Nvidia CEO pushes graphics chips toward cloud

SAN JOSE, California Tue May 15, 2012 4:17pm EDT

NVIDIA President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang wears 3D glasses during his keynote address at the GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

NVIDIA President and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang wears 3D glasses during his keynote address at the GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California September 21, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Nvidia Corp Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang wants his graphics chips to be adopted in data centers to help stream better graphics to smartphones and tablets, his company's newest bid to diversify beyond personal computers.

Huang showed programmers and engineers at an industry event new technology adapting Nvidia's Kepler graphics processors, or GPUs, for cloud computing.

"For the first time we have virtualized the GPU," Huang said. "One GPU can now be shared with countless users."

Huang, who cofounded Nvidia, showed demonstrations of a game with high-end graphics run from servers and played on mobile devices. The challenge Nvidia is tackling is to keep games fast and responsive even when they are played over data centers and across wireless carriers' networks.

Keenly aware of explosive growth in tablets, smartphones and cloud computing, Nvidia is looking beyond its core business of designing chips that make games and videos look better on PCs.

Along with larger rival Qualcomm Inc, Nvidia is also suffering from a shortage of cutting-edge chips from TSMC after the contract manufacturer was slow to ramp up its new 28 nanometer process technology.

With demand for high-end chips much higher than expected, Qualcomm has said it will work with additional suppliers but will still have shortages through most of 2012.

On Monday, Nvidia said it was buying about 500 wireless communications patents from privately held IPWireless as it locks horns with Qualcomm in the lucrative market for smartphone and tablet chips.

As well as making power-efficient chips for smartphones, Nvidia is promoting its graphics technology to be used for new purposes, including supercomputers running simulations in astrophysics and other math-heavy tasks.

While traditional central processors found in computers are designed to make huge calculations very quickly, one after another, GPUs excel at carrying out several small calculations at the same time, which makes them handy for specific kinds of tasks.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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