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NVIDIA is using Intel-style tactics to help maintain its leadership of the PC graphics market, sources close to Taiwan's graphics card manufacturers have claimed. NVIDIA has apparently been asking board vendors not to produce products based on rival graphics technologies - Imagination Technologies' and STMicroelectronics' Kyro II, in particular. According to sources cited by DigiTimes, one vendor cracked under the pressure and not only pulled its Kyro II-based board but had to write a grovelling apology to NVIDIA.

Certainly NVIDIA has been waging what's arguably a dirty war to protect sales of its low-end graphics chip business, primarily to persuade system builders not to adopt Kyro II-based boards in preference to its GeForce 2 MX-based alternatives. An NVIDIA document circulated to system builders and seen by The Register damns the Kyro II as "designed by committee with an unproven record" and concludes: "Buying Kyro 2 is a risk - and when cards and PCs get returned it damages your finances and your reputation."

If NVIDIA is getting as "heavy-handed" as the DigiTimes piece suggests, that will be good news not only for STMicroelectronics but for NVIDIA arch-rival ATI, which last week opened up its current line of graphics chips to third-party board makers. Of course, the reason it made such a move is NVIDIA's significant lead in desktop PC graphics marketshare. ATI will still have to win a lot of disgruntled NVIDIA customers over to catch up with its rival. The fact ATI has a long way to go to catch Nvidia up is a sign of just how strong NVIDIA's support among board buyers is, however heavy handed it is with its manufacturers.

Well-known names (ahem) Club 3D, Chance-I, Ennyah, InnoVision, Joytech, Kifer,Lung Hwa, MPlusTech, OJU CTN and Suma today all announced Kyro II-based boards. Expect to see them in no-name PCs real soon now. Unless, of course, NVIDIA stick the boot in...

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