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NVIDIA Exits Chipset Business for Good? Apple to Continue to Use Old NVIDIA Chipsets?


An Xbitlabs report from November provides quotes from NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang about their seemingly permanent exit of the chipset business.

We are not building any more chipsets, we are building SoCs now. We are building Tegra SoCs, and so we are going to take integration to a new level. [...] The chipset business [has] not grown largely this year because we have not really been expanding the sales of it,

We had known that NVIDIA had exited the chipset business due to ongoing litigation with Intel over licensing, but there had been a belief that the issue would be settled. This quote preceded reports of a possible settlement between Intel and NVIDIA in December. That settlement discussion led to speculation that NVIDIA's return to the chipset market could help boost processor speeds in future MacBook Airs and MacBooks.

NVIDIA CEO, however, had this to reveal about Apple's business:

The second thing is the MCP89, the latest and the last generation of Intel chipset that we built was just a really wonderful piece of engineering and the work that we did with Apple was great, and they are going to continue to use that for some time.

The MCP89 is the chipset that has been used in older MacBooks as well as the new MacBook Air. Apple's use of this NVIDIA chipset limits its choice of processors to the previous-generation Core 2 Duo. This tradeoff allows Apple to incorporate the faster integrated graphics cards from NVIDIA in these low-end machines. According to NVIDIA's CEO, Apple plans on continuing to use these older chipsets for some time.

Note that high end MacBook Pros are unaffected as those machines have the luxury of incorporating both the latest Intel processors and discrete graphics cards from 3rd party manufacturers. The tradeoff primarily affects Apple's low end machines.

Related roundup: MacBook Air