NVIDIA Corporation ( / ɪ n ˈ v ɪ d i ə / in- VID -eeə ) [4] (commonly referred to as Nvidia , stylized as NVIDIA , nVIDIA or nvidia ) is an American technology company based in Santa Clara, California . Nvidia designs graphics processing units (GPUs) for the gaming market, as well as system on a chip units (SOCs) for the mobile computing and automotive market. Nvidia's primary GPU product line, labeled " GeForce ", is in direct competition with Advanced Micro Devices ' (AMD) " Radeon " products. Nvidia expanded its presence in the gaming industry with its handheld SHIELD Portable, SHIELD Tablet , and SHIELD Android TV .

Since 2014, Nvidia has shifted to become a platform company focused on four markets — Gaming, Professional Visualization, Data Centers and Auto.

In addition to GPU manufacturing, Nvidia provides parallel processing capabilities to researchers and scientists that allow them to efficiently run high-performance applications. They are deployed in supercomputing sites around the world. [5] [6] More recently, Nvidia has moved into the mobile computing market, where it produces Tegra mobile processors for smartphones and tablets, as well as vehicle navigation and entertainment systems. [7] [8] [9] In addition to AMD , its competitors include Intel and Qualcomm .

Company history

Founders and initial investment

Three people co-founded Nvidia in April 1993: [10] [11]

The founders received venture capital funding from Sequoia Capital . [12]

Major releases and acquisitions

Autumn 1999 saw the release of the GeForce (NV10), most notably introducing on-board transformation and lighting (T&L) to consumer-level 3D hardware. Running at 120 MHz and featuring four pixel pipelines, it implemented advanced video acceleration, motion compensation, and hardware sub-picture alpha blending. The GeForce outperformed existing products by a wide margin.

Due to the success of its products, Nvidia won the contract to develop the graphics hardware for Microsoft 's Xbox game console, which earned Nvidia a $200 million advance. However, the project drew the time of many of Nvidia's best engineers away from other projects. In the short term this did not matter, and the GeForce2 GTS shipped in the summer of 2000.

In 2000, Nvidia acquired the intellectual assets of its one-time rival 3dfx , one of the biggest graphics companies of the mid-to-late 1990s. [13]

In July 2002, Nvidia acquired Exluna for an undisclosed sum. Exluna made software rendering tools and the personnel were merged into the Cg project. [14]

In August 2003, Nvidia acquired MediaQ for approximately US$70 million. [15]

On April 22, 2004, Nvidia acquired iReady, also a provider of high performance TCP/IP and iSCSI offload solutions . [16]

December 2004 saw the announcement that Nvidia would assist Sony with the design of the graphics processor ( RSX ) in the PlayStation 3 game console. In March 2006, it emerged that Nvidia would deliver RSX to Sony as an IP core , and that Sony alone would organize the manufacture of the RSX. Under the agreement, Nvidia would provide ongoing support to port the RSX to Sony's fabs of choice (Sony and Toshiba), as well as die shrinks to 65 nm. This practice contrasted with Nvidia's business arrangement with Microsoft, in which Nvidia managed production and delivery of the Xbox GPU through Nvidia's usual third-party foundry contracts. Meanwhile, in May 2005 Microsoft chose to license a design by ATI and to make its own manufacturing arrangements for the Xbox 360 graphics hardware, as had Nintendo for the Wii console (which succeeded the ATI-based Nintendo GameCube ). [17]

On December 14, 2005, Nvidia acquired ULI Electronics , which at the time supplied third-party southbridge parts for chipsets to ATI , Nvidia's competitor. [18]

In March 2006, Nvidia acquired Hybrid Graphics . [19]

In December 2006, Nvidia, along with its main rival in the graphics industry AMD (which had acquired ATI), received subpoenas from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding possible antitrust violations in the graphics card industry. [21]

Forbes magazine named Nvidia its Company of the Year for 2007, citing the accomplishments it made during the said period as well as during the previous 5 years. [3]

On January 5, 2007, Nvidia announced that it had completed the acquisition of PortalPlayer , Inc. [3]

In February 2008, Nvidia acquired Ageia Technologies for an undisclosed sum. Ageia developed the PhysX physics engine hardware and SDK. [3]

In April 2009, a court consolidated multiple class action suits into one case, titled The NVIDIA GPU Litigation. [3] Nvidia agreed to replace faulty chips in or reimburse purchasers who already spent to get their laptop repaired. Nvidia also gave replacement laptops to many users in lieu of making a repair. The replacements and payments were not made until the settlement was finalized in 2011. Users were required to show proof of purchase and mail in their original faulty laptop. The chips were present in a number of Dell and HP laptops, as well as two Apple MacBook Pro models. Although the settlement cost Nvidia millions of dollars, many of the individuals were unhappy with the settlement, and multiple websites and blogs reflected this. The website entitled Fair Nvidia Settlement [3] was one such site.

On January 10, 2011, Nvidia signed a six-year cross-licensing agreement with Intel, marking the end of all outstanding legal disputes between these two companies. According to the agreement, Intel agreed to pay Nvidia $1.5 billion in licensing fees in five annual installments. [3]

On February 15, 2011, Nvidia announced and demonstrated the first quad-core processor for mobile devices at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It was announced that the chip was expected to ship with many tablets to be released in the second half of 2011, [3] and the chip, dubbed the Tegra 3 , was released on November 9, 2011. [3]

In May 2011, it was announced that Nvidia had agreed to acquire Icera , a baseband chip making company in the UK, for $367 million in cash. [3] [3]

On July 29, 2013, Nvidia announced that they acquired PGI from STMicroelectronics.

On January 6, 2013, Nvidia introduced at CES 2013, the Tegra 4 mobile processor (codename "Wayne"), containing 72 GPU cores, a Quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU core, and LTE capability among its features. [4]

On February 19, 2013, Nvidia announced the Tegra 4i (codename "Project Grey"), its first fully integrated 4G LTE mobile processor, featuring 5 times more GPU cores than Tegra 3, 1080p HD support, and Nvidia Chimera Computational Photography Architecture. [4]

On January 6, 2014, Nvidia introduced at CES 2014, the Tegra K1 mobile processor (codename "Logan"), containing 192 GPU cores and a Quad ARM Cortex-A15 MPCore R3 + low power companion core (32-bit) or Dual-core Project Denver (64-bit). As of February 2014, Nvidia claims that the Tegra K1 outperforms both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 hardware. [4]

On May 6, 2016, Nvidia introduced at Dreamhack in Austin, Texas, the GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 built on Nvidia's Pascal-architecture. [4] The company also unveiled other features, including Ansel, a new software for in-game photography. [4]

According to a survey conducted by market watch firm Jon Peddie Research, [4] Nvidia shipped an estimated 33 million graphics chips in the first quarter of 2010, for a market share of 31.5%. AMD and Intel shipped an estimated 25.15 million units (24.0% market share) and an estimated 45.49 million units (43.5% market share) respectively. Nvidia's year-to-year growth was 41.9%.

In August 2011, Nvidia predicted the growth of its revenues would be 4% to 6%, instead of 4%, as analysts said. [4]

In September 2011, Nvidia forecast strong sales for 2013 in the region of $4.75bn to $5bn, which surpasses analysts expectations of $4.45bn. [4]

GPU Technology Conference

The GPU Technology Conference is an annual technical conference started by Nvidia in 2009 which focuses on using the GPU to solve computing challenges. [4] In 2015 the conference attracted over 4000 attendees. [4]

Product families

Nvidia's product portfolio includes graphics processors, wireless communications processors, PC platform (motherboard core logic) chipsets , automotive solutions and digital media player software. Some of Nvidia's product families are:

  • GeForce , consumer-oriented graphics processing products. [5]
  • Quadro computer-aided design and digital content creation workstation graphics processing products. [5]
  • NVS, Multi-Display business graphics solution. [5]
  • Tegra , a system on a chip series for mobile devices. [5]
  • Tesla , dedicated general purpose GPU for high-end image generation applications in professional and scientific fields. [5]
  • nForce , a motherboard chipset created by Nvidia for Intel (Celeron, Pentium and Core 2) and AMD (Athlon and Duron) microprocessors. [5]
  • Nvidia GRID, a set of hardware and services by NVIDIA for graphics virtualization. [5]
  • Nvidia Shield, a range of gaming hardware including the Shield Portable , Shield Tablet and most recently, the Shield Android TV
  • Nvidia Drive automotive solutions, a range of hardware and software products for assisting car drivers, including the Drive PX-series , a high performance computer platform aimed at autonomous driving through deep learning. [5]

Open-source software support

Until September 23, 2013, Nvidia had not published any documentation for its hardware, [5] meaning that programmers could not write appropriate and effective free and open-source device driver for Nvidia's products without resorting to ( clean room ) reverse engineering .

Instead, Nvidia provides its own binary GeForce graphics drivers for X.Org and a thin open-source library that interfaces with the Linux , FreeBSD or Solaris kernels and the proprietary graphics software. Nvidia also provided but stopped supporting an obfuscated open-source driver that only supports two-dimensional hardware acceleration and ships with the X.Org distribution. [5]

The proprietary nature of Nvidia's drivers has generated dissatisfaction within free-software communities . [6] Some Linux and BSD users insist on using only open-source drivers, and regard Nvidia's insistence on providing nothing more than a binary-only driver as wholly inadequate, given that competing manufacturers (like Intel ) offer support and documentation for open-source developers, and that others (like AMD ) release partial documentation and provide some active development. [6] [52]

Because of the closed nature of the drivers, Nvidia video cards cannot deliver adequate features on some platforms and architectures given that Nvidia only provides x86/x64 driver builds. [6] As a result, support for 3D graphics acceleration in Linux on PowerPC does not exist, nor does support for Linux on the hypervisor -restricted PlayStation 3 console.

Some users claim that Nvidia's Linux drivers impose artificial restrictions, like limiting the number of monitors that can be used at the same time, but the company has not commented on these accusations. [6]

As of January 31, 2014, Nvidia's Alexandre Courbot committed an extensive patch set which add initial support for the GK20A ( Tegra K1 ) to nouveau. [6]