Nvidia denies Apple OEM deal claims

Such an arrangement would be tricky in any case

Nvidia has poo-pooed rumours that it recently signed an OEM deal with Apple.

Rumours to that effect appeared on German magazine c't's Web site late last week, and prompted a rapid response from the 3D graphics company: "There is no truth to this rumour," Dan Vivoli, Nvidia's VP of marketing, told Apple-oriented site MacCentral.

"I can categorically state this rumour is not true," he emphasised.

The c't report claimed Apple had not only signed an OEM deal with Nvidia but that Nvidia's German PR outfit had confirmed it. No, it didn't, said Vivoli.

He say that anyway, of course, but assuming that Vivoli's trying to dampen down a story neither Nvidia nor Apple wanted brought to the Mac-buying public's attention, why might Apple go for such a deal? Nvidia's GeForce 2 MX is certainly the company's first to support the Mac way of doing graphics, and is arguably streets ahead of anything that Apple's current graphics partner, ATI, has at the moment.

A shift to Nvidia would certainly raise Apple's profile when it comes to high quality 3D acceleration. ATI's stuff isn't bad, but the company lacks Nvidia's reputation for churning out top-notch chips. An OEM contract with Nvidia would provide Apple with GeForce 2 MX chips to be hardwired into it iMac, iBook and PowerBook lines, leaving only the professional desktop Power Macs requiring add-in cards.

Of course, Nvidia doesn't make add-in cards - which is why it hasn't announced "specific card designs for the Macintosh at this point" (Vivoli) - so Apple would need a deal with a third-party card supplier. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, since Nvidia is believed to be working on Mac drivers for the GeForce 2 MX. And the chip's built-in Mac support should mean that any PC-oriented card should slot into a Power Mac and run just fine once the drivers are in place.

Such a deal would limit Apple's bulk-buying power, which is largely what the alliance with ATI is founded upon. But that may not matter too much. Nvidia's arch-rival, 3dfx, has been demanding Apple offer cards other than ATI's as Mac build-to-order options, and the nature of the OEM deal with Apple would allow it to do so, buying in ATI, 3dfx and Nvidia-based cards according to Power Mac user demand.

That said, it all sounds a tad too complex for our liking. Apple would prefer a single supplier who could provide it with chips and boards for the full range of Macs. That doesn't preclude Nvidia, but it would require bringing a third-party board maker in on the deal, and the deal could easily end up financially disadvantageous to the cost-conscious Apple. ®

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