In May of 2016, NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) began rolling out the first graphics processors based on its then-new Pascal architecture. The roll-out began with the GeForce GTX 1080 and GeForce GTX 1070 for high-end desktop gaming, and more affordable products -- the GeForce GTX 1060 and GeForce GTX 1050 -- followed in July and October, respectively.
In March, NVIDIA released the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti to succeed the GeForce GTX 1080 as the company's flagship desktop gaming product. In concert with the 1080 Ti launch, NVIDIA cut prices on the GeForce GTX 1080 (from an MSRP of $599 to an MSRP of $499) and allowed its add-in-board partners to build variants of the 1080 (as well as the 1060) with higher-speed memory configurations.
Per a new report from Chinese website MyDrivers (via HardOCP Forums), NVIDIA is prepping products based on the successor to its Pascal architecture -- known as Volta -- for launch in the third quarter of the year.
A change of plans
Per a translation of the MyDrivers report, NVIDIA's Volta products -- apparently to be marketed as the GeForce 20-series -- will launch "in the third quarter of this year."
The report goes on to note that, per NVIDIA's "traditional update habits" (again, this is a translation), Volta-based products would be expected at either the end of this year or in early 2017. However, market conditions, the report indicates, appear to be forcing NVIDIA's hand.
A translation of the MyDrivers report says that "the market situation in the first quarter of this year is very bad, graphics and other hardware sales decline." Additionally, the report cites a "price war" (presumably among NVIDIA's add-in-board partners) as leading to "very meager" profits (again, this is likely about the add-in-board partners' profitability).
NVIDIA's goal, MyDrivers appears to indicate, is to boost the pricing and ultimately profitability of its products.
This makes sense, but...
It's a no-brainer move for NVIDIA to release new, higher-performing products into the marketplace if it wants to try to reaccelerate sales. Although NVIDIA released the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti at the very high-end of its GeForce lineup and cut prices on the GeForce GTX 1080 (both moves serve to improve the value proposition of NVIDIA's products), these products are still, at the end of the day, GeForce GTX 10-series products based on the Pascal architecture.
If NVIDIA can get Volta-based products out in the third quarter of the year, and if these products offer substantial performance and feature uplifts from the current Pascal-based products, then the company's efforts to reaccelerate gaming graphics processor sales (assuming MyDrivers' report of the current graphics card situation is correct) could succeed.
Accelerating the introduction of Volta-based products might prove difficult, though.
For instance, if the Volta-based products are to use the new GDDR6 memory type, then a launch in the third quarter wouldn't be possible as memory maker Micron (NASDAQ:MU) has said that it expects GDDR6 to sample either at the end of the year or in the beginning of 2018. Commercial deployment would, naturally, be some time after sampling.
Of course, if the initial Volta products utilize GDDR5X memory (which is used in NVIDIA's Pascal-based products today), then this wouldn't be a problem.
Beyond the potential issue with memory sourcing, there's the question of NVIDIA being able to accelerate the development of Volta. Pulling the schedule in by a quarter or two means that the development of the chip and related technologies would possibly need to be accelerated relative to the original schedule, which wouldn't be trivial.
Ultimately, if NVIDIA can accelerate the release of its Volta-based gaming products, then that'd be unequivocally a good thing for NVIDIA, its add-in-board partners, and its customers. We'll see if the graphics specialist can ultimately pull it off in the months ahead.