Nvidia Buys PortalPlayer

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia, known for making graphics cards which pump the pixels on high-end gaming and workstation computers, announced today it is acquiring PortalPlayer, a company which makes system-on-a-chip technology to power display devices for in-car electronics, secondary displays, and portable media players, PortalPlayer technology can be seen driving the SanDisk Sansa c200 series of MP3 players as well as Windows SideShow-capable Asus laptops; Nvidia will be paying $357 million for the company.

The acquisition comes as PortalPlayer CEO Gary Johnson brings his tenure at the company to an end; this summer, Johnson announced he would be gone by the end of 2006. The Nvidia acquisition would seem to put an end to the company’s search for a new CEO. The move may also mark an interesting diversification for Nvidia, which faces tougher competition in the PC graphics marketplace from rival ATI, recently acquired by chipmaker AMD.

“Modern mobile devices are miniaturized yet powerful multimedia computers. At the core of their architectures are complex Application Processors integrating microprocessors, system logic, networking, and multimedia processors,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, president and CEO of NVIDIA. “With this acquisition, we are combining the two essential technologies of next-generation PMPs, PDAs, portable game players, and phones: PortalPlayer’s innovative Application Processor technology and NVIDIA’s industry-leading GPU technology. With the products created through this combination, we intend to drive the next digital revolution, where the mobile device becomes our most personal computer.”

Makers of portable devices are increasingly considering the benefits of dedicated graphics processing units, although the added power consumption may bode badly for battery life on GPU-equipped gadgets. Nonetheless, Nvidia has already slipped its technology into portable products from Motorola, Kyocera, BTC, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson.

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