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July 2, 2024

Nvidia faces French antitrust probe

The probe follows dawn raids at Nvidia’s Paris offices in September 2023.

By Greg Noone

Nvidia will be subject to a probe by France’s antitrust regulator. According to sources briefed on the matter who spoke to Reuters, the Autorité de la concurrence will probe the graphics processing unit (GPU) giant for alleged anti-competitive practices. The investigation follows a series of raids at Nvidia’s Paris offices in September 2023 that formed part of another probe by the regulator into France’s cloud computing sector. 

Neither the Autorité nor Nvidia have commented on the rumoured investigation. However, a report by the former on AI singled out the sector’s reliance on the GPU maker’s CUDA chip programming software as of “concern” to the regulator. It is, argued the watchdog, the only one of its kind “that is 100% compatible with the GPUs that have become essential for accelerated computing.”

A photo of the Nvidia logo on a building.
Nvidia is set to face an antitrust investigation from France’s competition regulator. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Nvidia increasingly attracting attention of regulators

Nvidia currently dominates the global market for GPUs, thanks in part to the popularity of the chips among AI developers and hyperscalers. Unlike the central processing units (CPUs) found in most smartphones, tablets and laptop computers, which process calculations sequentially, GPUs are capable of performing them simultaneously. Originally designed to run advanced graphics software, AI researchers discovered in the 2010s that this design quirk was ideal for training neural networks and, from there, the large language models of today.

While Nvidia has reaped enormous profits from the popularity of its GPUs among those companies and startups looking to train new generative AI models, it has also attracted the attention of multiple regulators. That includes the Autorité, which raided the firm’s French offices as part of a wider investigation into allegations of anti-competitive practices within that country’s cloud computing market. The watchdog was careful to stipulate in a subsequent statement, however, that the mere fact of a raid does “not pre-suppose the existence of a breach of the law” – something, it added, that only a “full investigation” can ascertain. 

CUDA concerns

France is not the only jurisdiction where Nvidia’s activities have come under regulatory scrutiny. In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has described the firm as a leading node within an “interconnected web” of 90 investments and partnerships within the AI value chain. Last month the US Department of Justice also launched an investigation into Nvidia. That probe, according to the New York Times, would act on concerns that the firm’s CUDA software is effectively preventing AI developers from using alternative GPUs alongside Nvidia’s. 

Read more: Nvidia excluded from new UALink networking consortium

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