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Nvidia: Microsoft tiff tiny; new chip big

Playing down accounting issues and an ongoing pricing dispute with Microsoft, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang says an upcoming graphics chip should help propel the company forward.

SAN FRANCISCO--Playing down accounting issues and an ongoing pricing dispute with Microsoft, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said an upcoming graphics chip should help propel the company to continued growth this year.

Speaking on Wednesday at a chip conference here, Huang characterized the relationship with Microsoft as "very strong," adding, "We just asked a third party to help us solve some stuff."

Nvidia disclosed Monday that it was in arbitration with Microsoft over the pricing of its chips used in the Xbox, a move Nvidia said could either lead it to recognize additional revenue or force it to sell some chips at a loss--depending on how the issue is resolved. Microsoft's Xbox accounts for 15 percent to 20 percent of Nvidia's sales. Nvidia also said Monday it was restating its earnings for the past three years because of accounting issues.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, Nvidia said the restatements will include accidental double booking of expenses, accounting judgments it concluded were incorrect, and other issues. However, Huang noted that the net effect of the restatements is that Nvidia's income for the three years in question was $1.3 million higher than previously reported.

Also on Monday, Nvidia raised its financial outlook for the just-ended quarter, and Huang said he sees continued market share gains this year leading to more growth. Some of that will come from a new graphics chip slated to arrive in August.

The new chip will be manufactured on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.'s latest 0.13-micron manufacturing process, Huang said. Huang did not reveal the name or specific features of the chip, but did say it was a fundamentally new architecture from the GeForce 4 Titanium introduced earlier this year.

"It is the most important contribution we've made to the graphics industry since the founding of this company," Huang said, speaking at the Merrill Lynch Hardware Heaven Technology Conference.

Huang also noted the inroads the company has made in the Macintosh market, saying that the company expects to have the largest share of that market "very soon." Huang said that Nvidia's chips are in the eMac that Apple Computer introduced Monday.

"You are going to see many more exciting introductions in that space," Huang said.

The company also plans a follow-on to its nForce chipset, which works with Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon processors but not with Intel's Pentium 4. Huang said the company will continue to focus on chipsets for that market, rather than pursue a license to work with Intel's chips.

Huang said the Athlon market represents about 30 million PCs a year, with Nvidia getting revenue in the "mid-$20s to mid-$30s" for each nForce chipset. Plus, he said, you don't have the risk of competing with Intel's own chipsets, as is the case in the Pentium 4 market.

Chipsets are companion processors that allow the microprocessor to exchange information with other parts of the motherboard, such as memory.

Huang said the company hopes it has the accounting issues behind it, noting that the process required a lot of time, as the company worked with forensic auditors from KPMG and lawyers from Silicon Valley firm Cooley Godward.

"The lawyers and auditors are in the process of moving out of the company," Huang said.