NEW YORK (CNNfn) - nVidia, whose graphic chip will be powering Microsoft's entry in the console gaming wars, isn't forgetting its PC roots. The company unveiled Tuesday its next generation graphics chip, the GeForce 2 GTS, heralding a new battle with archrival 3dfx.|
The GeForce 2, a second-generation line of the company's revolutionary GeForce chip, is expected to hit the streets in roughly two weeks. If the company makes the self-imposed deadline, it will beat 3dfx's anticipated Voodoo4 and Voodoo5 chips to market.
That's significant, since it will be the second generational chip nVidia has released since 3dfx's last version - the Voodoo3. nVidia's reputation and stock prices have climbed significantly in recent months, while 3dfx shares have languished. NVidia (NVDA: Research, Estimates) closed up 8-3/8 Tuesday at 85, while 3dfx (TDFX: Research, Estimates) gained 1/2 to close at 10-1/2. In January, nVidia shares were trading for less than $50.
"nVidia has clearly dominated this market for the past 18 months," said Mark Edelstone of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.
Operating at twice the speed of the current chip, the GeForce 2 will also feature new technology designed to make PC computer games look much smoother and realistic, which the company hopes will attract more of the hardcore gaming crowd. While that number is growing rapidly, nVidia hopes to draw in a much larger audience by offering a cheap alternative to high definition television.
HDTV comes home
The GeForce 2 will include a High Definition Video Processor (HDVP), allowing users to view high-definition television programs on their PC monitor. Although the PC monitor isn't widely used as a television viewing device, nVidia hopes to sway users with the drastically cheaper card. Graphic cards using the chip will include a "TV out" port, allowing users to run their television through the PC, amplifying the image, which might make the card more appealing.
The chip will be compatible to all software titles that currently support nVidia products. Several major graphics card manufacturers, including Creative Labs and Guillemot, already have committed to making cards using the GeForce 2. While nVidia does not control the retail price of the cards, the company's public relations manager Rich Black estimated the cards will sell for a competitive $299-$349.
nVidia's power in the gaming industry has been growing rapidly over the past few months. Most recently, Microsoft tapped the company to power the graphics engine of its forthcoming X-Box, which will compete head-to-head with Sony's powerful PlayStation 2 console gaming system. On April 19, Microsoft made its first payment - some $200 million - against nVidia's future supply of graphics processing units (GPUs) to be included in the X-Box.