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Unite and Conquer

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While I was chatting to Ed about the launch of Zotac’s nVidia based graphics cards, it hit me just how much the technology arena has changed over recent years. Zotac is a subsidiary of PC Partner, the company behind Sapphire, and also the company that produces the vast majority of ATI graphics boards, which are then re-branded under any number of manufacturer names. In fact PC Partner used to produce all of ATI’s graphics boards when the company still sold hardware under its own brand, so deeply ingrained is the partnership between PC Partner and ATI.

Therefore, to call PC Partner’s move into nVidia board production significant, is an understatement of epic proportions. When two companies have been so closely allied for so many years, a move like this can’t help but raise a few eyebrows. Has the margin fallen out of ATI products? Has there been a reduction in ATI board partners and therefore a reduction in customers for PC Partner? Or has PC Partner simply realised that there’s a huge amount of revenue to be had, just by not being monogamous?
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PC Partner and nVidia working together is, at the risk of sounding like a marketing handbook, a win-win situation. Basically nVidia benefits from the years of experience and R&D that PC Partner has in graphics board manufacturing, while PC Partner gets to back both nags in a two horse race. From this point on, it doesn’t matter whether ATI or nVidia takes the lead in the graphics market, because PC Partner will be producing the boards for both solutions, for a huge number of partners. Throw Sapphire and Zotac into the equation, and PC Partner is set to make a tidy sum out of the retail end as well.

But the PC Partner situation is far from isolated. In fact over the past few years we’ve seen companies start working together, that previously wouldn’t have been seen in the same room. For years Apple was committed to a non-Intel based platform for its Macintosh computers, but now the company has allied itself strongly with Intel and as a result Macs have become better machines. This is particularly true in the case of Apple notebooks, which now make use of Intel’s class leading mobile technology, perhaps opening them up to a wider market than before.

When it comes down to it, Apple is a smart company, and it realised that Intel was producing the best chips out there, so not using them would have been detrimental to its product line. Intel’s low power, low heat approach to its mobile processors also meant that Apple could create multi-core iMacs while still maintaining that svelte, all-in-one form factor, while its notebooks could become more powerful while increasing battery life.

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