If the meek capitulation in the headline sounds uncharacteristic of Nvidia’s infamously outspoken CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, it’s probably because he’s bitter. Though the GPU-focused company announced way back in 2008 that it was going to “open a can of whoop-ass” on Intel, very little has happened, at least on the consumer side. Intel and Nvidia have had some major differences, and remain fierce competitors, but it’s been made clear that Intel won’t tolerate anyone making a grab at its x86 treasure hoard.
But Nvidia isn’t going quietly. Or rather, they’re going quietly just so they can sneak around the back. While Intel is cracking its whip at anyone who wants a piece of x86, Nvidia and ARM, among others, are performing a flanking maneuver in the mobile sector.
Intel itself has expressed contrition regarding its mobile and tablet efforts. When you’re shipping a couple hundred million processors every year, things like the iPad get lost in the shuffle, apparently. But the power level of tablets and mobiles is growing, and Intel has not provided that growth. They promised an x86 handset in 2012, but at this point they’re playing catch-up. Only an tiny fraction of tablets and phones sold use Intel hardware — mainly the Windows-running ones. Meanwhile Nvidia is getting lean and focusing on blowing up their graphics and mobile divisions.
The next couple years might see some interesting partnerships, however. The ARM-Nvidia alliance might go up against something like an Intel-Microsoft-Nokia conglomerate, while team Apple watches from the sidelines. It’ll be a hell of a battle, but the winner will really be the consumer, whom every company will be going out of their way to please. Faster, smaller, and cheaper chips and phones. Sounds like a good deal to me.