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Nvidia's David Roman talks Playstation3 and GPUs

Discussion in 'Nvidia' started by Xenon, Jan 19, 2005.

  1. Xenon

    Xenon Guest


    More Details about NVIDIA and Sony Joint Developments: CES 2005 Interview

    Category: Editorial

    by Anna Filatova

    [ 01/17/2005 | 04:36 PM ]

    We would like to offer you an interview with NVIDIA's Vice President of
    Corporate Marketing, David Roman, who kindly agreed to answer a few
    questions about the cooperation with Sony and about the situation with
    Playstation 3 related projects.

    During CES 2005 in Las Vegas I managed to get hold of David Roman, who is in
    charge of NVIDIA's Corporate marketing. In X-bit's newswire we had quite a
    few posts lately about the Playstation 3 and NVIDIA's contribution to the
    development of this new platform. And people have been talking a lot about
    it in the forums and all over the web. It looks like Playstation fans have
    become very aggressive and active lately: people want to know more about
    what's happening. Therefore it was a great opportunity for me to ask a few
    questions about this extremely exciting and interesting topic.

    Anna (X-bit labs): Thank you very much, David, for taking the time to answer
    some of my questions. I know there are many things that you cannot actually
    talk about, but nevertheless, I am sure there is a lot of interesting news
    from the development stage you could share with our readers.

    David Roman: Well, yes, there is not much that we can say unfortunately.
    However, I could tell you what the story is and then you could probably ask
    me some questions.

    We worked closely with the Sony PR team on the launch and now they are here
    as well also so we are just chatting about it. Basically on December the 7th
    we announced that we are collaborating on this next generation computer
    entertainment system. They don't call it Playstation 3, but let's assume
    that's what it is. And basically what it is, it's on next generation of GPU.
    As you know we don't talk about next generation products but it's our next
    generation of GPU. And we've been working with them to produce a customized
    version that is customized specifically to connect that to the cell
    processor, so that they could work together. And the timing and everything
    is up to them to disclose, although we will have some products a little bit
    later this year, so this is not that far in the future on the development

    We've been working with them on the whole development platform for the
    software developers, which is one of the advantages to them with going
    outside, not doing it inside just in terms of the availability of tools, the
    availability of systems and things. What we developed was to come up with
    content and quickly and efficiently. In fact we engaged with them quite some
    time ago, so we've been working with them for quite some time on the
    development platform overall for the new technology. The thing that we like
    about this partnership is not only the fact is that it's Sony and it's big
    and there is strong volume involved. But also the fact that Sony is very
    ambitious for where it wants this new computer entertainment system to go,
    so in terms of not just the 3D graphics but also in terms of the media
    processing, in terms of integration of different media types, and in terms
    of the role it going to play especially relative to what they see happening
    with the cell processor. The cell processor will be in lots of different
    devices, based around the palm and cellular tied together. So it's a pretty
    ambitious thing that we are doing with 3D graphics technology. And we are
    thrilled to be cooperating on the graphics side.

    There is not much we can say about the actual technology itself. First,
    because we don't talk about our new technologies. We will be rolling a new
    graphics solution out as a GPU in addition to what we are doing with Sony.

    With Sony, it's a licensing deal. Sony will actually be manufacturing the
    chip themselves.

    Anna (X-bit labs): From the technology stand point what will the new GPU
    developed for Playstation 3 resemble if we compare it to the desktop chips
    by NVIDIA?

    David Roman: This is the next generation GPU, so after the GeForce 6 series
    this is going to be the next generation. So, this will be everything we have
    in GeForce 6 + whatever else we bring out. Obviously it will support DirectX
    9, shader models 3, it will be the most feature-rich, the most powerful GPU
    that we've ever created actually, when it comes out.

    Anna (X-bit labs): The cooperation with Sony is a big step forward for
    NVIDIA. Would you expect this agreement to extend to other markets, such as
    portable consoles, set-top boxes, etc., or you will be staying with Sony
    Playstation only?

    David Roman: The agreement with Sony, the specific license deal is on the
    console. However, as part of the agreement we are looking at other Sony
    devices that will have the cell processors. We haven't announced yet but we
    are exploring some other opportunities within Sony, within the world of
    Sony. The license deal is specifically with Sony computer entertainment,
    which is the subsidiary dealing with the consoles, but in fact the agreement
    actually does include talking to Sony about some of the other consumer
    electronics products.

    Anna (X-bit labs): Is it an exclusive agreement with Sony, or does it imply
    that you can use your developments in agreements with other manufactures
    working in the same market of gaming consoles and similar devices?

    David Roman: Well, we can't disclose the details of the agreement, but it is
    concluded with Sony. It was a joint development with Sony, so Sony is
    fabricating the chips therefore this is not something that I would see will
    be available outside the world of Sony. Although this has been developed
    with Sony computer entertainment, there is an opportunity for other groups
    within Sony to also use the technology.

    Anna (X-bit labs): As far as I know NVIDIA may claim that there was not that
    much investment into the RND: only about 50 engineers. Is this the result of
    the fact that Sony's own engineers contributed to the development of the GPU
    in a significant way?

    David Roman: We do not disclose anything on the actual resources. Obviously
    there is a major economy of scale. This chip is a custom version of our next
    generation GPU. So we've been working on the next generation GPU for close
    to two years now, namely about 18 months. I don't know the cost of this one
    but I know the cost of the last generation: it was 350 million dollars.
    These are expensive chips to develop. So, the fact that we didn't have to do
    that development just for the Sony application obviously is a major economy
    of scale, because we are doing the development for the new chip anyway. The
    amount of work involved into customization, I don't know. I know that we
    designed a new generic team, we had been working with Sony before on the
    actual development platform, we had actually been working on the details of
    the chip. We now have assigned an engineering team to work as a Sony
    engineering team. And the numbers? I don't know what the numbers are but I
    am sure they are growing, but there is a lot of work that's going on. As I
    have said we do not disclose the details, but there is certainly some
    economy of scale due to building it on the technology that we have been
    working on for a long time. So, it is the next generation of GPU.

    Anna (X-bit labs): How do you think the cooperation with NVIDIA will help
    Sony to compete with Microsoft XBox? How would you evaluate the advantages
    of this cooperation in relation to competition?

    David Roman: This is tricky one to answer. I would say some of the reasons
    why we think that is beneficial, some of the things that are going to help
    Sony with it, is first of all the actual development platform itself. As
    graphics becomes more and more complex, it's not just the actual technology
    of the graphics processor, but it's also the whole development platform that
    's available to the software vendors to actually be able to take advantage
    of the feature set in terms of the tools, in terms of the support, in terms
    of the code that's already written, the routines that are there. That's
    something we do very well because that's our business. And because we've
    been working on this next generation GPU, we have already been developing a
    lot of that material. So, I think in that sense compared to how Sony did it
    before, they did that in-house: they had to normally develop the technology,
    but then also develop all the tools for the platform to actually give to the
    developers to create content. There is an advantage to them in not having to
    do that. They can work with us because we are developing prototype anyway.

    The other reason is just in terms of resources, I think we are all getting
    to the point where huge companies like Sony when we are tackling something
    new like this, developing the new CPU in terms of cell, developing whole new
    set of media based technologies, things that are working on the display
    side, they have to work on the graphics side as well. These are big
    development companies. Most likely the benefits to them will be to be able
    to allocate those resources for things they are specifically very good at,
    and using our resources for things we are good at. We know how to develop
    graphics processors, that's our main.

    Also the development of the actual platform tools is something one would
    think would be easier than in the past, when they had to work on their own
    platform and at the same time to build their own technology.

    The next generation of consoles is going to be exciting. Everybody has very
    high expectations for all of the coming out hot new technologies, which we
    will see in the next generation products. This is going to be exciting.

    Anna (X-bit labs): How would you evaluate the growth of the console gaming
    market relative to the PC gaming market?

    David Roman: The market is growing a lot. You know what happens with
    consoles. Their life cycle is relatively long: 5-7 years, and the growth at
    the beginning of the cycle is very-very rapid, and then it starts to slow
    down. I think now it is the tail end of the current generation. Typically
    when there is the whole new generation of consoles across the market the
    growth is very rapid, very high. I would think that would happen again with
    this transition.

    In addition to that I think all of the console manufacturers are looking at
    redefining the console as being a much more universal sort of device than
    just a games console, a device more compatible with the living-room
    environment. There appears more integration with photo, media, and other
    different things. Their ambition is to go beyond the game market, which
    suggests that they would increase the market potential.

    On the PC side the PC vendors are doing the same. I am saying let's bring
    the PC into the living-room, let's make the PC sort of generic device. So,
    it certainly brings tension in the market. In terms of growth potential I
    would suspect that the consoles will enjoy a higher growth because of the
    price line and because it is the new generation of consoles that will be
    much more compatible. That will be an exciting time!

    Anna (X-bit labs): Will NVIDIA's primary focus still remain on the PC GPU
    development, or you see the opportunity for your company to shift more
    towards the digital home initiative and appropriate class of devices
    cooperating with Sony and other manufacturers on the development of
    solutions in this field?

    David Roman: You know I don't want to sound as if we were just waffling on
    this but we do tend to focus on all of these fields. Let me put it this way:
    we don't see the PC decreasing in terms of importance. But in terms of the
    relative size of our business there will be more growth outside of the PC
    space simply because those devices are growing faster. We do see that
    happening. We do still see that PC is being absolutely crucial for all of
    this media integration and all these new things to become possible. In terms
    of volume more of our business will still come from the non-PC space.

    In terms of development, a lot of these devices still look like PCs. From
    our standpoint we develop a graphics processor that works in an environment
    and is driven by system architecture whether the form-factor is out of a PC,
    a game console, or a PDA. To some degree it doesn't matter that much from a
    development stand point. That obviously matters for business and
    integration, but from a development stand point it doesn't matter that much.
    I would say that we haven't really changed our prospective that the PC and
    the PC architecture is fundamental for our development. It's just that we
    see many more applications for that outside.

    Now, the wireless media processing side is different. Because what we are
    looking in the cell technology is based around different nature of the
    business: it is driven by power consumption, much more driven by media
    playback, and video, and 3D. And we may very soon see cell phones that even
    though physically are not like the PC, the architectural model is probably
    moving more to the PC thing in terms of the setting issues, in terms of the
    common infrastructure, less vertical integration. Physically it may look
    like a system-on-a-chip, the architecture is more like a PC architecture, an
    integrated device architecture.

    Returning to your question, we do not see ourselves moving away from the PC
    side at all, but it's true that PC business will be a smaller percentage of
    our total sales, although it will still be growing in absolute terms.
    Xenon, Jan 19, 2005
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