acceleration in Linux on the PowerPC does not exist; nor does support for Linux on the hypervisor-restricted PlayStation 3 console. While some users accept the Nvidia-supported drivers, many users of open-source software would prefer better out-of-the-box performance if given the choice.
However, the performance and functionality of the binary Nvidia video card drivers surpass those of open-source alternatives following VESA standards.