Newly floated Nvidia Corp is looking to expand the market for 3D graphics cards and boards while remaining strong in its core market with two upcoming chip releases. The firm is readying the latest upgrade of its TNT range, the TNT2, for release in late March or early April. Dan Vivoli, VP of product marketing, said the new part would be a lot faster than the original TNT and outperform its major rival, the Voodoo3. The chip is built on a 0.25 micron process, with 32-bit graphic rendering – making image movement smoother and quicker. Vivoli said that the chip is ready for release now but the company is delaying because sales of the original TNT part are still buoyant. The Santa Clara, California-based company also has a new Vanta low-end chip (CI No 3,541) aimed squarely at the corporate desk-top market. Vivoli said that the Vanta flips the data lines and addresses through a feature called admirror on the chip allowing easy connection to Advanced Graphic Port 4 (AGPx4) interfaces – an increasingly standard connection on corporate motherboards. Features such as this highlight Nvidia’s simple business model – to win OEM deals. Vivoli said that the company was strongest in the high performance consumer PC (costing $1,500 plus) sector and was looking to retain its market share through the TNT2. Some observers had wondered how 3Dfx Interactive Inc’s recent acquisition of STB Systems Inc – which had previously mainly shipped boards based on Nvidia equipment – would affect the company. However, Vivoli appeared unflustered claiming that the main STB OEM deals were being renegotiated solely through Nvidia. He went on to claim that 3Dfx had shot itself in the foot with the deal because it had alienated the other two major board manufacturers – Creative and Diamond Multimedia – who shipped products based on 3Dfx parts. Nvidia says that Diamond will now only ship boards based on Nvidia products. As well as trying to stay buoyant in the consumer sector, Nvidia is also trying to drum up interest in improved graphics in business applications as a potential future market for 3D. Vivoli said that Nvidia is looking at ways to use graphics technology to make improvements to such things as the user interfaces on the enterprise applications. However, Vivoli sees e-commerce as the major driver of mass acceptance of 3D. The company demonstrated 3D models running on a 128Mb, 450MHZ Pentium PII machine – with smooth 60 frames per second graphics – to this end. Vivoli says the next generation of the TNT chip, which the firm is working on now, should offer significantly better real time rendering performance. However, he still sees a long road ahead until truly realistic 3D graphics arrive. He estimates it will be 15 years until consumer PCs offer the kind of realism seen in films like ‘Titanic’ and ‘Jurassic Park’.
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