Nvidia is thinking about beginning production of crypto-mining specific Ampere graphics cards that come without display outputs, but first, it needs to find out whether there's enough mining demand for the latest graphics processors.
"If crypto demand begins or if we see a meaningful amount, we can also use that opportunity to restart the CMP [mining-specific GPUs] product line to address ongoing mining demand," said Colette Kress, chief financial officer at Nvidia, at the 19th Annual J.P. Morgan Tech/Auto Forum Conference (via SeekingAlpha).
Demand for gaming graphics cards, high-performance processors, and game consoles has exceeded supply for months as people spend more time at home and entertain themselves playing the latest game titles. Cryptocurrency valuations have skyrocketed recently, reactivating miners who rushed to get graphics cards, further increasing demand for GPUs. Nvidia has had a hard time understanding how demand from cryptominers affects its current sales, but it is mulling restarting the production of mining-specific graphics cards.
"We don't have visibility on how much of the GeForce RTX 30-series end demand comes from mining," said Kress. "So, we don't believe it's a big part of our business today. Gaming demand is very strong, and we think that's larger than our current supply."
It doesn't always make a lot of sense to mine Bitcoins using Nvidia's latest GPUs, which tend to be pretty expensive. There are special accelerators designed for Bitcoin mining, and those ASICs tend to be considerably more efficient than graphics processors. In contrast, GPUs are used to mine Ethereum, which has been gaining price in recent weeks, just like Bitcoin.
Since demand for Nvidia's products has generally been high in recent months, it isn't easy for Nvidia to understand how significantly cryptominers affect this demand, especially keeping in mind the fact that select makers of graphics boards have mined cryptocurrency at their own facilities before releasing these cards to the market.
It is beneficial for Nvidia to clearly understand how many of its GPUs are needed by cryptominers. Since miners only need compute capabilities of a GPU, they do not need display outputs, and they do not care if the GPU they use comes with disabled texture mapping units or lacks video processing capabilities. As a result, Nvidia can sell them graphics processors that would otherwise go to waste. Those come in the form of the aforementioned CMP GPUs.
But before making such chips available to add-in-board (AIB) manufacturers, GPU designers need to figure out the total available market that they are trying to address so they don't bin chips that aren't needed. Before that happens, GPU developers may just enjoy additional demand for their products.