Intel and NVIDIA Ion – It’s Looking Ugly

NVIDIA Fudzilla is discussing a document released by Intel called “Nvidia Ion Competition Position Guide”, and it’s definitely not a good sign of things to come. Intel goes after the Ion platform.

As Fudzilla points out, some of the arguments don’t make much sense – Intel mentions that Ion is not a new chipset, and is instead derived from the MCP79M/NCP7A chipset family.

Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. Intel’s 945GSE/GM chipset is nearly 4 years old. At this time last year, we were still a few months away from Intel Atoms being widely available, and were still using older Intel Celerons (that probably predated the 945 chipset). From the beginning, these devices were based on older technologies in order to keep the costs down. As shocking as it may seem to some, the whole point of these devices was not to include the latest and greatest technologies – most of those would severely impact the battery life on these devices, given that the batteries are smaller.

Intel also argues that Ion will consume more power and add to the cost (or Bill of Material). So what? The Ion has been positioned from the beginning as being for people wanting better performance than what’s currently available and what will be available later this year (Intel’s GN40 chipset). I include myself in that group – I would gladly give up a little battery life for something that can spit out smooth HD video and that has a much better graphics chipset than anything we currently have. That does fall well outside of the range of what netbooks were originally meant for, but there shouldn’t be a problem with having offerings that are $50-$100 more, unless you are worried about it really eating into conventional low-end laptops powered by normal laptop CPUs (which I can see Intel being concerned about that).

This gets into why I’m not a fan of the term “netbook”. It’s not because of the cease & desist letter that got from Psion, but because these devices are poised to be a lot more than what people expected them to be. While the large majority of people will use them in ways that fit into what the industry now calls a “netbook”, a dual-core Intel Atom CPU and the Ion platform would be a relatively cheap (and quick) way to break out of that mold.

Things could change when Intel launches the Pineview CPU+GPU Atom sometime in the fourth quarter of this year or early in 2010, but I have to believe that manufacturers are going to be very interested in the Ion, because we are coming up on the one year anniversary of the launch of the Atom, and the manufacturers are going to want something major to entice people to upgrade. At this point, the GN40 is not it when compared to the Ion. The price is cheap enough that many people would be willing to go with a shorter upgrade cycle in order to purchase something with better performance. Due to Microsoft’s licensing terms with Windows XP, there are limits on the RAM/Memory and on hard drive space, and while new keyboards maybe great and all, most people will simply wait until a major performance upgrade is available.

I’m with Fudzilla on this, and I understand their anger over what was contained in the document – see the link below for full details of what I’m talking about.

Read: Fudzilla