Nvidia Offers Sneak Peek of Chips for Intel PCs

The company is previewing its nForce 4 chip sets, which feature integrated graphics chips and will offer native firewall solutions built into the core logic, at the Intel Developer Forum.

SAN FRANCISCO—In November, Intel Corp. and chip set maker Nvidia Corp. announced an agreement where the two would license each others technology, a deal that was years in the making.

At the Intel Developer Forum here this week, Nvidia is giving users a glimpse of what it will be offering later this spring.

Nvidia, of Santa Clara, Calif., is previewing chip sets with integrated graphics chips that have been offered in PCs running Advanced Micro Devices Inc. for several years, but until this year havent been available in Intel-based computers.

Chip sets control the traffic inside the PC, helping direct data between the memory and processor.

The company is expected to start rolling out the nForce 4 platform for Intel systems later in its fiscal quarter, which runs from February to April. The technology will be aimed at PC enthusiasts and gamers, who "are the prognosticators of whats going to be mainstream in the marketplace," said Drew Henry, general manager of Nvidias nForce media communications processors.

Among the technology being demonstrated by Nvidia is SLI (Scalable Link Interface), which enables users to take two GPUs (graphics processing units) and plug them into a single PC, offering greater scalability, Henry said. The SLI technology takes advantage of the greater bandwidth offered by PCI Express, which unlike PCI, is a serial link, enabling more data to move through fewer lines than via the parallel delivery of PCI.

In addition, the nForce 4 chip sets will offer native firewall solutions built into the core logic, Henry said. A key concern for PC users is security within networks, particularly if its done via wireless connectivity into broadband networks.

"By making [the firewall] native in the PC, we can provide a level of protection for the enthusiast," he said.

Nvidia also will demonstrate how the chip set will enable a second hard drive to be plugged into the system and automatically set up, protecting data in the first hard drive should a failure occur, Henry said. It also will alert the user if the hard drive is lost.

"There are a lot of assets that you lose if you lose your hard drive," he said. "Its a serious financial loss."

While the chip sets are targeted at the high-end PC users, such capabilities are beginning to play a larger role in the enterprise. Henry said demand for streaming video in businesses is increasing.

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"Streaming video is becoming more and more a core part of communication in corporations," he said.

In addition, enterprises are using workstations to run graphic-intensive applications, such as automotive designs and oil exploration.

"When you are designing cars or designing the next big blockbuster film for Hollywood … or youre searching for the next big oil field, you have to be able to visualize these things," Henry said.

Nvidia has had a close working relationship with AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., for close to five years, but the deal with Intel, also of Santa Clara, will give Nvidia access to an even wider market, enabling it compete more closely with the likes of Via Technologies Inc. and ATI Technologies Inc. in the integrated chip set space.

"A lot of people are committed to one CPU platform or another," Henry said. "They want to be able to stick to one CPU platform and they also want our core logic."

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