I have mentioned several times that NVIDIA needs to enter the x86 market if it is to survive the next decade. Otherwise, it stands to be beat by Intel, AMD and even possibly VIA. However, the rumour mill today seems to confirm that NVIDIA is thinking along those very same lines.
The question is not so much, I think, if; I think the question is when. If you look at the high-end of the PC market I think it’s going to stay fairly discrete, because that seems to be the best of all worlds. We won’t talk much more about what we think about that timeframe, but there’s no question it’s on our minds.
NVIDIA obviously has the necessary resources to do it. It has swallowed up small x86 companies. However, the only nagging problem is that NVIDIA does not have a license to sell x86 chips. It is unlikely that Intel/AMD would allow them to do it quietly.
I still think that their best bet would be to buy up VIA or merge with them. At the very least, VIA has been happily selling x86 chips for years. Their x86 designs are famous for being extremely low-powered. However, VIA does not really need them as they have conquered their own little niche.
Alternatively, NVIDIA could think of doing a Transmeta. If their graphics processors are powerful enough as general purpose processors, they could emulate the x86 functionality entirely in software. With all the processing power at their disposal, this could be a viable alternative.
Then, all you would need to do is buy a NVIDIA graphics chip, which would be able to do graphics most of the time, and spend some of its time pretending to be an x86 processor. This may even skirt around the whole x86 licensing issue.
This would be a very interesting and elegant solution. I like.