The first big event of 2007 after CES, of course, is the January 30th Vista launch. Both camps needs Vista compliant drivers. ATI needs Crossfire, Avivo and OpenGL in its existing driver while Nvidia doesn't have anything in the the public one at this time. I am anxious to see how G80 works under Vista DX10 games or benchmarks but at this time we don't have a drivers or benchmarks. I am sure that AMD will focus its R600 launch on the performance under DirectX 10 as this is what the card is meant for.
The computer industry is hoping for great things from Vista. You need to upgrade at least the memory in your computer to enjoy Vista and probably you will want or simply need a new graphics card to see the full power of it. The upgrade market is expected to bloom and we don't even want to start on PC sales. Everything that comes from February on will have the Vista sticker on it.
R600 is the first big graphic thing of 2007, and its 80 nanometre and two power connectors with a massive fan performance will probably mark the end of an era. First generation DirectX 10 cards will probably barely see any DirectX 10 titles before they get replaced with the refreshed products.
Nvidia plans G84 and G86 for just after CeBIT time, in Q2 2006. Nvidia will once again be the first with DirectX 10 hardware for mainstream and entry level with ATI to follow in about a quarter's time. We cannot predict the winner yet.
Nvidia will lose a bit of its edge as Apple deal with Portal player and transition to Video player will take some focus off the desktop. Nvidia will also struggle with a few other problems. One is how to serve so many OEM demands in both discrete and mobile business. We expect that Nvidia will lose a lot of its just gained mobile market as AMD-ATI will convince OEMs and ODMs to buy AMD chip, ATI chipset and graphic for the notebook and other machines and probably will get the right price for the whole package.
Nvidia still has to move to 80 nanometre and after than there is a hard step called 65 nanometre. We still don't know what will be the first 65 nanometre chip but we heavily suspect that AMD will get the crown here with one of its future entry level parts.
The handheld future looks good for both players. AMD will continue to enjoy good treatment from Motorola but will have to focus more on 3G phones. Nvidia already stole a few monitors and a single Sony Ericsson design with its 3G chipsets. AMD will probably have its first Nokia design by the end of 2007.
Both companies are up against Texas Instruments which quietly has most of the design wins in the mobile phone high end business.
2007 will again be the year of ATI's dominance in the entry level market. So was the 2006 and most of 2005. ATI just has the right formula for the entry level market and is seeing bunch of this money making cards. Nvidia was never even close in this market segment but Nvidia will continue to be strong in performance and in the high end market. The real question now is whether two R600 cards beat two G80s in SLI.
Intel will get stronger on both integrated and discrete products. 2007 might be the year of Intel's discrete product re-introduction. As Intel is a greedy money machine it might just do it to take even more graphic market share. To be honest, all Intel needs to do is to make a decent chipset with DX10 support and everyone would be out of business. Imagine that your Centrino notebook could play FEAR at least at 640x480 - that would be great even if it's integrated. Well this is unlikely to happen even in 2007.
Intel's G35 is scheduled for Q3 2007 and will have DirectX 10 support. If Intel gets any gaming capability in that chipset it will be trouble. We know it will certainly run Vista just fine.
Fusion is the next big graphics thing. Well it is sort of CPU-Graphic concept that will save some power and make a system on a chip possible. This will probably be shown in 2007 but this won't go into production before 2008. there will be a lot of talk about it as AMD will need to get the focus of the Intel's successful Core 2 Quad chips.
What happens to ATI? Well nothing will change that much. It is working on R600 refreshes of this mainstream graphic and a DX10 integrated chipset. All this stuff is scheduled for 2007 and after than there is a R700 chip. It is in the works, but we don't yet know the schedules. Nvidia will probably have G90 around that time and will make it using a 65 nanometre process if it is brave enough. So will ATI. ATI continues with business as usual and will be more on schedule with AMD's strong arm and all the biro rats around.
Will Nvidia make a CPU? Well we strongly believe that where there is a smoke, there is fire but this will be one of the wonders to unveil in 2007. We would not be that surprised. If Intel picked up Nvidia and digested it, we would not be surprised either as it could happen.
Long term Nvidia will probably have to team with one of the big guys such as Broadcom or Texas Instruments if it wants to survive the game. µ
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