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Apple may drop NVIDIA chips in Macs following contract fight

post #1 of 94
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Although they've portrayed themselves almost as best friends for several months, Apple and NVIDIA are now rumored in a spat that could see some GeForce chipsets excluded from future Mac models.

A report from this past weekend asserts that negotiations between Apple and NVIDIA are now extremely bitter after the latter's proposed terms were viewed as "arrogance and bluster" and all but rejected as-is.

Those claiming to be inside the discussions have told SemiAccurate, the new project of a previous Inquirer editor with sources inside NVIDIA, that Apple may not agree to another such deal for 3-4 years as a result of the heated words. It wouldn't result in an immediate exit, as the recentness of implementing NVIDIA chipsets into nearly all Macs means some models will keep their existing designs for a long time, but could already result in some comparatively near-term updates shedding the NVIDIA platform.

These would start with iMacs and MacBooks based on Intel's Nehalem processor architecture, the tipsters say, but would get progressively wider as time goes on.

While the exact terms that would have set off such a hostile reaction haven't been publicized, it's believed that conflicting opinions over MacBook Pro graphics failures are what would have actually triggered the resistance. As all GeForce 8600M video chipsets are known to have a heat-related defect that gradually renders them inoperable over time, Apple has not only had to replace those June 2007 and newer portables that use the part but to extend its warranty for the issue to three years regardless of whether or not the owner has AppleCare -- an expensive proposition given the ubiquity of the machines on the market until they were replaced in October 2008 with the unibody models.

Specifically, Apple may have an issue not just with the cost, at least some of which may be footed by NVIDIA through money set aside to cover all PC makers, but with answers it's received on the subject. The Cupertino-based company openly challenged NVIDIA and revealed that the graphics chip designer was falsely representing the scope of the problem, insisting that MacBook Pros wouldn't be affected at all when two entire generations of the 15- and 17-inch models were guaranteed to eventually suffer video corruption or shutdowns. Apple may also not believe NVIDIA when it claims that unibody MacBook Pros won't see the same problem due to partial similarities in the contact material used to join the GeForce 9600M GT chip die to its package.

Doubts have been raised as to just how likely it is that the Nehalem withdrawal is connected to any possible tiff between the two electronics giants, however. Electronista notes in spreading the story that Intel and NVIDIA have been embroiled in a license battle over NVIDIA's right to make logic board chipsets for any processor that has its own internal memory controller, including any desktop or notebook processor built on Nehalem. A win for Intel in its lawsuit would bar NVIDIA from ever making another chipset in the vein of the GeForce 9400M that could support Core i7 or related processors; it would immediately sabotage any roadmap for NVIDIA-based Macs once the ban took effect, no matter how amicable Apple and its partner would be at the time.

Mac Pros would never be affected as they still use an Intel chipset and dedicated graphics for the brunt of their graphics performance.

Unsurprisingly, neither Apple nor NVIDIA has discussed the rumor so far, though at least Apple's sudden change of mind wouldn't be out of place: the company famously dropped ATI (now AMD) graphics from a generation of Power Mac G4s at the last minute after the company posted a press release spoiling Apple plans just a day ahead of a Macworld keynote.
post #2 of 94
At this rate, Apple is going to run out of graphics chip makers to reject.
post #3 of 94
Well lets hope this doesn't mean a return to Intel's horrible integrated graphics.
post #4 of 94
Firstly, Charlie at SemiAccurate has got an axe to grind about NVIDIA. I would take what he says with a pinch of salt.

However it is true that NVIDIA thought they had an Intel CPU chipset creation license, and Intel has changed the goalposts by moving to DMI from the FSB, and then told NVIDIA that it is only a FSB license. This is a clear abuse of monopoly power and also acting in bad faith, but that's besides the point. NVIDIA needed Apple's clout to get a license, but instead they may have burned their bridges.

Which would be sad, because I could imagine that the follow up to the 9400M would have been even better.

Instead we will get Core i3 based MacBook Pros with integrated Intel graphics that are merely faster, cooler, versions of their current integrated graphics. To be honest I see no alternative for Apple but to include discrete graphics in all their notebooks.
post #5 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

Instead we will get Core i3 based MacBook Pros with integrated Intel graphics that are merely faster, cooler, versions of their current integrated graphics. To be honest I see no alternative for Apple but to include discrete graphics in all their notebooks.

Maybe this has something to do with changing the name from MacBook to MacBook Pro. I thought that one of the distinguishing factors between the MB and MBP was discrete graphics. Any thoughts on this?
post #6 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by hailstorm View Post

Well lets hope this doesn't mean a return to Intel's horrible integrated graphics.

That would not be good.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

Firstly, Charlie at SemiAccurate has got an axe to grind about NVIDIA. I would take what he says with a pinch of salt.

That is a little nit of a reprieve.

Quote:
However it is true that NVIDIA thought they had an Intel CPU chipset creation license, and Intel has changed the goalposts by moving to DMI from the FSB, and then told NVIDIA that it is only a FSB license. This is a clear abuse of monopoly power and also acting in bad faith, but that's besides the point. NVIDIA needed Apple's clout to get a license, but instead they may have burned their bridges.

I think Nvidia is the only tech company with more hubris that Apple. They make very wild claims and have had more problems from faulty designs than most. I am skeptical about getting the unibody MB with the 9400M because it was an untested Nvidia chipset. Thankfully it has worked out well.

Quote:
Which would be sad, because I could imagine that the follow up to the 9400M would have been even better.

Instead we will get Core i3 based MacBook Pros with integrated Intel graphics that are merely faster, cooler, versions of their current integrated graphics. To be honest I see no alternative for Apple but to include discrete graphics in all their notebooks.

Just remove the optical drive and the 13 MBPs will room for a discrete GPU and then some.
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post #7 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Springs420 View Post

Maybe this has something to do with changing the name from MacBook to MacBook Pro. I thought that one of the distinguishing factors between the MB and MBP was discrete graphics. Any thoughts on this?

The 15 MBP only has the Nvidia 9400M IGP on the low end, for the first time. The 15 MBP finally appeals to me because I dont have to waste money on a GPU I wont utilize. Id say the quality display and other components are more important to call it a professional machine, as even those reading text all day can benefit from not having the TN display that the previous 13 unibody notebook had.
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post #8 of 94
Nvidia is TOAST!
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post #9 of 94
AMD/ATI . . . here we come.

Seriously, though, if this is all true, kissing and making up with AMD for ATI tech might be the way to go. Impressive that Apple is taking a stand on the side of consumers (and of course, their own bottom line - what with all the pain of extending warranties, repairs, recalls, etc.)

Then again, this might just all be FUD. There's so much of that around here you can't swing a dead cat without hitting some.
post #10 of 94
Don't mess with The Jobs.
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post #11 of 94
Whether or not Charlie has an axe to grind, when he offers facts, he backs them up. Unless you have a different electron microscope and can contradict his findings. The fact is that nVidia has put defective parts out on the market and has done nothing but stonewall the truth, at the expense of partners like Apple, and ultimately, consumers. nVidia now is in a position where they have to minimize damages, and they are doing their best to take a charge and sweep things under the rug. In the meantime, they are pissing all their partners off.

Now, Charlie presented this latest piece over at SemiAccurate as opinion, based on rumor and unnamed sources.

That all said, the pieces certainly fit- nVidia's arrogance is coming back to bite it.

AMD is a logical substitute, but I wonder if there is something more to Apple's increased investment in Imagination.
post #12 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

Firstly, Charlie at SemiAccurate has got an axe to grind about NVIDIA. I would take what he says with a pinch of salt.

Yeah, most of Charlie's anti-nVidia rants turn out to be completely untrue
- time will tell if this is another one

- it would seem a strange time to dump nVidia as they've just launched some interesting new 40nm parts
- but nVidia may still be screwed if they can't work there way round the lack of chipset license.
post #13 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by merdhead View Post

At this rate, Apple is going to run out of graphics chip makers to reject.

AMD will welcome them with open arms and their new line up will be OpenCL ready.
post #14 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

AMD will welcome them with open arms and their new line up will be OpenCL ready.

+1

AMD/ATI would be all over Apple's biz like stink on shiza. Nvidia gets a lot of pub but ATI's hardware hasn't performed badly. The R800 stuff coming should be pretty good.
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post #15 of 94
Did you know Nvidia was God's gift to Silicon Valley? Nvidia's CEO was just on Charlie Rose. I never saw such a pompous ass! I didn't buy his BS. Neither did Charlie Rose.

This is what Apple bought PA Semi for. Plus, Intel is playing serious catchup on a competitive graphics core.

Nelaham Capella is gonna bury ATI. A marriage between PA Semi and Intel will keep the Cupertino family happy.
post #16 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by ctmike78 View Post

AMD is a logical substitute, but I wonder if there is something more to Apple's increased investment in Imagination.

You mean something from Imagination powering . . . Macbooks?

So there might be a third, "dark horse" GPU-maker? Or is it PA Semi?

Juicy!

Wouldn't it be interesting if Apple dumped Intel and announced a surprise marriage with AMD? Maybe in an alternate reality . . .
post #17 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by samurai1999 View Post

Yeah, most of Charlie's anti-nVidia rants turn out to be completely untrue
- time will tell if this is another one

- it would seem a strange time to dump nVidia as they've just launched some interesting new 40nm parts
- but nVidia may still be screwed if they can't work there way round the lack of chipset license.

Ah, the good old days. Lately I have been constantly reminded of why I got out of third-party hardware development in the first place. Software is one heck of a lot easier to update or repair, after the cattle have left the barn, than trying to redesign a flawed circuit layout. Not to mention the hit you take on returns.

And weren't these the same guys that took the Rath of Jobs a few years back for breaking their NDA and bragging that their chipset was in the new iMacs just hours before the Keynote Address?
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post #18 of 94
Perhaps Apple is looking at this from a roadmap standpoint.


They have Intel, AMD and Nvidia right now at their disposal.


Intel might not suck depending on how Larrabee turns out.

ATI and Nvidia are both solid. One of them is expendable. Considering
the faulty design of Nvidia lately their value (in Apple's eyes) may have decreased.
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post #19 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by samurai1999 View Post

Yeah, most of Charlie's anti-nVidia rants turn out to be completely untrue.

I guess that's why the site is called "Semi-Accurate"

It's one of the best names I've ever heard for a rumor/opinion site.
post #20 of 94
Here's the Man himself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZB6kxxgnOQ

Make of that what you will.

Steve Jobs he aint!
post #21 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

The 15 MBP only has the Nvidia 9400M IGP on the low end, for the first time. The 15 MBP finally appeals to me because I dont have to waste money on a GPU I wont utilize. Id say the quality display and other components are more important to call it a professional machine, as even those reading text all day can benefit from not having the TN display that the previous 13 unibody notebook had.

Going with a low end GPU may look sensible today, but in the future a computer's GPU may be even more important than the CPU.

OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch will enable software developers to utilize your GPU for non-graphics tasks. A $200 video card can process some calculations faster than the top of the line $5899 8-core Nehalem Mac Pro.

If Apple does increase their use of Radeon chips we should take heart that AMD has done a much better job in recent years supporting Apple technologies like CoreImage. For the lame, outdated Radeon 2600 to soundly beat the nVidia 8800GT shows just how little nVidia cared prior to getting the 9400M contract with Apple. I'd certainly welcome the Radeon 4850 in place of the GT130 in the high end iMac.
post #22 of 94
The trouble with this is that, because of it's CUDA experience, NVIDIA is best positioned to adopt OpenCL the fastest. OpenCL currently runs best on NVIDIA dedicated graphics 8800 GT and better. ATI cards are not so OpenCL compatible. Maybe it's just drivers, but that's the state of the union right now.

If Apple wants Snow Leopard to be a success, then need at least a few Macs shipping that support it. And those macs are largely NVIDIA-based right now.
post #23 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bregalad View Post

Going with a low end GPU may look sensible today, but in the future a computer's GPU may be even more important than the CPU.

OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch will enable software developers to utilize your GPU for non-graphics tasks. A $200 video card can process some calculations faster than the top of the line $5899 8-core Nehalem Mac Pro.

If Apple does increase their use of Radeon chips we should take heart that AMD has done a much better job in recent years supporting Apple technologies like CoreImage. For the lame, outdated Radeon 2600 to soundly beat the nVidia 8800GT shows just how little nVidia cared prior to getting the 9400M contract with Apple. I'd certainly welcome the Radeon 4850 in place of the GT130 in the high end iMac.

Excellent point! I look forward to seeing some real world tests of SL this September.
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post #24 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Excellent point! I look forward to seeing some real world tests of SL this September.

What kind of graphics card do you have?
post #25 of 94
Yes, Apple and Nvidia may be going through some difficulties about defective graphic cards. However there is no doubt in my mind that Intel is pushing Apple to drop Nvidia.

Intel is like Microsoft. Neither likes competition, nor welcome fair play. If Nvidia had not developed a formidable competitor, Intel wouldn't care. But when Nvidia took part of Intel's market, the fight was on. And the way it is shaping up, the consumers will be the losers. If Intel succeeds in court, Nvidia will be served a cease and desist notice, Intel will crawl back to their slow innovation, and Mac systems will become stagnant to only what Intel can dish out to Apple. To hell with that idea.
post #26 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by John the Geek View Post

What kind of graphics card do you have?

2.4GHz unibody MB with 9400M and 4GB RAM. Im seeing about a 10-12% performance boost over Leopard in 32-bit and 64-bit benchmarks. This system is apparently GC and OpenCL compatible but I have done no specific testing on these actual features to see how much gain Im getting in general or even if they are enabled with any apps.
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post #27 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Intel might not suck depending on how Larrabee turns out.

ATI and Nvidia are both solid. One of them is expendable. Considering
the faulty design of Nvidia lately their value (in Apple's eyes) may have decreased.

Except Larrabee is a discrete GPU, not an integrated GPU, so it will not necessarily be cheaper than ATI and nVidia's discrete solutions. While it should have good OpenCL performance due to its general purpose design, it may not perform so well on conventional GPU workloads such as games.
post #28 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by John the Geek View Post

The trouble with this is that, because of it's CUDA experience, NVIDIA is best positioned to adopt OpenCL the fastest. OpenCL currently runs best on NVIDIA dedicated graphics 8800 GT and better. ATI cards are not so OpenCL compatible. Maybe it's just drivers, but that's the state of the union right now.

If Apple wants Snow Leopard to be a success, then need at least a few Macs shipping that support it. And those macs are largely NVIDIA-based right now.

I thought ATI also have some good experiences with Close To Metal. In addition, Intel's Larrabee is basically designed for OpenCL-type workloads.
post #29 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

2.4GHz unibody MB with 9400M and 4GB RAM. Im seeing about a 10-12% performance boost over Leopard in 32-bit and 64-bit benchmarks. This system is apparently GC and OpenCL compatible but I have done no specific testing on these actual features to see how much gain Im getting in general or even if they are enabled with any apps.

You will get average performance out of it. Not as good in speed as the dedicated memory models on MBP 9600M GTs would be, but that general chipset family is the best supported in OpenCL right now. My Desktop has two 8800GTs and they run fantastically in OpenCL. Our ATI cards, even the newer ones, just don't.

So you won't win any speed contests with the mobile chip, but the driver support for OpenCL is top notch.
post #30 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

Which would be sad, because I could imagine that the follow up to the 9400M would have been even better.

Instead we will get Core i3 based MacBook Pros with integrated Intel graphics that are merely faster, cooler, versions of their current integrated graphics. To be honest I see no alternative for Apple but to include discrete graphics in all their notebooks.

There won't be a follow-up to 9400M because Intel has integrated the memory controller with the CPU, which means it's no longer possible to produce a decent performing integrated GPU unless you are Intel. nVidia will have to focus on low-cost discrete GPUs in the post-Nehalem world.

I just hope that this will finally convince Apple to forget about integrated GPUs and start including proper GPUs in their future products. It's shameful that they chose to go with Intel's crap for the last few years and then kept on using integrated GPUs on their premium-priced products (premium-priced, but certainly not premium-spec'd).
post #31 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by someone00 View Post

Except Larrabee is a discrete GPU, not an integrated GPU, so it will not necessarily be cheaper than ATI and nVidia's discrete solutions. While it should have good OpenCL performance due to its general purpose design, it may not perform so well on conventional GPU workloads such as games.

Intel is planning ondie Larrabee cores

Larrabee to make a fast 32nm transition

Quote:
When it comes to its GPU line-up, Intel plans to adopt 32nm process for its Larrabee core as soon as possible. The chip giant is working on several 32nm Larrabee designs, with at least one being planned for "fusing" with the CPU die on a processor socket - succeeding Clarkdale. The company is keeping its tick-tock model for Larrabee as well, using a mature manufacturing process for new architecture, applying a die-shrink, followed by a launch of the new architecture using the same architecture as the die-shrunk one. In case of Larrabee, 45nm is a start, 32nm is a die-shrink, and real second gen part is 32nm, then 22nm die-shrink and so on.
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post #32 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Intel is planning ondie Larrabee cores

Larrabee to make a fast 32nm transition

The Larrabee currently only has 32 cores though, same as the 9600M GT, so while it finally competes with the MBP for OpenCL, it doesn't come close to the desktop power NVIDIA has in the 249 cores in the GTX 280 or the 128 cores in the 8800 GT.

To be fair though, once Larrabee gets to 64 cores it will be the best notebook card available for OpenCL.
post #33 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

The 15 MBP only has the Nvidia 9400M IGP on the low end, for the first time. The 15 MBP finally appeals to me because I dont have to waste money on a GPU I wont utilize. Id say the quality display and other components are more important to call it a professional machine, as even those reading text all day can benefit from not having the TN display that the previous 13 unibody notebook had.

I wouldn't accept an integrated GPU on a $1700 computer, period. Having a high-performing GPU will soon be important even for everyday workloads, as applications such as Photoshop, Premiere Pro, FCS, Mathematica etc. move to OpenCL and start utilizing more and more of the GPU's untapped power. The MPEG4 standard may also see the addition of far more complicated and processor-intensive compression techniques in the future.
post #34 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post

Intel is planning ondie Larrabee cores

Larrabee to make a fast 32nm transition

Remember they haven't even launched the 45nm Larrabee yet. Larrabee's performance also heavily depends on its driver (much more so than conventional GPUs) and that it will take a while for Intel to work out the driver kinks.
post #35 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by someone00 View Post

I wouldn't accept an integrated GPU on a $1700 computer, period. Having a high-performing GPU will soon be important even for everyday workloads, as applications such as Photoshop, Premiere Pro, FCS, Mathematica etc. move to OpenCL and start utilizing more and more of the GPU's untapped power. The MPEG4 standard may also see the addition of far more complicated and processor-intensive compression techniques in the future.

That is my point. I dont need the GPU performance or the power draw as I dont use any of those apps or anything specific to the GPU. If OpenCL does work out well then that is a different story. Still, unless Apple can make the system switch between IGP and GPU dynamically when I move from plugged to battery then I see no reason to pay for something that will likely add little to no value at this point. If I wanted a high performance GPU on a crappy TN display I could certainly get one. Since the MB was made a MBP I now get the better display at the 13 size so the 15 isnt looking as attractive as it did, regardless of price.
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post #36 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post

You mean something from Imagination powering . . . Macbooks?

it is a good possibility for the notebook line especially Mac Book. Their newest is OpenCL compatible and scalable. Scalable in the sense that an implemented could put one to sixteen functional blocks on a chip. Now I don't know where they top out frequency wise but that is as much a process issue as it is a design issue.

The question is of course can they out perform the 9400M. If only I could find that article that covered Imagination, but I do remember seeing numbers suitable for the laptop world. I'd have to say though that it is a remote possibility.
Quote:

So there might be a third, "dark horse" GPU-maker? Or is it PA Semi?

Kinda looks that way. In any event I've never been convinced that PA Semi was purchased for iPod chips only. There was to much talent in that company to focus just on iPods. Imagine if Apple/PA had a license to use DMI, they could produce one highly tailored chip to enable their low end line.

Right now there is only one independant GPU maker for the mainstream computing market. If Imagination could enable suitable parts/IP for Apple to implement in it's machines then Apple has an alternative to that vendor (nvidia). It is not however a simple process to build an integrated chipsets. Apple would have to feel really cornered to go this route.
Quote:
Juicy!

Wouldn't it be interesting if Apple dumped Intel and announced a surprise marriage with AMD? Maybe in an alternate reality . . .

They don't have to dump intel but rather simply need to implement a few machines with ATI parts. For certain markets I'm convinced that AMD would be a better choice.

Dave
post #37 of 94
PA Semi's for all Mac's!

OS X hardware lock again!

Rosetta 2!

Yea!
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post #38 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

There was to much talent in that company to focus just on iPods. Imagine if Apple/PA had a license to use DMI, they could produce one highly tailored chip to enable their low end line.

DMI is too bandwidth-constrained for integrated GPUs. Apple will either have to go with Intel IGPUs or low cost discrete parts.
post #39 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by someone00 View Post

Remember they haven't even launched the 45nm Larrabee yet. Larrabee's performance also heavily depends on its driver (much more so than conventional GPUs) and that it will take a while for Intel to work out the driver kinks.

this is a big problem with Intel. The combo of their drivers and hardware just doesn't inspire faith that the new stuff will be better.

On top of that I'm not convinced that Larabee is all it is cracked up to be. Time will tell here also but the types of things GPUs are being used for now for acceleration don't need or want general purpose compute units. If you need general purpose acceleration add more cores in your CPU. GPUs need to be optimized for what they do best or most frequently to keep power usage down.

Dave
post #40 of 94
Quote:
Originally Posted by someone00 View Post

DMI is too bandwidth-constrained for integrated GPUs. Apple will either have to go with Intel IGPUs or low cost discrete parts.

I could see where this would be a problem if the port was shared with anything else but the Intel chip would be supplying the PCI Express lanes. So the integration would be different.

Besides if Apple or Nvidia wanted to we are to the point where it would be possible to integrate video RAM right on the GPU die. Especially if a 9400M class GPU didn't have a bunch of others support logic on board.

I don't claim that this would be a high performance system but the potential is there for a very lowcost PC board with minimal component costs. Besides if this wouldn't work then why would Nvidia generate all the commotion about the need for a DMI license.


Dave
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