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Nvidia CEO says 'no' to Intel-compatible chip

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang dismisses rumors that the graphics chip supplier is working on an Intel-compatible chip.

Despite persistent rumors, Nvidia's chief executive says the graphics chip supplier is not working on an Intel-compatible chip.

Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang
Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang Nvidia

In an exclusive interview with CNET Thursday, I asked CEO Jen-Hsun Huang about the possibility of Nvidia coming up with its own x86 (Intel-compatible) chip technology, after the company reported strong third-quarter earnings. A recurring rumor has it that Nvidia is developing a chip that would be able to run the same software that runs on all Intel- and AMD-based PCs worldwide.

"No," he said when asked if there was any truth to the rumor. "Nvidia's strategy is very, very clear. I'm very straightforward about it. Right now, more than ever, we have to focus on visual and parallel computing."

Huang went on to describe where the chip supplier sees its best opportunities for growth. "Our strategy is to proliferate the GPU (graphics processing unit) into all kinds of platforms for growth," he said. "GPUs in servers for parallel computing, for supercomputing--and cloud computing with our GPU is a fabulous growth opportunity--and streaming video."

"And also getting our GPUs into the lowest power platforms we can imagine and driving mobile computing with it," Huang added, referring to its Tegra chip, which, for example, powers Microsoft's Zune HD media player.

Despite Huang's denials, Doug Freedman of Broadpoint AmTech is the latest to postulate that Nvidia will enter the x86 central processing unit market. "We feel Nvidia could become a supplier of x86 CPUs by necessity, perhaps in the next 12 months (if not sooner) to preserve both GPU and chipset revenue," Freedman said in a note recently.

"We believe the company has hired former Transmeta staff extensively," Freedman said. Transmeta was at one time a low-power x86-compatible chip supplier. Earlier this year, Intellectual Ventures acquired the patent portfolio of Transmeta.

Huang also dismissed the the possibility of Nvidia using Globalfoundries as a manufacturing partner--typically referred to as a "foundry" or a "fab"--for its chips, after saying in the earnings conference call that Nvidia's longstanding foundry partner--Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC)--was not allocating it enough capacity.

"Globalfoundries is an AMD fab, right?" he said. "Globalfoundries is AMD's fab. Our strategy is TSMC."