Apple/NVIDIA Rift to Spark Major Component Changes?


If you bought a MacBook Pro between May 2007 and September 2008, you might be painfully aware of NVIDIA’s (s nvda) major screw-up in providing fundamentally faulty 8600M GT graphics processors for Apple (s aapl) computers, as well as others. Apple no doubt still remembers that, too, since the warranty extension and repair refund policy is undoubtedly costing it large sums of money. That unpleasant memory may have partially led to a falling out between the two, according to recent reports.

SemiAccurate is reporting that, according to multiple sources, at recent negotiations between the two companies, discussions became rather heated, in part due to NVIDIA’s apparently arrogant stance concerning its supplier relationship with Apple. Evidently, Apple was expecting more modesty from a company that has cost it so much cash, thanks to a problem it didn’t even acknowledge existed.

The end result of the rift will basically see NVIDIA locked out of Apple for at least three to four years, according to SemiAccurate’s sources. Which means the sweetheart deal that saw the advent of the now ubiquitous 9400M graphics processor and NVIDIA chipset may be at an end. According to the same report that announced the split, Apple will be going back to Intel (s intc) for its chipset needs in the immediate future.

But why now? Apple has known about NVIDIA’s somewhat questionable dealings with it for a while now, and hasn’t yet stopped rolling out computers boasting graphics processors from the chipmaker. Part of the reason might be that NVIDIA has only now started to become unbearably arrogant in its dealings with Apple, following the success of the 9400M.

A more likely reason we’ve yet to see the effect of the fallout on actual Apple products is that the company’s design cycle is so long that the current models were already irrevocably in the queue when news of the faulty 8600M GT processors broke. Apple’s own investigation only wrapped up in mid-2008, at which point its product plans for at least the next year are no doubt pretty much set in stone, especially regarding major internal components. Other companies affected by the NVIDIA screw-up are likewise only just beginning to show signs of the fallout, lending credence to this idea.

While NVIDIA screwed up huge when it supplied Apple with a large number of faulty graphics cards and then refused to own up and take responsibility, does a lock-out really benefit current Apple customers? I spent most of last weekend playing Spore on my brand new 13-inch MacBook Pro, something which I never would’ve been able to do enjoyably (or at all) using a model sporting an integrated Intel chipset. To me, going back that way would feel like backsliding.

Maybe Apple’s own chip design machinations will pan out when it comes time to show NVIDIA the door, in which case it could shock us all with a completely revamped platform. Let’s hope so, because I’m not so sure I want my next computer to bring back the Intel GMA headache I only just managed to get rid of.