On being James Tiberius Kirk

Posted: 05.25.09
James T Kirk

To beat the unbeatable Kobayashi Maru simulation (designed by Spock) at Star Fleet Academy, the young cadet James T. Kirk reprogrammed the game—he changed the rules because of he refused to accept a no-win scenario.

We all want to be Kirk; beat the odds, change the rules, and succeed in the face of despair.

Investors long and short, hedge fund managers, and VCs are constantly looking for that Kirk, either in the form of the management or the company as a whole. Sometimes they find it/him/her. Companies in trouble will often swap-out the president hoping the new guy will be Tiberius Kirk—sometimes he or she is; Yahoo certainly hopes Ms. Bartz is a Kirk.

A lot of people are hoping Jen Hsun Huang will be a Kirk, and some others are hoping he’ll end up like the Klingons, destroyed and humiliated. Haung is reprogramming the game, and making some big bets.

When life was good, maybe great at Nvidia and the company seemed as if it could do no wrong, the world looked like this before 2008.

Nvidia owned the AMD chipset business

Before 2008

Nvidia owned the AMD chipset business, and was making a small entry into the Intel IGP space. It had grown in the Z-axis by adding notebooks to the product mix and all of its products were first class, its brand golden, and its margins the envy of the industry.

And then AMD acquired ATI, Intel announced Larrabee as a GPU like processor and Nvidia started taking lumps in its prized high-end GPU segment, now the world started to look like Nvidia was trapped...

Nvidia's Huang puts on his starfleet uniform


So Huang put on his Star Fleet uniform, and reprogrammed the game hoping to break out of the Klingon/Romulan trap, change the rules and expand the universe.


CUDA and parallel processing

Re-programming the game

Huang pushed out CUDA and parallel processing and made the world consider heterogeneous architectures, claiming success when Apple announced Snow Leopard would support both a traditional CPU and GPUs as compute elements, Microsoft followed by announcing Windows 7 with DirectX 11 would also support heterogeneous architectures and provide a programming language for it.

Huang then pushed out of the bottom of the trap and introduced a low powered SoC called Tegra, and just to let the Klingons know who was boss of the universe he drove Ions into Intel’s heartland.

But AMD and Intel reacted to the Kobayashi Maru game change and met Kirk-Huang in the super computer space with OpenCL. The Klingons fired back their own phasers called Pineview at the low end, and shot their CSI photon torpedoes in front of Nvidia’s Ions blocking their progress, and reconfiguring the universe.

Nvidia's Huang puts on his starfleet uniform

A re-configured universe

Which, when viewed at a distance, looks a little like this.
The USS Enterprise

It may not be a totally open universe, but it’s a less closed one, and Kirk fans in the universe are hoping, many of them betting that he and Nvidia will be able to live long and prosper.