Apple may drop NVIDIA chips in Macs following contract fight

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 93
    merdheadmerdhead Posts: 587member
    At this rate, Apple is going to run out of graphics chip makers to reject.
  • Reply 2 of 93
    Well lets hope this doesn't mean a return to Intel's horrible integrated graphics.
  • Reply 3 of 93
    hattighattig Posts: 858member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 93
    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?
  • Reply 5 of 93
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 93
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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 don?t have to waste money on a GPU I won?t utilize. I?d 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.
  • Reply 7 of 93
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,341member
    Nvidia is TOAST!
  • Reply 8 of 93
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,756member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 93
    8corewhore8corewhore Posts: 833member
    Don't mess with The Jobs.
  • Reply 10 of 93
    ctmike78ctmike78 Posts: 21member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 93
    samurai1999samurai1999 Posts: 274member
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 93
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,502member
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 93
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,341member
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 93
    mj webmj web Posts: 918member
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 93
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,756member
    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 . . .
  • Reply 16 of 93
    justflybobjustflybob Posts: 1,337member
    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?
  • Reply 17 of 93
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,341member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 93
    bsenkabsenka Posts: 799member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 93
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,756member
    Here's the Man himself:



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



    Make of that what you will.



    Steve Jobs he aint!
  • Reply 20 of 93
    bregaladbregalad Posts: 816member
    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 don?t have to waste money on a GPU I won?t utilize. I?d 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.
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