While I was chatting to Ed about the launch of Zotacâ€™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 ATIâ€™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 Partnerâ€™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 canâ€™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 thereâ€™s a huge amount of revenue to be had, just by not being monogamous?
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 doesnâ€™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 weâ€™ve seen companies start working together, that previously wouldnâ€™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 Intelâ€™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. Intelâ€™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.