Earlier this week, some unsuspecting users walked into Best Buy and came upon an odd surprise: boxes of graphics card bearing the words "Designed and built by Nvidia" and no other apparent partner logo. Confused, these users (namely Kyle from HardOCP) decided to go to the source and ask Nvidia about what was going on. This is the response he got:
NVIDIA and Best Buy are working together to offer PC customers the opportunity to experience firsthand the latest in PC technologies right inside Best Buy stores. As part of this broad initiative, NVIDIA is supplying to Best Buy specific GeForce models built and supported by NVIDIA. These products will only be available at Best Buy and will complement GeForce products from our partners. We will provide more details on this next week.
Now apparently the program wasn't supposed to start until the 10th, but who's going to sweat the details? Also, despite the big "built by Nvidia" words, the cards are actually contracted out the usual OEM standby Foxconn. Support is supposedly provided direct from Nvidia, with the cards being backed by a 3-year warranty. Price-wise, the GTS450 was seen to be at $199 and the GTX460 at $299, putting these direct sale cards at a questionable price-point.
A number of people expressed concerns at how their AIB partners would feel about this move. Evga gave CNN the politically typical "no comment" while making sure to mention they could provide better support, but overall partners must be feeling pretty shafted about things. So how is Nvidia handling this possibility?
Apparently by giving them the boot. It seems that Nvidia has chosen to drop one of their bigger American partners, XFX, though their AMD/ATI partnership probably played a role in this choice as well. Both the direct sales and XFX dropping were things that were rumored to be occurring back in January, so it looks like Nvidia is just playing catch-up here with their backlog of "political" moves.
So in the space of six months Nvidia has lost two major American partners (with BFG having dropped GPU sales in May and going under in August) and have begun a direct sale campaign. Where does that leave them? An odd, questionable position that's for sure. Many have been comparing the situation to that of 3dfx, who went through similar actions before finally dropping being acquired by Nvidia. While the situations aren't really quite the same, it's still an amusing parallel to be drawn considering what ended up happening to the company. One would hope Nvidia has a better grasp of what they're doing this time around.
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