Published in Graphics

Nvidia to license Kepler to ARM SoC makers

by on19 June 2013

That escalated quickly

Nvidia can be a bit strange at times and its decision to license Kepler to mobile application manufacturers definitely falls into this category. Now that the company finally has a competitive GPU on its T4 series SoCs, and when it is getting ready to integrate an even more powerful one in the next generation, it is willing to sell the Kepler GPU architecture to other companies, to its competitors more or less.

Nvidia will also license other intellectual property to the highest bidder, including licenses and IP necessary for GPU design. In other words companies who take up the Kepler offer might be able to come up with custom designs to best meet their needs.

“We'll start by licensing the GPU core based on the NVIDIA Kepler architecture, the world's most advanced, most efficient GPU. Its DX11, OpenGL 4.3, and GPGPU capabilities, along with vastly superior performance and efficiency, create a new class of licensable GPU cores,” he said. “Through our efforts designing Tegra into mobile devices, we've gained valuable experience designing for the smallest power envelopes. As a result, Kepler can operate in a half-watt power envelope, making it scalable from smartphones to supercomputers.”

We must admit that we are rather surprised by the announcement. There is clearly a lot of money to be made in the mobile GPU market, dominated by Imagination Technologies and ARM, so Nvidia is basically choosing to sell its crown jewels to the competition. It is an interesting turn of events to say the least and it might signify the end of the two-horse race in the market. In addition, there is a chance that Samsung or Apple will chose to buy Nvidia’s IP, which could prove very profitable for Jen-Hsun Huang’s outfit.

So what about AMD? It sold Adreno to Qualcomm for pocket change a few years ago, but it might not be out of the running. In a recent interview AMD’s Sasa Marinkovic said although the company sold Adreno it “didn’t forget” how to do mobile graphics. We hope not, and we hope someone at AMD is seriously considering getting back in the game. It would be very interesting to see one of the industry’s longest standing rivalries extend into a whole new market.

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