Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Apple and NVIDIA, sitting in a tree

Okay, enough seriousness, back to my favorite subject...

NVIDIA yesterday introduced the desktop versions of their chipset-in-a-chip with integrated GPUs, recently featured in the new MacBook and MacBook Pro machines.

AppleInsider quotes NVIDIA as stating that their “engineering team was presented with a challenge from an unnamed party, to ‘deliver a desktop GPU which integrates full system I/O and discrete-level performance in one-half the size of previous integrated graphics solutions.’”

I'll be assuming for the present purpose that unnamed party was Apple, since it's already well known that they'd presented a similar challenge with regard to bringing desktop-level performance to notebooks.

But why should size be a primary consideration?

Even the 20-inch iMac is roomier inside than any MacBook Pro, and could surely accommodate a larger chip package than that found in the new Apple notebooks. Granted that circuit board area is relatively expensive, but the size of the GPU package still wouldn't seem to rate such attention, unless...

Maybe Apple has something else in mind to do with the chip besides putting it into an iMac, like maybe putting it into a Mac mini, Apple TV, and/or a new product that's essentially both in one. In any variant of that scenario, concern over the size of the chip package would suddenly make complete sense.

How soon are we likely to find out? At a guess, probably not before Macworld '09, since there's still a lot of Apple TV inventory that needs to be moved off the shelves, although, if they plan to continue selling the current Apple TV as a low-end model, much as they're continuing to sell the white plastic MacBook at a discounted price, the inventory wouldn't matter, and an announcement could come sooner.

If Apple is serious about making the Apple TV a contender as a gaming platform, and I think they are, then they'll be shoehorning at least the most modest of NVIDIA's new integrated graphics chips into it.

Update: Gizmodo says it's been told by two major European retailers that they are unable to order more Mac minis, and that they shouldn't expect further shipments, although it's not clear whether that's a reference to current models or the entire product category. Also, in today's quarterly financial report, Steve Jobs said several different ways that Apple wouldn't be competing in the low end of the computer market, but would rather choose to continue to provide increasing value in the market segments it does serve. While what he said wouldn't seem to rule out a reworked Mac mini, or a replacement product with a comparable price range, he did seem to rule out the possiblity of dropping price of any Apple computer to $500 or below. He also said that he expects the Apple TV to remain a hobby through 2009.

No comments: