ATI, Nvidia: Outta the bus, now

Posted: 09.19.05
FIGURE 1. JPR's speculation on Intel's Viiv architecture.
(Source: Jon Peddie Research)

Although Viiv is not finalized yet, at least not publicly (no doubt the OEMs preparing their holiday offerings know full well what's in it), a couple of things seem pretty obvious to us up here on the mountain.

Having achieved an admirable success in unit market share with their good enough integrated graphics, Intel nonetheless had to rely on riser cards to supply a DVI output. The same would obviously be true for HDMI. Unwilling to concede any silicon on the motherboard to the likes of ATI or Nvidia, and doubly unwilling to invite companies like Genesis, Pixelworks, or Trident into the tent, Intel instead acquired Oplus.

Intel VP Don MacDonald said at IDF that he envisioned Oplus being used in a future SoC with possibly an x86 CPU for things like STBs, perhaps IPTV STBs, an area Intel is very interested in and making VC-like investments.

We think Oplus chips—freshly minted, BTW—will show up sooner than the SoC vision. And we think it will be in Viiv for the HD SD output with either HDMI, or Intel's VESA-backed DisplayPort—most likely DisplayPort, since it is another Intel initiative like PCI Express and AGP, and Intel likes to win things.

So where does that leave the big boys of graphics? Well, ATI has a single-lane PCIe TV tuner card that might get used, and Nvidia will most likely follow suit. But then Happauage, Avamedia, and possibly ADS Tech will show up there too, and they can squabble over that segment, but then Intel-financed Dibcom's DVB-T decoder and IF chip will most likely be on cards other than ATI's. (ATI's Xwave folks are head-on competitors to Dibcom, as is Micronas's MicroTune acquisition. Micronas used to be Intel's buddy for previous riser card TV-out solutions, but that was then and this is now.)

Fools rush in?

In the face of all this a startup in Ore-gon is preparing a part competitive to Oplus and the gang of video processors, and in Toronto another startup is developing YAST—yet-another-semiconductor tuner.

Everyone is hoping to get a piece of the exploding DTV-LCD CE biz, and/or to hitch a ride on the Viiv bus. There's going to be another wave of BOD disappointments in late 2006 when they find that the Viiv bus left the station without them and they find out that when you write Viiv backwards it spells Intel.

No games here

Intel is betting that the buyers of Viiv machines from HP, Gateway, Sony, and others won't be using them to play games, at least not the heart-pounding, multi-texture rendering FPSs. For that they can use Intel's buddy's machine, the Xbox 360, although with an IBM CPU in it they aren't quite as buddy-buddy as they used to be.

So this is how Viiv looks to us (see Figure 1, above).

Not much room for any non-Intel stuff in it, is there? And Intel will use its $100 million marketing war chest to keep the box builders in line and prevent them from using alien parts from other semiconductor suppliers.

So this leaves ATI and Nvidia out of Viiv—not out of the EPC market, but clearly not part of the Viiv chipset schema. And what's that meant to the GPU boys? Well, here's our forecast for the EPC market with the Viiv component.

FIGURE 2. Market forecast for EPCs.
(Source: Jon Peddie Research)

Does Microsoft need Viiv? You betcha. Viiv is going to finally bring what we now call MCE, and soon will call Vista Gold, to life. Ironic that Aero had to be developed and scale down Vista's UI capabilities in order to support leg-acy and Intel IGCs, but not much of that stuff will be called on for an EPC. And, BTW, it looks like all three versions of Vista will have MCE built into them, so Microsoft is adopting a no-EPC-left-behind policy.