updated 12:00 pm EDT, Thu May 21, 2009
NVIDIA Ion Price and Plans
Accusations that Intel has forced prices upwards on netbooks based on NVIDIA's Ion platform gained momentum through a purported leak of component pricing. As Intel charges nearly half the price for an Atom processor when linked to an Intel mainboard chipset versus buying it by itself, dropping from $45 to $25, it becomes less expensive to simply buy Intel's whole platform than to adopt Ion. The NVIDIA part is now believed by the Inquirer to cost $30 and would result in a barebones cost of $55 even with Intel's bundle and would spike to $75 if the chips were bought separately.
The apparent discovery follows complaints by NVIDIA chief Jen-Sun Huang that Intel's Atom pricing is discriminatory. Although he doesn't touch on Ion pricing, he complains that Intel's pricing gives it an "unfair" advantage by steering companies away from competing netbook chipsets, a problem which doesn't exist with regular notebooks. Unlike AMD, he doesn't plan antitrust lawsuits to level competition but also doesn't rule them out later.
Partly skirting around the legal battle, NVIDIA is claimed to be shifting its emphasis at next month's Computex trade show away from Ion in netbooks and instead towards ultraportables and desktops where the conflict doesn't exist. The move would be a sharp contrast to recent rumors that the first Ion netbooks will show in earnest at the same event.
Ion is a close relative of the GeForce 9400M used in Apple's MacBooks, Dell's Studio XPS 13 and other systems but is tailored to lower-power environments. It typically provides several times the visual performance of Intel's integrated graphics, a factor which NVIDIA has used to countersue Intel in a legal dispute over NVIDIA's rights to make chipsets for Intel processors.