A rumour linking graphics chipset manufacturer NVIDIA with the PlayStation 3 has been described as "ridiculous" by a senior source, who claims that the company will design its own GPU for the console.
The rumour was reported widely last week by a number of online news sites, based on a single article on CNN which quoted American Technology Research analyst Erach Desai as saying that NVIDIA "is in discussions with Sony for the PS3".
However, a senior source close to Sony Computer Entertainment told gi.biz that it was a "ridiculous suggestion" that Sony would look elsewhere for a designer and manufacturer for the graphics processor (GPU) for the future console. "Sony has its own chip design teams and manufacturing facilities with massive experience in this sort of thing," he commented. "Lashing NVIDIA's technology onto the PS3 architecture would simply make no sense either technologically or commercially."
Although NVIDIA is recognised as one of the market leaders in PC graphics technology, along with ATI, the company's chipsets are very different to the type of graphics unit required by the PS3 architecture, he claimed. This matches up with comments from other development sources who claim that the PS3 will feature a graphics chip not dissimilar to the Graphics Synthesizer in the PS2 - "effectively GS Mark Two", one told us - which Sony's internal teams are far better placed to create than NVIDIA's.
Sony is noted for taking a homegrown approach with the components in its console; the PS3 is expected to feature the Cell microprocessor, which Sony created in partnership with IBM and Toshiba, while the PS2 and PSP both feature custom graphics chipsets designed by Sony's labs. This approach allows the company to enjoy significant economies over the lifespan of a console, as its engineers can continue to work on integrating components into single chips or reducing the cost of the manufacturing process by other means.
NVIDIA's major rival in the PC space, ATI, recently won the contract to create the graphics chipset for the successor to Microsoft's Xbox - no surprise to those who have been following the internal tensions in the relationship between Microsoft and NVIDIA over the current Xbox contract, but rumours suggest that the final stumbling block may have been a refusal by NVIDIA to hand over manufacturing permissions for the chipset to Microsoft rather than creating and supplying all of the components itself. Given Sony's track record, it seems highly unlikely that it would accept anything less than this from a technology partner - so even ignoring the technology hurdles, a deal seems highly unlikely.
However, our source could not rule out the possibility of discussions between Sony and NVIDIA. "I'd expect that Sony talk to a lot of people," he commented. "In a business like that you always explore all the options, but it would take a hell of a pitch to change minds at Sony about internally developing the GPU, and NVIDIA just don't have that pitch. People hear a whisper that someone from NVIDIA is talking to someone from Sony and bang, you have a massive rumour, but it really doesn't mean anything - people from these companies talk all the time."