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#1 SceptreCore

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Posted 19 March 2018 - 06:17 PM

GeForce Partner Program Impacts Consumer Choice

To open up this bit of reporting, which will contain some editorial as well, I think our motives should be clear. In discussions with NVIDIA over the last few weeks, NVIDIA asked us exactly what our concerns were about the GPP program. This was our reply and should frame exactly why we are writing this.

 

 

Kyle Bennett: "I think it [GPP] is going to greatly, and negatively, impact consumer choice in the AIB and OEM computer market. Consumer choice is going to be decimated. Looking at the program guidelines, I truly think that is what will happen and is where my concern lies."

 

Before we go any further, in the effort to be as transparent as possible, we need to let you know that AMD came to us and presented us with "this story." AMD shopped this story with other websites as well. However, with the information that was presented to us by AMD, there was no story to be told, but it surely pointed to one that was worth looking into. There needed to be some legwork done in collecting facts and interviews.

 

At this point you're probably wondering, "What is NVIDIA GPP?" A couple of weeks after we began questioning NVIDIA on GPP, it put up an article on its blog.nvidia.com domain entitled, "GeForce Partner Program Helps Gamers Know What They're Buying." Here what John Teeple, Director - Partner Marketing at NVIDIA, has to say about GPP.

 

In our latest effort to better serve gamers, we're introducing our GeForce Partner Program.

 

The GPU and software of a gaming PC make all the difference in a gamer's experience. And together with our add-in card and system partners, we're dedicated to building the best PC gaming platform bar-none -- this is the GeForce promise.

 

The GeForce Partner Program is designed to ensure that gamers have full transparency into the GPU platform and software they're being sold, and can confidently select products that carry the NVIDIA GeForce promise.

 

This transparency is only possible when NVIDIA brands and partner brands are consistent. So the new program means that we'll be promoting our GPP partner brands across the web, on social media, at events and more. And GPP partners will get early access to our latest innovations, and work closely with our engineering team to bring the newest technologies to gamers.

 

Partners are signing up, fast. They see the benefit of keeping brands and communication consistent and transparent.

 

The program isn't exclusive. Partners continue to have the ability to sell and promote products from anyone. Partners choose to sign up for the program, and they can stop participating any time. There's no commitment to make any monetary payments or product discounts for being part of the program.

 

GPP ensures our engineering and marketing efforts support brands consumers associate with GeForce. That transparency will give gamers the confidence needed to make their purchase, whichever products they choose

 

Admittedly, GPP sounds like a good program on the surface, but after digging into documentation and interviews with OEMs and AIBs in the past weeks, the warm and fuzzies quickly subside. HardOCP has been in the computer hardware review business for over 20 years now, and we have made an abundance of contacts along the way. In order for our preparation to write this article, we have spent the last three weeks talking to OEMs and AIBs in the industry that do business with NVIDIA on a large scale. Given how GPP is all about "transparency," you might think that those OEMs and AIBs would be chomping at the bit to get some free press on how those companies are part of the GPP program.

 

We have contacted seven companies about their part in NVIDIA GPP and not one of the seven would talk to us on the record if they spoke to us about it at all. The ones that did speak to us have done so anonymously, in fear of losing their jobs, or having retribution placed upon them or their companies by NVIDIA. All of the people that I did interview at AIBs and at OEMs did however have the same thoughts on GPP. 1.) They think that it has terms that are likely illegal. 2.) GPP is likely going to tremendously hurt consumers' choices. 3.) It will disrupt business with the companies that they are currently doing business with, namely AMD and Intel.

 

The crux of the issue with NVIDIA GPP comes down to a single requirement in order to be part of GPP. In order to have access to the GPP program, its partners must have its "Gaming Brand Aligned Exclusively With GeForce." I have read documents with this requirement spelled out on it.

 

What would it mean to have your "Gaming Brand Aligned Exclusively With GeForce?" The example that will likely resonate best with HardOCP readers is the ASUS Republic of Gamers brand. I have no knowledge if ASUS is a GPP partner, I am simply using the ROG brand hypothetically. If ASUS is an NVIDIA GPP partner, and it wants to continue to use NVIDIA GPUs in its ROG branded video cards, computers, and laptops, it can no longer sell any other company's GPUs in ROG products. So if ASUS want to keep building NVIDIA-based ROG video cards, it can no longer sell AMD-based ROG video cards, and be a GPP partner.

 

NVIDIA will tell you that it is 100% up to its partner company to be part of GPP, and from the documents I have read, if it chooses not to be part of GPP, it will lose the benefits of GPP which include: high-effort engineering engagements -- early tech engagement -- launch partner status -- game bundling -- sales rebate programs -- social media and PR support -- marketing reports -- Marketing Development Funds (MDF). MDF is likely the standout in that list of lost benefits if the company is not a GPP partner.

 

As you might recall, we have seen onerous terms such as those contained in GPP to have many similarities to Intel's once monopolistic business practices (versus AMD) in withholding MDF to partners. The results of that situation were huge multi-billion dollar fines for Intel. GPP has some striking similarities.

 

What is disturbing is that we have been told that if a company does not participate in GPP, those companies feel as if NVIDIA would hold back allocation of GPUs from their inventories. From all we have talked to, the issue of not allocating GPU inventories to non-GPP partners have not been spelled out contractually, but is rather done on a wink and a nod.

 

The motivations behind this GPP move by NVIDIA is somewhat confusing at first blush. Why would a company that owns ~70% market share, and has no true high-end competition make a move like this? Many people that I have spoken to fully question the legality of the GeForce Partner Program. Interestingly enough, we think that the roots of GPP makes it way all the way back and somewhat dovetails with our From ATI to AMD back to ATI? A Journey in Futility article published in May of 2016. That was the first time that the world got wind of AMD getting into bed with Intel to do some GPU business. We believe at that time NVIDIA put another "exclusive" plan into place, however by a different name, and the GeForce Partner Program we are seeing now is somewhat an extension of that previous program.

 

One thing we know is that NVIDIA has made a lot of enemies over the years. You can easily put AMD, Apple, and Intel on that list. We think that GPP is somewhat the result of those "feuds" with NVIDIA attempting to gain more control over the market as it is seeing its competitors developing products (ie AMD and Intel partnerships on products) that will not be open to NVIDIA.

 

As mentioned above, NVIDIA questioned my concerns and I copied and posted those above. There was however a lot more in that email that I wrote to NVIDIA on February 22nd and I am going to quote that below. To date, NVIDIA has never responded to that email or the concerns put forth in it.

 

This is a big story, but it all goes much further than consumer choice, however it does not matter to me on a personal level beyond that. I am just being my tech journalistic self, which I have to do from time to time. And after the story I wrote about AMD in 2016 on the Intel/AMD deal and the politics attached to that, this story is going to get a LOT of exposure now that HardOCP's credibility has been returned, if not exalted since all the truth came out on that. I am making sure all my I's are dotted and T's crossed and have already prepared my lawyers with what I need to win any sort of lawsuit that might come out of this. They feel I am on solid ground and have signed off on moving forward.

 

There will certainly be follow up stories written by many websites though, that have a much better grasp of the financial side of this.

 

I would highly, actually, almost assuredly suggest that GPP is going to open NVIDIA to lawsuits from AMD and Intel. That alone is going to cause NVIDIA to shoulder financial burden. The OEMs and AIBs will not sue NVIDIA, but they will be deposed for years on this and the concerns about that are already being voiced in a very big way. Intel paying $1B+ for anticompetitive practices is one thing, but Jensen having to explain it to your shareholders is going to be a very big deal in terms of NVIDIA stock price. I have to guess that AMD and Intel's latest foray into business together has gotten Jensen worried enough to roll the bones though.

 

It is my opinion that GPP is not a good business plan for a company that is dominating in terms of both product performance and market share.

 

As for the timeline for my story, I am wrestling with timing on its publication currently. Publishing before GPP contracts are signed or after GPP contracts are signed? I still have not decided on that.

 

At publication time, NVIDIA has not returned our request for the list of companies that will be involved in its GeForce Partner Program.

 

There is no doubt that NVIDIA GPP has some striking similarities to what Intel has done in the past that has been deemed "anticompetitive conduct" by the Federal Trade Commision. We would not be surprised to see regulators in the US, Europe, and Asia want to take a closer look at GPP as well.

 

It was expressed to me that publishing this article "could damage the relationship" between HardOCP and NVIDIA. As noted previously, we have been reviewing computer hardware for quite a while. What "damaging the relationship" means to us is that HardOCP will very likely not be doing any NVIDIA GPU reviews at launch time. It is very likely that AIBs and OEMs will be instructed to not to sample HardOCP for reviews on any of their video card products as well. If you do see NVIDIA video card reviews on HardOCP in the future, those will likely be fully funded in-house, as we will be required to purchase all of the review hardware from retail sources. We feel however that this story surely needs to be told.

 

 

So what do you guys think of this? Is this a dominant market player using their power to take the market completely and crush their competitor? Or is this genuinely a good initiative by a company to help them and their partners?
 


Edited by SceptreCore, 21 March 2018 - 01:20 PM.

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#2 smadge1

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 10:37 AM

why did you have to centre everything?


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#3 Master_Scythe

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 10:44 AM

Sounds fair.

Just because a company does well, doesn't mean they're not allowed to play hard ball.

 

I mean;

 

NVIDIA will tell you that it is 100% up to its partner company to be part of GPP, and from the documents I have read, if it chooses not to be part of GPP, it will lose the benefits of GPP which include: high-effort engineering engagements -- early tech engagement -- launch partner status -- game bundling -- sales rebate programs -- social media and PR support -- marketing reports -- Marketing Development Funds (MDF). MDF is likely the standout in that list of lost benefits if the company is not a GPP partner.

 

That's all 'tailored' services really.

If I program something, and you want it changed, but I don't know you from a bag of sand, I'm not going to change shit.

If on the other hand you were a partner, investor, market research assistant, ANYHTHING really, and I could help you (while you help me) whats the issue?

 

Are we worried about: boo hoo they're better than us, stop being mean? ~AMD

 

I'm not sure where the 'negative' would be.


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#4 @~thehung

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 08:03 PM

here:

 

John Teeple, Director - Partner Marketing at NVIDIA: "The program isn't exclusive. Partners continue to have the ability to sell and promote products from anyone. Partners choose to sign up for the program, and they can stop participating any time. There's no commitment to make any monetary payments or product discounts for being part of the program."

HardOCP: "The crux of the issue with NVIDIA GPP comes down to a single requirement in order to be part of GPP. In order to have access to the GPP program, its partners must have its "Gaming Brand Aligned Exclusively With GeForce." I have read documents with this requirement spelled out on it."


no pung intended

#5 Master_Scythe

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 08:42 AM

I'm no lawyer, but afaik Aligned means 'primarily directed at ' not 'solely directed at'.

 

If someone is getting something extra, it must have SOME caveat, no?


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#6 @~thehung

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 10:18 AM

and the word 'exclusively' O_o ???

 

he says what he claims this means quite explicitly in the following paragraphs:
 
"If ASUS is an NVIDIA GPP partner, and it wants to continue to use NVIDIA GPUs in its ROG branded video cards, computers, and laptops, it can no longer sell any other company's GPUs in ROG products."
 
"...we have been told that if a company does not participate in GPP, those companies feel as if NVIDIA would hold back allocation of GPUs from their inventories" although this has "not been spelled out contractually, but is rather done on a wink and a nod."
 
if true, these are most certainly antitrust violations.


Edited by @~thehung, 21 March 2018 - 10:20 AM.

no pung intended

#7 SceptreCore

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 12:04 PM

why did you have to centre everything?


... I don't know..

and the word 'exclusively' O_o ???
 
he says what he claims this means quite explicitly in the following paragraphs:
 
"If ASUS is an NVIDIA GPP partner, and it wants to continue to use NVIDIA GPUs in its ROG branded video cards, computers, and laptops, it can no longer sell any other company's GPUs in ROG products."
 
"...we have been told that if a company does not participate in GPP, those companies feel as if NVIDIA would hold back allocation of GPUs from their inventories" although this has "not been spelled out contractually, but is rather done on a wink and a nod."
 
if true, these are most certainly antitrust violations.


Yes it's quite plain to see that it's anticompetitive.

Not sure how Scythe is reading it..

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#8 Master_Scythe

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 08:53 AM

Well all I meant was that even with 'Exclusively' added to the word aligned, it doesn't stop you using other hardware.

For example, I could have a laptop, with an NVidia logo, with the Partner Program advertised, with "some NVIDIA slogan on the box; but have an edition for sale that was an AMD GPU.

I can picture a box covered in NVIDIA slogans, logos, 'enhancements', the same as every other box in your lineup, which has an NVIDIA chipset; but then a big red fake stamp across that says "{ A M D    V E R S I O N }"

 

I just read it as if the BRAND (or, edition\sub-brand) needs to be aligned, not every device specifically.


Edited by Master_Scythe, 22 March 2018 - 08:55 AM.

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#9 SquallStrife

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 11:44 AM

Well all I meant was that even with 'Exclusively' added to the word aligned, it doesn't stop you using other hardware.
For example, I could have a laptop, with an NVidia logo, with the Partner Program advertised, with "some NVIDIA slogan on the box; but have an edition for sale that was an AMD GPU.
I can picture a box covered in NVIDIA slogans, logos, 'enhancements', the same as every other box in your lineup, which has an NVIDIA chipset; but then a big red fake stamp across that says "{ A M D    V E R S I O N }"
 
I just read it as if the BRAND (or, edition\sub-brand) needs to be aligned, not every device specifically.


That might be a stretch.

What you're describing would just be confusing at best, deceptive at worst.

Edited by SquallStrife, 22 March 2018 - 11:46 AM.

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#10 Master_Scythe

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 12:14 PM

 

Well all I meant was that even with 'Exclusively' added to the word aligned, it doesn't stop you using other hardware.
For example, I could have a laptop, with an NVidia logo, with the Partner Program advertised, with "some NVIDIA slogan on the box; but have an edition for sale that was an AMD GPU.
I can picture a box covered in NVIDIA slogans, logos, 'enhancements', the same as every other box in your lineup, which has an NVIDIA chipset; but then a big red fake stamp across that says "{ A M D    V E R S I O N }"
 
I just read it as if the BRAND (or, edition\sub-brand) needs to be aligned, not every device specifically.


That might be a stretch.

What you're describing would just be confusing at best, deceptive at worst.

 

 

But certainly not uncommon in marketing.

 

Quite uncommon in the PC world, but even then not unheard of.

You used to see it often when boxed software was a thing.

 

Programs with 'Windows' or 'Win' in the title, stamped with 'MAC VERSION!'

In that instance I'd still say the product was ALIGNED to windows users, but there was a mac port.

 

No argument that it's a stretch though.


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#11 SquallStrife

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 01:44 PM

But certainly not uncommon in marketing.
 
Quite uncommon in the PC world, but even then not unheard of.
You used to see it often when boxed software was a thing.
 
Programs with 'Windows' or 'Win' in the title, stamped with 'MAC VERSION!'
In that instance I'd still say the product was ALIGNED to windows users, but there was a mac port.
 
No argument that it's a stretch though.


There's a bit of a difference between re-purposing stocks of old printed material for a new port by attaching a sticker, and deliberately trying to undermine a branding partner.
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#12 Master_Scythe

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 01:49 PM

No argument that it's a stretch though.

 

*snip* deliberately trying to undermine a branding partner.

 

is it though? really?

It's bloody borderline, but did they cross it?

 

 

John Teeple, Director - "Partners continue to have the ability to sell and promote products from anyone."

 

I know what they expect when you read between the lines;

But since this is corporate:corporate, no 'ethics' or 'feelings' involved, it feels to me like it could (legally) be twisted that way.


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"I don't care what race you are, not one f*cking bit, if you want to be seen as a good people, you go in there and you f*ck up the people who (unofficially) represent you in a negative light!"


#13 @~thehung

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 05:47 PM

"I can picture a box covered in NVIDIA slogans, logos, 'enhancements', the same as every other box in your lineup, which has an NVIDIA chipset; but then a big red fake stamp across that says "{ A M D    V E R S I O N }""

 

not just deceptive, but mental :) neither nVidia nor AMD would have any of it!

 

an ASUS Republic of Gamer card, for example, with an AMD GPU, purporting to carry "the GeForce promise"?  no.


no pung intended

#14 SceptreCore

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 07:01 PM

Well all I meant was that even with 'Exclusively' added to the word aligned, it doesn't stop you using other hardware.

For example, I could have a laptop, with an NVidia logo, with the Partner Program advertised, with "some NVIDIA slogan on the box; but have an edition for sale that was an AMD GPU.

I can picture a box covered in NVIDIA slogans, logos, 'enhancements', the same as every other box in your lineup, which has an NVIDIA chipset; but then a big red fake stamp across that says "{ A M D    V E R S I O N }"

 

I just read it as if the BRAND (or, edition\sub-brand) needs to be aligned, not every device specifically.

This is from nVidia's blog post:

 

"The GeForce Partner Program is designed to ensure that gamers have full transparency into the GPU platform and software they’re being sold, and can confidently select products that carry the NVIDIA GeForce promise.

 

This transparency is only possible when NVIDIA brands and partner brands are consistent"

 

So, no... what you suggest would go against what the GPP advertises. And to have partner gaming brands aligned exclusively with NVIDIA means that when they sign up to the program, they are handing their gaming brand - like ROG for instance - over to NVIDIA. Because there is no way that partners can afford to not sell NVIDIA GPU's, they would lose a lot of money. This is definitely nvidia using their dominant position to put the screws in, probably because AMD's partnership with Intel


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#15 SceptreCore

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 07:11 PM

MSI Is Saying Some Crazy Things About AMD Graphics Cards

 

MSI has removed AMD GPU's under its Gaming X brand.


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#16 SceptreCore

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 11:38 PM

MSI apologizes for disparaging AMD in favor of Nvidia on Facebook


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#17 SceptreCore

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 06:46 PM

Dell and HP Resist the NVIDIA GPP Leash - So Far

 

This is a quick followup to our article entitled GeForce Partner Program Impacts Consumer Choice that HardOCP published a month ago. Since then there have been a lot of developments in the industry that outline that the terms of NVIDIA GPP are exactly as we laid out in that article, specifically and most importantly that NVIDIA is requiring AIBs and OEMs to move their GPU gaming brands exclusively to NVIDIA products. Below is the exact language used by NVIDIA in documents to companies "invited" to be a GPP partner.

 

152346562569tvccwuuf_1_1.jpg

 

As of today we believe that both Dell and HP have NOT signed the GPP contract. I say believe, because neither company or NVIDIA would confirm this on the record. I have had backchannel discussions about this with trusted sources, and this press release story pushed out by The Verge on HP introducing systems in its Pavilion Gaming line with Radeon and NVIDIA GPUs inside recently would suggest GPP is not in the cards for HP. However, its Omen Gaming boxes are now devoid of AMD GPUs at this time. We are hoping this is a supply issue rather than a GPP issue. All of the silence surrounding this certainly reminds us that the First Rule of GPP is, Don't Talk About GPP. But don't fear, NVIDIA has clearly stated, GPP is all about transparency to benefit the gamer.

 

We did reach out to NVIDIA to again ask what companies were signed up with its GPP, and once again failed to get an answer; again that transparency thing comes to mind. But as we reported a couple of weeks ago, NVIDIA has "moved on" from this story so we don't expect an answer.

 

Lenovo is the outlier in the big three OEMs, and we are getting little-to-no information about that company. We are unsure if Lenovo has gone with NVIDIA's GPP at this time. From what we are hearing, which is rumor and speculation, we think Lenovo has not signed on with GPP, but we could be wrong on that. However, Lenovo at this time still has its Legion brand gaming systems with Radeon GPUs listed on its site.

 

Dell and HP not coming on board with GPP is actually a very big deal. Out of all the companies that we think NVIDIA is strong arming into GPP, Dell and HP have the most leverage to push back due to the massive volumes of mid and low-end GPUs that both purchase from NVIDIA. While AMD is not able to compete on the extremely high end, it certainly is making mid-level and low-end GPUs that both Dell and HP have access to. And for what it is worth, the Vega 64 is an excellent gaming card at 1440p which fits the bill for a huge portion of the market on high end gaming systems. NVIDIA may be in a fight to seize these companies gaming brands for their own, which NVIDIA may just lose, and hopefully so.

 

Dell nor HP are wanting to turn over their gaming brands to NVIDIA. Off the record conversations suggest that both of these companies think that NVIDIA GPP is unethical, and likely illegal as it pertains to anti-competition laws here in the United States. The bottom line is that Dell and HP are very much upset with NVIDIA over GPP, and Dell and HP look to be digging in for a fight.

 

On the other side of the coin, we see ASUS, Gigabyte, and MSI have already laid their gaming brands at NVIDIA's feet. ASUS has already committed to remove all AMD GPU products that appear under its high end Republic of Gamers brand as it pertains to video cards. (AMD Motherboards will stay ROG.) All AMD cards will now carry its "AREZ" branding. It will be interesting how these cards are marketed through this new Arez brand although ASUS did have and "Ares" brand in the past. Will it be a "gaming brand?" Gigabyte has already been documented as to removing its Aorus gaming brand from AMD GPU products, and MSI has been spotted as doing the same, however neither company has openly announced a new brand specific to AMD GPUs.

 

It looks as the Asia-based companies have rolled over for their master, NVIDIA, and given away their gaming branding in order to make sure they stay on NVIDIA's good side. The US based companies have not yet heeled to NVIDIA's GPP leash. And NVIDIA may soon find out that there are a couple of big dogs that are left in the yard that might bite.

 

The other unknown in this is Intel. Big Blue is very much aware of what is going on, and GPP could very much impact the sales of its Kaby Lake-G part that contains a GPU that was built by AMD specifically for Intel. I would expect we are going to see legal action initiated on NVIDIA GPP by Intel at some point in the future.

 

We also now can share that NVIDIA has specified that it will not extend discounts to non-GPP partners. And what is appalling, but not surprising, is that NVIDIA is denying "priority allocation" to non-GPP partners as well. That basically means your GPU order must have gotten lost in the mail.

 

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"Gaming" brands outsell non-gaming brands 3 to 1 according to the research I have seen on the subject. So to suggest that AMD will not be impacted by GPP is simply not true.

 

To sum up NVIDIA's actions, if you do not agree to be a part of its GPP, you lose GPU allocation, you lose GPU discounts, you lose rebates, you lose marketing development funds (MDF), you lose game bundles, you lose NVIDIA PR and marketing support, you lose high effort engineering engagements, you lose launch partner status, but you do get to keep the gaming brand that your company has developed over the years.

 

The carrot and stick metaphor comes to mind here. NVIDIA is telling us that its GPP program is a simple carrot, albeit a carrot that it was supplying willingly before these GPP terms were pushed out. I would suggest to you that North American OEMs are seeing GPP as a stick. As for the Asia based companies, I think they see it as just another normal business day and are still glad to have the job of pulling the wagon. One thing is for certain. Dell and HP see the danger of handing their gaming brands over to NVIDIA. We hope both stand their ground.


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