NVIDIA- Past, Present & Future: An Interview with Jen Hsun Huang

By on November 23, 2009
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I had the pleasure of sitting face to face with the Co-founder and CEO of NVIDIA- Mr. Jen Hsun Huang.

While we were on the subject of SLI, I asked Jen-Hsun why NVIDIA required identical GPUs to work under SLI while their competitor allows a more elegant “mix-and-match” solution that works across their many different models of GPUs.

“We can make it work too- its just that the scaling is nowhere near as good. Its impossible to have a infinite level of differences between the two chips. Do you render one frame here and one there, two here and one there or seven here and one there. At some point it doesn’t really deliver a very good experience. We’ve discovered that its very rare to actually deliver a better experience when the GPUs are off-ratio. It’ll speed up a tiny bit, but the latency you get in addition to that is not so great. We could make it work for the sake of competition but its not really a good experience and until we can figure out how to make it work great, we’re simply not going to support it. If something doesn’t work very well- don’t let people use it. If we’re not satisfied by it, why are we selling it?”

That prompted me to as Jen-Hsun about the NV30 which is considered as one of the worst releases by NVIDIA and many considered it as a half-baked product.

“We didn’t think it was half-baked. It wasn’t a successful product and let me tell you where it went sideways on us. GeForce FX uses an interface that was different than DX9. We chose CG as our programming interface. ATI had DX9 so the compiler generator from Microsoft could be used for ATI directly but had to be recompiled JIT for our GPU. That recompile process at that time with its JIT compilation was the reason the market hated it. And we did a really bad job at explaining it.

The reviewers felt that we were cheating and so they ran it two ways- the recompiled version and the native version. Our performance was terrible at the native version because the architecture was very different than what was implemented in DX9. That was a part of our history that we didn’t handle extremely well. There are many things we could have done differently before we announced it. I would’ve taken the architecture and taught it to the world on how GeForce FX works. That’s what we did with Fermi- taught everyone how it works because its so different and the performance is going to be so much better and faster.”

I asked him about the hostility with Intel and the cartoons.

“We just think its funny- its a nice way of letting it out. During the older times, peasants used humor against a tyrannical ruler ship. (Laughs.) It helps ease some of the frustration. But let me ask you- when was the last time you saw a company as big as Intel sue another smaller company? They’re scared and you can write this down- We will kick their ass when we go to court next year.”

Coming back to GPUs, I asked him if we have hit a brick wall with Desktop Gaming GPUs because displays havent scaled as fast as GPUs and even a mainstream GPU of today can provide a decent experience at high resolution.

“If we dont revolutionize the GPU again then we’ve already hit the wall. Thats exactly the reason why we invented PhysX and why we’re gonna bring ray-tracing to the market place. PhysX and Ray tracing even on the highest end, run really slow. You wont be able to do ray tracing across all your images but we could do things like soft shadows right away. Also, the last step of 3D graphics is a 3D to 2D projection- why render in 3D and show it on 2D- that’s weird right? If your monitor is 120Hz, you ought to be able to pop on a $100 pair of glasses and enjoy 3D but with that, your frame rate is just divided in half. So your current graphic card suddenly becomes half as good. With more Physx, Ray Tracing and some global illumination, things become more and more realistic.

I’m not cynical about the market but If you give them the same thing over and over again, they’ll get tired. Look at iPod- there’s iPod fatigue. If you were to have an iPod, well, yeah- who doesn’t? If you have a Zune HD now, everybody wants to look at it- people need a new thing. It is possible to build a new thing. Thats the reason why we didn’t wanna take the GT200 and add DX11. Its possible. Its as easy as peach.

Do you think the PC will steal some thunder back from the consoles with your new technologies?

Yes. Batman was recently released and extremely popular and everybody said that Batman on PC with Physx was the best. Reviews were fabulous and people who had played it on consoles, played it again on the PC. I also think 3D vision will cause people to play their games all over again.

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Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of tbreak.com and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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