NVIDIA (NVDA 16.40%) is known first and foremost as the maker of the popular GeForce line of stand-alone graphics processors aimed at PC gamers. However, as it turns out, there are many interesting uses for graphics processors beyond PC gaming and NVIDIA has gone after many of these opportunities quite aggressively.
In this article, I'd like to go over three of the most interesting growth opportunities that I see for NVIDIA in the years ahead.
Obvious growth driver is obvious: PC gamers
Although NVIDIA continues to try to diversify its business, the company's gaming-focused graphics chip business remains quite attractive from a growth perspective. Last quarter, for example, the company saw revenue from its GeForce GTX graphics chips, which are targeted at gamers, grow 51% year over year.
Although it's not likely that the company will be able to sustain anywhere close to that kind of growth in its gaming-oriented graphics chip business going forward (especially as part of this growth has been due to sizable market segment share gains), I remain optimistic about the long-term prospects of this business as the latest PC games require increasingly powerful hardware.
Offsetting this, though, is the fact that sales of the company's non-gaming consumer-oriented graphics chips have continued to contract. Part of this contraction is likely due to the fact that the overall PC market has been fairly weak this year, but another major factor is that for non-gaming/non-professional PCs, the integrated graphics solutions that come built into PC processors are "good enough," obviating the need for low-end discrete chips.
That being said, at some point it seems likely that this business will become so small so that even dramatic declines there on a percentage basis should be fairly easily offset by even modest percentage growth in sales of gaming-oriented graphics chips.
One adjacent market that NVIDIA has aggressively targeted with its graphics processors is the high-performance computing market. The company currently capitalizes on this opportunity by offering high-performance co-processors to handle computationally intensive tasks.
These co-processors, unsurprisingly, are generally based on graphics chips very similar to the ones that the company sells into the gaming market, so NVIDIA is able to realize quite a bit of operating leverage by selling such products.
Additionally, the average selling prices and gross profit margin percentages on these solutions are quite high. Indeed, in a slide presented at the company's analyst meeting earlier this year NVIDIA indicated that the products that it sells into high-performance computing and cloud applications carry significantly higher gross profit margins than its corporate average.
With that in mind, it's important to keep the company's high-performance computing accelerator business in perspective. It reported that sales of its accelerator cards (branded Tesla) hit $279 million in its last fiscal year. Even though this business is quite high margin, it's still a relatively small portion of NVIDIA's $4 billion-plus in annual revenues (though I expect it to grow nicely in the coming years).
The automotive opportunity
NVIDIA had once had aspirations of using its Tegra system-on-chip solutions to "light every pixel" from smartphones all the way to smart cars. However, as the company saw limited success in smartphones and tablets, it has since refocused its Tegra processor family onto automotive applications.
Although the growth that NVIDIA has seen in automotive hasn't been enough to offset the loss of more traditional mobile chip business (to illustrate: NVIDIA's automotive revenue grew by more than 75% in the last quarter but overall Tegra revenues dropped 19%), I do think at some point fairly soon the Tegra business returns to growth as automotive growth offsets the non-automotive Tegra declines.
NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has gone on record to say that he thinks that the company's automotive platform business could eventually hit a $1 billion annual run rate. If Huang is right, then not only could the Tegra business go from a drag on the company's bottom line to a positive contributor, but it would serve to further diversify the company's business -- both positives in my book.