Torrent of Positive Developments for GPU Makers

by: SoundView Technology Group

By Kris Tuttle

The last couple of months have been marked by a broad set of positive developments for the GPU makers, especially Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) and Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD). Some of the highlights have been:

Application acceleration goes mainstream. - The leading creative application providers, Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) and Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK), are embracing the GPU and driving the requirement for one into space of generalized computing. This actually started with prior generations of the software but we’ll see more of this in products like Adobe Creative Suite Version 5 but even Flash will take advantage of the GPU to improve performance and the experience.

Internet video gets serious. - Video is one of the leading new applications for the Internet today and it is shifting from the short grainy YouTube content of yesterday to high definition, in some cases even 3D, content. This level of digital video demands more processing power to produce and even to view properly. Everybody want’s video, more so than even text and browsing, and it’s another good reason to have a GPU in computer, especially mobile Internet devices.

GPU in the cloud. - Until recently it wasn’t clear if GPU computing power would be available in the cloud. Given the success of generic on-demand offerings from Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and others it seemed only matter of time before we would begin to see it. Both AMD and Nvidia are working closely with the major players and we will see GPU processors on-demand and in the cloud pervasively in 2010.

Cloud-based GPU applications are shipping. - Mental Images has announced and is providing Reality Server which represents the high end of digital image rendering in the cloud. Some companies are using it today with their own cloud servers. Application platforms like OTOY are enabling the highest end of gaming even on mobile devices like the iPhone using cloud-based GPU software and acceleration. Here is a link to a Techcrunch post on OTOY back in June of 2009. We also covered a demonstration of OTOY in our short research report on the 2009 Gilder Telecosm Conference. It’s available in the sample publications section of our website.

3D content has arrived. - The cinema industry has embraced it. Avatar is in theaters this week. A big difference today is that the cinema industry creates content in native digital form which means that content can be moved rather than redeveloped into other formats for games, short videos, images and other forms of consumer entertainment content.

Standards are emerging. - Although there is still plenty of bickering over PhysX versus OpenCL and DirectX versus others, these technologies are settling into mainstream software like applications, browsers, and operating systems. In cases were two important standards make it, it looks like they will both be supported. This makes it possible to deliver high-end graphics and 3D applications to a large market.

We expanded on the mobile 3D theme further in a report published yesterday by GigaOM called: 3-D Untethered: A Look at Mobile 3-D Technology (GigaOM Subscription).

On top of all the industry adoption Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) settled with AMD and paid them $1.25B, scrapped their Larrabee-based plans to enter the discrete GPU market and is under further FTC investigation for trying to screw Nvidia.

Put simply the industry is shifting to video, 3D, and mobile and right now this leaves Intel mostly out of the action. It’s great news for Nvidia, AMD, ArvinMeritor (ARM), Imagination Technology (OTCPK:IGNMF), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and a host of other semiconductor makers.

When it rains, it pours.

Author's Disclosure: The Research 2.0 model portfolio has positions in both Nvidia and Qualcomm.