nVidia speaks out
As nVidia was named as the allegedly guilty party, we weren't surprised when nVidia contacted us first. Last night, we had a phone conversation with Ken Brown and Tom Petersen, from nVidia Corporation. Ken is one of the PR managers for the Chipset division and Tom is Director of Technical Marketing for chipsets and SLI.
During our conversation we were surprised at how straight forward both Ken and Tom were. Going in, we expected them to be defensive and to attack our stance. Instead they actually seemed to understand that they have begun to get a bad name over the last few years for things that they [nVidia] had actually done and things they been accused of doing.
Both Tom and Ken stated that nVidia had "absolutely no hand in the delay of the MSI Big Bang Fuzion board." They further went on to state that nVidia had "nothing to do with MSI’s decision to release the NF200 based Trinergy instead of the Fuzion." They also stated that they have no plans to block Hydra at the driver level.
With this information on the table we wanted to ask them what they felt about Hydra in general. Their answer surprised me; I had expected to hear some resistance to Hydra and its impact on SLI licensing. As we all know, nVidia earns $5 per SLI-certified motherboard and this might be seen as an intrusion in that revenue stream. However, the opposite seemed to be the case. In fact Tom went on the record and insisted that we put the following quote: "If it is good for gamers - that is great for us”. Both Ken and Tom seemed genuine about their [and nVidia’s] commitment to gamers and improving their gaming experience, saying that if Hydra can help their GPUs scale better, it is still good for both nVidia and consumers. They even covered the competition angle and said that a successful LucidLogix Hydra technology would only push them to make a better product. Tom went on to say "If Hydra performs well and scales better than our own SLI technology, that means we will have to go back to our engineers and push to do a better job and produce equal or better results."
Now hearing this I had to ask the obvious question. If nVidia is all about a better gaming experience then why did they block PhysX at a driver level when paired with an AMD GPU under Windows 7? The answer is one that makes sense on a company level but often never filters down to the consumer. The issue from nVidia’s side is one of QA [Quality Assurance]. They do not feel that nVidia should be responsible for all of the testing that would need to be done to make sure every configuration works properly. nVidia estimates that there would be over 26,000 additional configurations to test if they left PhysX enabled with an AMD card as the GPU responsible for rendering. The number given is a combination of chipset, processor and GPU configurations.
Now like I said this makes sense on a company level as it is an additional expense and in the end benefits a competitor. For the consumer, we can truly debate that it as an attempt to block the competition. But after thinking about it I think I can see the logic and how this move really does benefit the consumer as well.
Take following scenario into consideration: If you buy an AMD Radeon HD 5870 and then pick up an nVidia GPU for use as a PPU, then get home and things do not work; who are you going to lay the blame on? Who is responsible for fixing any issues that you are having? Do you contact the game developer? Do you contact AMD? Or nVidia? But let’s go a little further; let’s say all is well and one day you update the driver for your 5870 board and suddenly PhysX stops or worse everything you do with those two, such as launch a game result in a "wonderful" BSOD [Blue Screen of Death]. Again, who takes care of that? Should AMD be responsible for fixing their driver as it was what caused the issue right? The problem is one of compatibility and preventing issues before they start. This is actually a concern of nVidia’s with LucidLogix's Hydra technology.
Who will do all the compatibility testing? Who will make sure the products passes QA? Who will be responsible if there are problems with mix and matched GPUs or if a driver [regardless of being from AMD or nVidia] suddenly breaks the way Hydra works? It raises real concerns for this product and is something that Lucid needs to be aware of and take the proper steps to prevent.
So it seems that nVidia does not view Hydra as a threat so much as a potential problem. They seem to feel that Hydra could be good for gamers and even bring more value to their own products as Hydra will also force nVidia to work harder to produce better products and achieve higher levels of scaling. As such they are not going to stop it but then again - they are not going to do anything to help them along either. In the end, nVidia places the ball firmly in Lucid’s court and say it is up to them to do the work to ensure their products work. Given the cost of QA, the big question is can Lucid do all the debugging for AMD-AMD, nVidia-nVidia, AMD-nVidia and in a few quarters add two combinations to the mix - AMD-Intel, nVidia-Intel and Intel-Intel. If the technology goes on to support for graphics cards, you have to multiply all of that as well, and even have a potential combination of AMD-Intel-nVidia-nVidia and so on.
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