In the tech world, some things sound more implausible than others. This is one such implausibility: could your next Nvidia GPU come out of an Intel foundry? According to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, Nvidia is considering it.
Huang’s comments came at a Q&A session yesterday (via Tom's Hardware). Discussion around Intel’s Foundry services led to the surprising comments. "We are very open-minded to considering Intel, and I'm delighted by the efforts that they're making," Huang said. If Intel’s process technology can deliver a favourable combination of clock frequency and power consumption, why wouldn't Nvidia want to explore the option?
Even though Intel is set to directly compete with Nvidia in the GPU market, the discussions have been confirmed by Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger. He told Reuters that Intel is "thrilled for their interest in using our foundry capabilities." He said discussions with Nvidia were ongoing.
Ongoing global supply chain issues and an over reliance on TSMC is leading to some interesting chipmaking dynamics. Competing foundries including Intel and Samsung are spending tens of billions of dollars to increase their manufacturing capabilities. All that upcoming capacity is definitely shaking things up. A few years ago, the chances of Intel making Nvidia chips would have been inconceivable given the sometimes acrimonious relationship between the two companies.
Discussion moved towards the topic of sharing valuable secrets with Intel, but Huang dismissed this, saying that "we have been working closely with Intel, sharing with them our roadmap long before we share it with the public, for years. Intel has known our secrets for years. AMD has known our secrets for years. We are sophisticated and mature enough to realise that we have to collaborate.”
The sharing of info isn’t as surprising as it sounds. We see it with companies such as Apple and Samsung, both of which make competing products. There are so many industry standards and things such as API development that require collaboration between companies, though not often to this degree. Should Intel manufacture Nvidia GPUs, it will necessarily be exposed to Nvidia’s closely held IP. Intel is hard at work on its own line of GPUs and it surely wouldn't mind a peek under the hood of Nvidia's future tech. Of course, there would be ironclad NDAs or Chinese walls to prevent shenanigans.
Jensen Huang notes that some of its most lucrative HPC products use AMD and Intel CPUs and technology. So while you might come across toxic forum or reddit comments and memes, the companies work together more than most of the public realises. Having said that, Intel manufacturing Nvidia GPUs would still be one of the more unexpected developments in the PC space in recent years, should it come to pass.
What’s next? Will Intel manufacture AMD CPUs? That one might be a bridge too far.