updated 04:55 pm EDT, Wed July 1, 2009
Apple May Drop NVIDIA
Apple and NVIDIA may be engaged in a fierce dispute that could exclude NVIDIA graphics chips from future Macs, according to sources reportedly aware of the talks. They claim to SemiAccurate that Apple views NVIDIA's proposals for renewed deals as "arrogance" and that much of the argument centers on the overheating material that triggered widespread failures in all GeForce 8400M and 8600M mobile graphics chips. The Mac firm has had to extend MacBook Pro warranties for up to three years and may be skeptical of NVIDIA's insistence that newer models aren't at risk of the same problem.
If unable to come to terms, the two companies may not make any kind of true break for the next three to four years, but certain models may already drop NVIDIA's components. The tip suggests that iMacs and MacBooks based on Intel's Nehalem architecture, likely to be based on the Arrandale dual-core mobile chip design, would be the first to switch out to a different platform.
Neither company has commented on the accuracy of the story, though it comes from a former Inquirer editor known for access to NVIDIA.
Apple has become increasingly dependent on NVIDIA as the GeForce 9400M underpins all of its Mac models except for the Mac Pro, as the graphics chipset producer doesn't make a chipset that supports Xeon processors. Many of the discrete graphics options, like the GeForce 9600M GT in larger MacBook Pros and the GeForce GT 120 in some iMacs and Mac Pros, also come from the same company.
However, it's not clear that a move away from NVIDIA would stem strictly from fight over contractual terms that dictate the level of influence. It and Intel have filed countering lawsuits over a license granted to NVIDIA to make mainboard chipsets. Intel believes the license doesn't cover any processor with an integrated memory controller and threatens legal action if NVIDIA uses knowledge gained from the earlier deal to make mainboard chipsets that support Nehalem-based chips such as the Core i7 line. NVIDIA has insisted that its license covers all Intel chips and that its one-time friendly partner is violating a contract to stifle competition from sequels to Ion and the GeForce 9400M, both of which significantly outperform any of Intel's own graphics without necessarily affecting either energy use or price.
Without a renewed license in place between Intel and NVIDIA, Apple would likely have no choice but to revert back to Intel for mainboard chipsets regardless of its own relationship with NVIDIA. It would have to consider dedicated graphics chipsets from AMD to maintain the same level of visual performance as it has today.