Ghosts of Cyrix, PowerPC, Transmeta haunt x86-bound Nvidia

For Nvidia to crack the Intel-AMD duopoly, it must avoid four past mistakes, say experts

Don't think you know better than your customers

PowerPC was created in the early 1990s by an alliance between Apple, IBM and Motorola Inc. PowerPC chips were based on the then heavily-hyped Reduced Instruction Set Computers (RISC) architecture, which sought to raise performance through efficient chip design, rather than cramming more, smaller transistors into a chip, as exemplified by x86's Complex Instruction Set Computers (CISC) approach.

At the time, PowerPC was arguably faster than x86. Backers thought that would be enough to win software and hardware makers over to the platform, said Enderle. In the end, independent software vendors and original equipment manufacturers responded to customers, who were buying x86 PCs because of Windows and their larger pool of software.

The situation is reversed today. It's not the phone makers or even consumers calling the shots, says In-Stat's Lao. It's the wireless carriers.

Lao said that means Nvidia will need to make very low-powered chips if a carrier like AT&T believes that long battery life will sell more smartphones and win it more customers, or it may need to shrink chipsets down if Verizon Wireless decides that cute is in.

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