I spent Tuesday at Nvidia headquarters, attending the company's annual Analyst Day.
I've been to most of Nvidia's analyst events over the last decade or so, since I covered Nvidia almost from its inception while working as the graphics analyst at Microprocessor Report. These meetings are always a good way to get an update on the company's business operations, and sometimes--like this time--one provides exceptionally good insight into larger industry trends.
Nvidia has had a rough couple of quarters in the market, which CEO Jen-Hsun Huang blamed in part on a bad strategic call in early 2008: to place orders for large quantities of new chips to be delivered later in the year. When the recession hit, these orders turned into about six months of inventory, much of which simply couldn't be sold at the usual markup.
In response, Nvidia CFO David White outlined measures the company plans to take to increase revenue, sell a more valuable mix of products, reduce the cost of goods sold, and cut back on Nvidia's operating expenses.
Three things stood out for me in this presentation:
Nvidia is planning an aggressive transition to state-of-the-art ASIC fabrication technology at TSMC, the company's manufacturing partner. Within "two to three quarters," White said, about two-thirds of the chips Nvidia sells will be made using 40-nanometer process technology. (The first of these chips were announced Tuesday.)
White also acknowledged something that I've long assumed to be true: Nvidia receives "preferential allocation" on advanced process technology at TSMC. It's logical that Nvidia should get the red-carpet treatment, having been TSMC's best customer for many years, but I don't recall hearing Nvidia or TSMC put this fact on the record before.
The third notable point from White's presentation: the gross margins for Nvidia's Tegra, an ARM-based application processor--which Nvidia's Mike Rayfield, general manager of the Tegra division, says has already garnered 42 design wins at 27 companies--are much higher than I'd have guessed--at "over 45 percent." That's quite excellent for an ARM-based SoC; it's a very competitive market.
More surprises The technical sessions at the event contained their own surprises.
For example, Nvidia effectively seized control of an old Intel marketing buzzword: "balanced."
For years, Intel used to talk about… Read more