Jen Sun, Nvidia

Nvidia ignores mobile, focuses on in-car tech at CES

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Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang discusses computer vision and machine learning at CES. Image: Nvidia

5 January 2015

They waited for “one last thing” at Nvidia’s press conference, but it never came.

Instead, the graphics chip maker devoted its entire press event at the International CES Sunday night to technologies that will power the car of tomorrow.

At a show where smartphones, tablets and other portable gadgets make many of the headlines, Nvidia mentioned none of those things in its 90-minute presentation, despite making chips that target them all. Not even its own Shield gaming device got a look-in.

“The Nvidia press conference is a teraflop,” moaned one tech reporter on Twitter, after CEO Jen-Hsun Huang spent half an hour explaining the machine learning techniques that Nvidia’s new Tegra X1 chip will use to power autonomous driving systems.

“Nvidia, are you making a car or can I go to bed?” demanded another impatient scribe.

It isn’t making a car, and Sunday night’s press conference probably won’t be the most exciting at CES this week. But the focus on auto technology makes sense for Nvidia, whose powerful Tegra chips have been finding more success on the highway lately than in your pocket.

None of the big three tablet makers depend on Nvidia for their products, he noted. Apple makes its own CPUs, as does Samsung, although the Korean company uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors as well. And Amazon has no allegiance to any chip vendor for its Kindle.

That explains partly why Nvidia is doubling down on car technology at CES. It’s gained an early lead in the market for powerful in car computing systems, and it’s an area where it can differentiate itself from the competition.

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