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The Nvidia Blame Game

Their chips are hot. Literally.

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CUPERTINO (Apple) — Apple report on 10 October there can be an issue with certain Nvidia GPUs used in MacBook Pros. The stink is Apple evidently knew about this three months ago. But the story seems more complex and Apple don't seem to be the bad guys this time around.

Nvidia are the bad guys.

Distorted Video or No Video

Following is the Apple statement.

In July 2008, NVIDIA publicly acknowledged a higher than normal failure rate for some of their graphics processors due to a packaging defect. At that same time, NVIDIA assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected. However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers with the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor may be affected. If the NVIDIA graphics processor in your MacBook Pro has failed, or fails within two years of the original date of purchase, a repair will be done free of charge, even if your MacBook Pro is out of warranty.

Affected products are 15-inch and 17-inch MBPs manufactured between approximately May 2007 and September 2008.

What the Cynics Say

Apple users at the MacRumors forums aren't playing happy campers, suggesting the timing with new notebooks due out on Tuesday as just too coincidental. But reading the Apple TS again reveals a few subtleties such as 'NVIDIA assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected' and 'Apple-led investigation', not to mention 'repair will be done free of charge, even if your MacBook Pro is out of warranty'.

And studying what Charlie Demerjian of The Inquirer has written about Nvidia paints a different and very clear picture.

The Meltdown Blame Game

Nvidia chips are hot - literally. When chips generate too much heat they deteriorate - and take the rest of the machine with them. 'Nvidia's stock took a long overdue beating the other day', writes Charlie Demerjian on 7 July of this year, citing angry investors who feel the graphics chip company have lied to them about flawed HP boxes. Charlie scorns Nvidia's official story.

'While we have not been able to determine a root cause for these failures, testing suggests a weak material set of die/package combination, system thermal management designs, and customer use patterns are contributing factors.'

And that, says Charlie, is the Nvidia blame game. When things go south they blame the factories, the packaging suppliers, the OEMs, the end users - but take none of the blame themselves.

'The weak die/packaging excuse doesn't wash at all', says Charlie. 'Nvidia is blaming TSMC behind the scenes, trashing them pretty hard through 'unofficial' channels to deflect blame. They are likely to be doing the same to packaging suppliers as well, and others. The reason this doesn't wash is that there are only a handful of suppliers in each of these fields.'

'If they had a problem with Nvidia, there would be problems with other companies. ATI, Altera and dozens of others, would have chips crapping out left and right, especially designs where they are meant to run 24/7 like embedded parts. You would see an industry rife with failures and warning like the bad caps problem of a few years ago.'

Who Needs Who the Most?

'Suppliers are a problem for Nvidia though', says Charlie, especially after they've gone and trashed their best business partners. 'Trashing your suppliers like this is a dangerous thing to do.' The suppliers might refuse to play ball anymore.

All in all Charlie's analysis of the Nvidia meltdown is deep, analytical, and well thought out. It deserves a good reading.

See Also
Rixstep: Seattle Weather Channel
Radsoft: Seattle Weather Channel
The Inquirer: The Meltdown Blame Game
The Inquirer: Nvidia Sleaze Attack on Intel
MacRumors: MacBook Pros Affected by Faulty Nvidia Chips
AppleInsider: MacBook Pros Affected by Faulty Nvidia Chips
The Inquirer: Rumours Abound About Real Reasons for Nvidia's Failing Chips

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