Nvidia and Integrated Chipsets

News.com’s story gives a good insight into what Nvidia is doing. Its a company to track as it takes on Intel in the chips business. Writes News.com:

Integrated chipsets that combine chipset and no-nonsense graphics processor functions appeared on the PC market about five years ago and have quickly become the preferred option for PC makers to handle both jobs in low-end PCs. About half of all PCs now ship with integrated chipsets, with the rest using traditional standalone graphics cards.

Integrated chipsets are tricky financial propositions for graphics chip makers. Profit margins are wafer-thin compared with those associated with the market for flashier standalone graphics processors, where a small but significant audience of gamers and other enthusiasts is willing to pay stiff premiums for the latest technology. Development costs involved in mastering chipset design are also high for anyone entering the business.

The advantage of having both chipset and standalone graphics products is that the chipsets allow a graphics chipmaker to squeeze more life out of investments in graphics technology, McCarron said. Nowadays, flashier, standalone graphics chips become obsolete quickly. But the integrated products tend to have legs.

An earlier News.com article (Nov 1, 2001) provides additional context:

The graphics business has changed drastically in the past couple of years, with low-end PCs integrating graphics directly into the chipset to save costs, abandoning the need for separate graphics chips or boards.

“The market has really moved toward integrated” graphics, said Mike Feibus, principal at Mercury Research. “Everyday users don’t need a high-end graphics card.”

nForce takes risks in that it aims to create a market niche where none existed before, a middle-of-the-road between high-end chipsets with no graphics and low-price chipsets with integrated graphics.

What I find interesting is Nvidia’s strategies as it takes on an entrenched market leader. We will need to do the same soon in software.

China Tech Report – News.com

China’s new dynasty is a 3-part report. Writes News.com: “After years of being called a sleeping giant of technology, China is finally awakening. As its society changes and education system matures, the country is becoming a major consumer and producer of computer products. And as the global recession leaves few fertile opportunities elsewhere, China has emerged as a primary target for foreign business.”

Citrix Shortfall

Citrix shares fell to a 5-year low, “after the company projected earnings well below analysts’ forecasts and said it plans cut jobs and discretionary spending to bring expenses in line with revenue.”

Writes WSJ: “Citrix, which makes software used to run applications on non-personal-computer terminals, said that although electronic licensing to larger customers was up about 15%, weakness in packaged-product sales, which also caused distribution partners to lower their inventories, hurt overall second-quarter revenue.”

Citrix is a company I track because it is a leader in server-based computing. The company expects Q2 revenues of USD 116-118 million.

In fact, I wrote about Citrix’s Solutions in yesterday’s Tech Talk.

Blogging for Beginners

Jeremy Wagstaff on how to begin: “I’d plump for Weblogger or Blogger, I had teething problems with both. Blogger wouldn’t let me set up archives of old postings on anything but one of its own hosted sites, despite promises to the contrary, and I couldn’t get my brain around tweaking the background images on Weblogger. That said, both are intuitive and user-friendly without being twee. Xanga, while fiddly for setting colors and other layout preferences, also offers great extras, such as a live news feed from the king of news feeds, Moreover.”

Also see: Jeremy’s Weblog

TECH TALK: Server-based Computing: The Linux Difference

Linux is the enabler for the disruptive innovation in Server-based Computing. On the server side, Linux has already made inroads in the past few years, with the availability of a full suite of software packages like Apache (web server), Samba (file server), Squid (Proxy Server), MySQL and PostgreSQL (database servers) and JBoss (application server). This, though, is an old story.

The real innovations are happening on the client side with the availability of a number of desktop applications which are comparable to the ones available under Microsoft Windows. These are Evolution (email, calendar, contact database like Outlook), Mozilla (web browser like Internet Explorer) and OpenOffice (word processor, spreadsheet and presentation package like MS Office). Taken together, for the first time it is possible to think of a Linux-based Desktop which offers much of the functionality of MS-Windows.

The main hurdle for many years has been the file compatibility issue. Microsoft Offices monopoly on the desktop means that one has to be able to read and write MS Office file formats. There are two options: one is to use OpenOffice which will read most MS Office files (as long as they are not too complicated) and will also write MS Office file formats, and the second is to convert the MS Office files to HTML and then send it across to people.

For people who have been using Windows on the desktop for many years, it will not be an easy switch to a Linux desktop. But if one is willing to unlearn a few things and relearn a few new things, it is possible to get up to speed with a good-enough alternative in a few days. The big attraction to make the switch: the savings of nearly USD 500 (Rs 25,000) on the desktop. Multiply that with tens or hundreds of people in the enterprise, and the numbers can get quite big.

One key point to note is that the Thin Client and the Thick Server are on the same LAN, so access is instantaneous. The LAN can be an Ethernet running across the enterprise or connecting multiple homes, or a cable drops across multiple homes in a building or neighbourhood, or a Wireless LAN solution which connects the nodes to a network access point. In each of the modes, the Thin Clients connect to the Thick Servers at multi-megabit speeds.

The Linux-based Thin Client (which can be an old used PC) and Thick Server solution makes computing available to a large segment of people who previously did not have access to it. As with most disruptive innovations, the early adopters are likely to the ones for whom the solution is a delight. Think of emerging markets, schools, colleges, homes and cybercafes. It now becomes possible to contemplate a mass market infrastructure for computing with legal software and at a very low cost.

Look at some of the statistics about Indias computer market. PC sales for the year-ending March 2002 were 1.67 million units, down 11% from the previous year. While the number of units sold is itself quite pathetic (India accounted for less than 1.2% of the PC sales worldwide last year), what is even more appalling is the year-on-year decrease. How can an emerging market like India even dream of entering the developed markets orbit with falling PC sales?

Tomorrow: How India can Lead