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NVIDIA's Bea Longworth

On Android growth, desktop gaming versus mobile and console weakness

Times are changing for hardware manufacturer NVIDIA. Born and bred on creating graphics processors for gaming PCs, it now finds itself facing a new world - where traditional gaming platforms are seen by many as being in decline, with mobile on the rapid rise.

While NVIDIA hasn't found its way into Apple's mobile devices, it's aiming to be top dog in terms of chipsets for Android. The firm recently announced a roadmap for its Tegra system on a chip architecture, predicting up to 75 times the performance of its current Tegra 2 by 2014. GamesIndustry.biz spoke to the firm's senior corporate and Tegra PR manager, Bea Longworth about the realities of the rapid refocus on mobile, the likely effect on its PC graphics card business, and whether Android tablets can compete with iPad

GamesIndustry.bizHow important is Tegra to NVIDIA's overall business now? At what point will it overtake desktop graphics cards?
Bea Longworth

It already is extremely important to us, but in terms of the proportion of the business dedicated to that particular sector, it's definitely going to become one of our most important businesses in the future. We've been pretty open, over the last two or three years, that we have that expectation. And obviously mobile is currently the fastest-growing and the most exciting area of computing and technology, so it makes a lot of sense for us to be there at the forefront. So yes, we're definitely extremely committed to our mobile business and we're really excited to be able to start introducing devices from major manufacturers like LG and Samsung and Motorola based on our technology.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you foresee this growth as coming at the expense of your more traditional businesses such as discrete graphics cards?
Bea Longworth

The graphics side of thing is certainly what's historically been NVIDIA's core business, and we're by no means abandoning gamers - that's a stick our competitors have quite enjoyed beating us with. We've demonstrated that we're very committed to the mobile side of things. But that's certainly not the case; our GeForce business is still very important to us.

Our GeForce business is still very important to us. Just from a business point of view, we would be insane to abandon that right now

Just from a business point of view, we would be insane to abandon that right now, because it's the major contributor to our revenue, but also in terms of the company's heart - not just having a general love of that side of things, but being the place that a lot of our innovation comes from. And the fact that graphics processing units for consumers is such a mass market has allowed us to plough amounts of resources into research and development on the GPU side of side of things.

So even though people don't tend to take the gaming side of things that seriously, it is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the fact it does present that economy of scale has allowed us to be extremely innovate and to come up with technologies that are now the foundation of our Tegra business, and also our TESLA business which is the high-performance computing side of things.

GamesIndustry.biz How much would you agree with predictions that all the types of technology you cover will ultimately move to system on a chip architectures (a la Tegra, Apple's A5 et al)?
Bea Longworth

It'll be interesting to see how it goes. I think there will always be a place for a discrete GPU, because there will always be people who demand the absolute best of the best, the bleeding edge of performance that you can't get any other way. A discrete graphics card will always be the most powerful solution, and if you want the best that will always be the way to go.

But we've demonstrated that you don't necessarily have to compromise on performance with a system on chip solution, and in terms of being able to enter the mobile market, which is obviously enormous and a lot bigger potentially than the PC market, so it's a huge opportunity for us.

GamesIndustry.biz Could the guys who want the bleeding edge all the time theoretically move to a model where they're instead buying a new tablet or phone every six months? NVIDIA, after all, has a Tegra roadmap with near-annual updates planned until at least 2014...
Bea Longworth

They could, but there are things that you're only ever going to get with PC gaming. So obviously we are advocates of PC gaming and we get asked a lot: "Is PC gaming dying, are consoles taking over, are people just gaming on their mobile, surely no-one's going to bother with PCs anymore...?" But it really does come back down to if you're really serious about your gaming, the best experience you can have is on your PC.

Plus there are features we've introduced like 3D Vision, like PhysX, and there are features that game developers want to be able to implement that are really only possible in a desktop-type solution, where you have a large screen and you have additional technologies like 3D Vision which give you a much more immersive experience. We will continue to innovate in the desktop gaming space even while we're ramping up what we're doing on the mobile side.

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Alec Meer


A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.