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NVIDIA has significant room for growth in the professional broadcast market as well as in the medical imaging market. While NVIDIA could try to buy out separate companies to address these two markets, Matrox is the one-stop shop for this sort of problem. Since Matrox is a privately held company, it is unclear how much Matrox is actually worth as a company. That said, Matrox has failed to produce any new graphics core logic since the Parhelia. In fact, the G550 core is still found in Matrox products today; the G550 is nothing more than an upgraded G400 with dual-texture-units per pipeline and small modifications. The Matrox G400 is an NVIDIA Riva TNT2-era product. We’ve seen seven iterations of NVIDIA GeForce hardware since then! It’s not unreasonable to believe that Matrox’s market value is low enough where NVIDIA can afford the acquisition.
A smaller, but still tangible benefit would be that the acquisition of Matrox would open up the door for a Canadian R&D center for NVIDIA. While it’s still 7 hours away from ATI’s headquarters, it’s possible that NVIDIA has failed to recruit key talent from Canada who do not want to move to the United States. As long as Matrox is “cheap enough” to acquire, the benefit to NVIDIA is clear. They gain instant market share in two high-margin growth opportunities where their existing technology (Quadro) can be augmented.
What’s in it for Matrox?
So what about Matrox’s perspective? If they could succeed on their own, they’d probably avoid a buyout. We already know that Matrox is one of the graphics companies participating with Microsoft in the Protected Video Pathway technologies in Windows Vista (Intel, ATI, NVIDIA, and S3 are the other four). Perhaps Matrox is preparing a solution that will author premium-content that is copy protected. One of the problems is that it’s unclear if Matrox’s existing 3D GPU hardware will be powerful enough to handle technologies such as Aero Glass in Windows Vista. While video professionals probably won’t care too much about the Windows Vista user interface, maybe the compositing engine plays an important role for video production in some way. The most advantageous reason to adopt NVIDIA technology is the fact that the 3D pipeline is used to accelerate real-time transitions and effects. Matrox’s inability to produce a high-performance 3D GPU means that they are limited in the types of effects their products can perform in real-time.
Matrox is therefore faced with two options. We already know that NVIDIA plans to enter the market of HD content-creation. If NVIDIA takes them on as a challenger, it’ll be bad news. Matrox lacks the resources to develop a flagship 3D GPU and they would be at a price disadvantage if they bought GPUs from ATi or NVIDIA as 3rd party. This means that while their strengths in software will help them combat NVIDIA in the short term, NVIDIA will quickly overtake Matrox as more sophisticated filters and transitions can be achieved with something like an SLI-Quadro. On the other hand, if Matrox joins NVIDIA, then they now have the advantage of access to flagship 3D graphics technology.
It’s evident that NVIDIA has room for significant improvement in the professional broadcast and medical imaging markets, and that a company acquisition could help them. Matrox is a leader in both of those industries, and unless there are two smaller companies that are valued at a lower cost than Matrox with equivalent technical and marketing value, or NVIDIA has recently hired new talent in these areas, it seems like Matrox is a perfect target for NVIDIA acquisition. NVIDIA has the means and the motive for acquiring Matrox. It's just a question of opportunity.
Even though this article is based upon reasonable assumptions, this article is still pure speculation. In fact, market analysts are often wrong. Many professional analysts believed that the original Xbox would sell 100 million units. Analysts just have to make the best guesses with the publicly available information. They put their reputation on the line each time they are asked to make a prediction. But if NVIDIA does acquire Matrox before the 2007, remember, you heard it here first.
I’ve heard that lawyers never forget the first case they lose. Do analysts ever forget the first time they’re wrong? What would Jen-Hsun do? I think he’d participate in the “Donate an Aston Martin to Alan Dang Project.” Now that I’ve gotten my first wrong prediction out of the way, hopefully it won’t sting if I’m wrong with this Matrox prediction. But if NVIDIA does acquire Matrox before 2007, remember, you heard it here first.
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