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Nvidia CEO: Netbooks are Crappy, Low-Cost PCs

For modern computing technology, you can’t really find many companies that are more committed to bringing the cutting edge to the consumer than Nvidia -- and perhaps for that reason, the graphics company isn’t entirely thrilled with the Intel Atom, at least not in its current implementations.

In fact, Nvidia is still trying to wrap its head around the whole netbook idea. “We’re all trying to figure out what a netbook is. From my perspective, anything that has an X86 processor and has Windows running on it is really a PC,” said Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang in an interview with Laptop. “If I were to ask a million people, What do you call something with a Microsoft operating system called Windows and X86 processor from Intel, I would think that 99.9999 percent of them, except for the Intel marketing person, would call it a PC.”

Huang doesn’t have flattering words for current netbooks, saying, “I think that so far, what a netbook is, is a low-cost PC that doesn’t work that well.

“The Atom platform is creating an installed base that doesn’t run modern applications. It doesn’tt run anything well from Electronic Arts, it doesn’t run anything well from Adobe, it doesn’t run anything well from Microsoft. ... So in a way, the Atom platform is creating an installed base of PCs that’s going to eventually hurt the PC software industry.”

That’s where Nvidia would like its Ion platform to come in, which utilizes the GeForce 9400M chipset to give the Atom a much needed helping hand. Huang says will be available later soon to make $399 “full experience” PCs possible.

Paired with the Ion, Nvidia’s tune on the Atom changes considerably. “The Atom processor is really terrific -- it’s small and low powered. Atom plus Ion is just a fabulous machine: It’s small, low powered, and full featured in every way,” adds Huang.

The Nvidia CEO further acknowledges that graphics power is the game changer, as he had positive things to say about AMD’s Neo: “Atom by itself with Intel integrated graphics would get crushed by the Neo platform. That’ss because AMD is one of the world’ss most advanced graphics companies. They bought ATI, who has wonderful technology. When you couple that with an AMD processor, it would destroy the Atom platform.”

Huang also describes VIA’s Nano processor as “fabulous,” and perhaps “architecturally one generation beyond Atom.” The problem, he says, is beyond the hardware: “The challenge in the complexity of the PC is the software outside of the processor. The amount of software and hardware outside of the CPU is so much, unless you have tier-one capabilities, you can’t build a tier-one-capable machine. That’s really VIA’s weakness. They don’t have the resources to build the GPU in the system to be competitive.”

Of course, that’s where Nvidia would step in and provide platform support with Ion -- but that’s something that won’t happen until the next generation, at which point Ion would support the faster Core 2 Duos and Celerons. And by then, who knows what the new strengths the Atom will gain.

Like the rest of you, we hope to get our hands on the Ion soon.

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • ravenware
    “I think that so far, what a netbook is, is a low-cost PC that doesn’t work that well.

    Sure seems that way. It's application performance is pretty pathetic compared to other low-cost chips. AMD has dual core chips for less than $50 that would annihilate the atom.
    Reply
  • ahmshaegar
    Well, gee, these netbooks are much more powerful than PCs I had a few years ago, and they can slip into a large pocket. It's gonna be a secondary or even tertiary PC, so why do you need all that power? For e-mail, internet, YouTube, it's more than enough. You can get Quake 3 running on these things. More than enough if it's your third PC (not that I personally understand the point of netbooks... I don't plan on getting one.)

    This spin reminds me of Sony and Microsoft saying how they don't think they compete with the Wii. That may be partially true, but the real truth is probably that Sony and Microsoft don't have a product in Nintendo's space, so they want to devalue that segment. Same thing going on here. Nvidia isn't covering the ultra-low-end portable market, so they want to make it look bad. Mark my words, the moment Nvidia figures out how to make a solution that ends up occupying the $200-$300 range, they're gonna change their tune. Fast.

    I don't really pay attention to press releases, of which this is one. Why ask Nvidia what they think about Nvidia products? You're not going to be any wiser for it.
    Reply
  • It seems to be the standard thing for CEOs and other company lines to do to complain about the netbook. It's almost like they're saying, "RAGGH! THESE DUMB PEOPLE! DON'T THEY GET THAT IT'S THEIR JOB TO GIVE US MONEY?! WHY DON'T THEY WANT BIGGER MORE EXPENSIVE THINGS!!"

    You wouldn't hear them complain in the slightest if netbooks had a starting price of $700.
    Reply
  • jaragon13
    PsimitryIt seems to be the standard thing for CEOs and other company lines to do to complain about the netbook. It's almost like they're saying, "RAGGH! THESE DUMB PEOPLE! DON'T THEY GET THAT IT'S THEIR JOB TO GIVE US MONEY?! WHY DON'T THEY WANT BIGGER MORE EXPENSIVE THINGS!!"You wouldn't hear them complain in the slightest if netbooks had a starting price of $700.No,I think Huang's being honest and I wouldn't buy a netbook simply because all I can run on them is a web client and IRC...and still very slowly.Think about how many people will buy these for other people?
    Maybe if you actually read it,you wouldn't go defensive fanboy.
    Reply
  • What is with all the grammatical errors on this website? As an editor, this article makes me cringe when I see such simple mistakes.
    Reply
  • Netbooks, crappy? cheap?
    2 things I don't agree with!
    They're expensive (compared to notebooks) and they're not really crappy.
    The atom powered netbooks are made to run Win98,WinNT, Win2000 and WinXP as well as most linux systems perfectly!
    The atom is just enough computing power to run XP, IE7 and a flash-file inside it.

    Just the fact that people can boot their XP within the minute displays they're far from crappy; and they're style full!
    Upto 9" they're great netbooks, even to play dos-simulated games!
    (I played DosBox through the celeron all the time!)

    The Ion platform is probably better, yes; but apart from encryption the Via chips are worse than atom cpu's I think...
    They don't really support HT, neither are manufactured at 45nm,so their power consumption is higher, and performance lower.

    So what the guy says makes no sense!
    from power perspective, when the Ion platform is there to support competitive core2duo and celeron processors (as well as AMD processors), that will utilize only a few watts more but have near to double the performance, then I think the atom can be left behind.
    there's always an Atom 2 Core (4cores in Windows = 2 cores with HT).

    The focal point on these systems should less be performance, and more battery life, as well as cheap.

    The race started with the OLPC, for $200pp.
    Other $100 systems have been invented as well.
    Netbooks and mini notebooks had a time they costed nearly $700.
    I think any system costing less than $299 with 1GB RAM,processor,case,powersupply, and mobo included is a great purchase.
    Perhaps provide an internal connected 8GB USB drive with Linux installed on it, to save power on a HD.
    Reply
  • Spikke
    If I need something really mobile, I'll use my WiMo phone. If I need something powerfull, I'll use my desktop. If I need something intermediate, I'll use my laptop. I don't see the reason to need something between a laptop and a PDA/smart phone.
    Reply
  • cl_spdhax1
    i bet one netbook can control all of russia missle silo.
    Reply
  • miltoxbeyond
    My netbook tried to take over my home with weapons of mass destruction... that's why I had to have it put down at the pound.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    ravenwareSure seems that way. It's application performance is pretty pathetic compared to other low-cost chips. AMD has dual core chips for less than $50 that would annihilate the atom.
    Yeah but power consumption and heat are the major targets aswell not just cost! Although the chipset/platform kills that advantage... and nvidias solution - i no longer trust there products for now.
    Reply