Following the launch of Nvidia's new line of 800M notebook GPUs, PCR caught up with Mark Aevermann, senior manager for product marketing at the firm, to see how an explosion in gaming notebook popularity is defying the decline in notebooks...
Are you seeing a shift towards gaming notebooks rather than general use notebooks?
The unfortunate truth is that if you filter out the gaming notebooks, we're seeing market trends persist on $800 notebooks – so the market is down by 10 per cent.
But as you start to look at GTX-class notebooks, where the OEM is building them for a gaming audience, it's 25 per cent growth per year, with a much bigger number this coming year.
They [general use notebooks and gaming notebooks] appear to be very different markets, serving very different users.
In our recent retail survey we found that laptops are actually better-selling than tablets for the majority of UK retailers – do you have any guesses as to why?
I don't know. I don't think it's even been clear to the market in total whether or not tablets are truly cannibalising notebooks, and if they were, what kind of notebooks they were cannibalising.
Do you think gamers are moving from desktops to gaming notebooks, for the sake of portability?
We see two or three types of people buying gaming notebooks.
There's the PC gamer, who's buying a new computer and desktop's an option, notebook's an option, and they choose to go notebook because, quite frankly, most people need at least a notebook. If they're going to buy a new PC and it's going to be a notebook, and they're a gamer, often they want gaming capabilities. So there's that kind of category.
There's [also] the category that I call 'supplement gaming', so you have your high-end desktop when you get home, but you have needs outside the home, for portability, and you're a gamer so you want to be able to game in those contexts – coffee shops, friends' houses, LAN parties, while travelling.
The class where they want a supplementary gaming experience, so they get a gaming notebook to complement their desktop – those seem to be the dominant ones.
Before it's official release today, there were rumours that the 880M had 8GB of VRAM...
That's ridiculous. There was a semi-leak claiming there was 8GB. It's more like 4GB.
4K is coming in in a big way – do you have a prediction on when it could become mainstream?
You're going to see 'HD-plus' – so beyond 1080p – this generation from a lot of different OEM with this calibre of GPUs.
It's a subjective thing – what is a big way? I don't know what percentage of the market becomes that.
I think you'll see a lot of OEMs getting pretty interested in this and offering a solution that has these HD-plus resolutions.
4K in particularly, as opposed to 32x18 or something like that, I'm not sure on notebooks what the consumer demand is going to be for that – why I say that is that at some point pixel density goes beyond what the human eye can perceive from that size screen.
Notebooks have a 14 or 15-inch screen – you hit that limit fairly quickly in terms of resolution. But I'll be curious if consumers ask for demand there – beyond what you could call 'Retina'.
The announcement of GameStream is particularly interesting following the relaunch of OnLive as more of a shell for other games, in order to allow gamers to play them anywhere. Is GameStream set to provide a similar service?
GameStream is two different things.
Nvidia has a technology [similar to OnLive] called Grid, which is a concept where in a cloud something, a game is streamed to a device, and that device can be one of many different varieties, and it can go anywhere – Istanbul one day, London the next – and stream to those devices.
GameStream is different – GameStream is on a laptop, not a server. You can stream to another device in your home. The streaming comes from your device, so as the user you have the local processing yourself, and then you can stream to your TV or your Shield or what have you.
So the focus is on the Shield?
Exactly. The Shield is the destination device, and then the stream goes to it – whether on the Shield itself or through to the TV.
It'd be great [to provide the service over any network like OnLive], but it's a difficult problem to solve.
It's definitely interesting – but we have nothing to announce at this point.
Have you seen the mobile chips such as the 800M range implemented in any other devices beyond computers – for example, in embedded systems?
The notebook chips that we sell go into notebooks. If you take a step back and ask what's going into small form-factor boxes, it's a GPU built on the same architecture that's fundamentally the same chip.
Whether that chip's going in a notebook, SFF or desktop has a lot to do with the power efficiency of that chip for that market, plus the software – the software is a huge part of what we do packaged on top.
Do mobile chips and all that mobile software have a place in SFF? Not really – for example, Battery Boost wouldn't make sense in a SFF.
But our GPU architecture – Maxwell – is absolutely going into Steam Machines and SFF. You'll see our GPUs proliferate through.
The first salvo of announced Steam Machines were predominantly us. We seem to be doing pretty well there for two reasons – our Linux drivers and our hyper-efficient architecture.
Any new promotions with the new chipsets?
I'm not sure what will be available to UK retailers.
We're definitely looking at bundles and promotions, I'm just not sure yet how they will all be implemented – whether the OEM or retailer will get it. I would expect bundles with this new generation.
Would you consider moving into other hardware, for example, desktop processors?
Nothing that we've announced...