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NVIDIA's Roy Taylor

On the future of graphics and having a bigger installed-base than consoles.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Graphics chip maker NVIDIA is the closest thing the PC games market has to a platform holder. It may have its dalliances with consoles - it makes the RSX, the chip which powers the PS3's graphics, for example - but the beating heart of the company is the GeForce series of PC graphics cards, which have been the most popular cards among PC gamers for several years.

Never a company to shy away from controversy, in recent years NVIDIA has been outspoken on everything from PC game piracy to what it sees as the damaging behaviour of PC sellers who use integrated graphics chipsets in their machines. Recently, the firm's favourite target has been Intel - whose chips, it claims, aren't as important as graphics cards in terms of system performance.

We caught up with Roy Taylor - the firm's VP of Content Business Development, which basically means he's "head of videogames" - to find out what's in the future for NVIDIA, for the PC market in general, and why we should be holding off on that Quad-Core CPU purchase.

EurogamerA lot of the performance you've been getting out of the PC recently has been through multi-card, SLI solutions. Is that the future for graphics cards, or are there significant advances still to be made in single-chip technology?
Roy TaylorI think the answer is both. We will continue to develop new, single-chip GeForce GPUs. We have a roadmap which is absolutely committed to that - in fact, we have a new product coming up in the near future, a new high-end product.

At the same time, we're going to continue to develop SLI - and the reason for that is scalability. The problems which we're solving, in graphics, physics and AI, are all to do with scalability. As a result of that, it doesn't matter how powerful a high-end part we make - you're always going to get an even better experience if you have two of them, three of them and so on. So we're committed to both.

NVIDIA will always continue to develop high-end graphics cards - the 9800GX2, for instance, seen here - according to Taylor.
EurogamerDo you see SLI as being a "hardcore" option, or is it something that developers can reasonably create games for now?
Roy TaylorI think that until now, it's tended to be an enthusiast product - nobody would argue about that, although we would say that it's a very popular enthusiast product. In America, one of the big e-tailers, Tiger Direct, recently went on record as saying that 25 percent of its GeForce 8-series sales were sold in pairs. That was a number that got a lot of attention, because I think a lot of people didn't realise just how popular SLI is.

So the first part of the answer is that it's been a very successful product in the enthusiast space. However, I think to answer the question more fully, as we see greater scalability through the increased use of physics and AI in games, the appeal of having two cards is going to broaden. Therefore, I think we'll see SLI breaking out of the enthusiast market, and becoming more mainstream in terms of its adoption.

EurogamerDo you see Intel essentially as a rival, given that most people have a set amount of money to spend on a PC - and they have to choose, primarily, how much of that goes on the CPU and how much on the GPU?
Roy TaylorFirst of all, let me be clear about one thing: we absolutely don't believe that there's no need for a CPU. The vision for the future that we see is that there is a serial or sequential processor in the box [i.e. a CPU], and there is a parallel processor in the box [like a GeForce].

We do believe however that until now, too much emphasis and money has been spent on sequential or serial processing, and not enough on parallel processing. That's why we've been pushing the Optimised PC platform, which says that if you spend a little bit less on your serial processor, and a little bit more on your parallel processor, you'll have a more balanced PC.

We don't believe that we're in competition - in that we're not trying to get rid of the CPU. We do believe that there ought to be a better spread on the load inside the PC. So, do we consider them a competitor? Right now, no. Do we think that there's justification for a more balanced PC? Yes. That might change in the future, depending on if and when Larrabee [Intel's new GPU, due to appear by the end of this year] ever turns up, but right now, they're not strictly speaking a competitor.

Taylor says Intel isn't seen as a competitor, but that NVIDIA doesn't see a future of multi-core CPUs.
EurogamerIntel must see you as a threat of some description. You're essentially saying that you'd like to stop the push into quad- or eight-core processors, and demote their role to a single, sequential unit doing housekeeping. It's hardly a bright future for them, is it?
Roy TaylorWell, I think that if you look at the facts, the facts are that for just about anything you want to do in a PC today, a parallel processor adds more value than the serial processor. Whether it's gaming, video encode or decode, or any kind of multimedia task - our parallel processor adds more value as you increase the number of processors than you get on a serial processor. We didn't invent that situation - that situation is just where it's at today.