After PC chip giant Intel (INTC 1.46%) reported solid fourth-quarter results, but guided to an underwhelming start to 2016, Intel and many of its PC-exposed peers saw their share prices drop significantly.
Among those stocks "wounded" was graphics specialist NVIDIA (NVDA 4.28%). However, I believe the Street may have been too hasty in throwing out this particular baby with the bath water, as Intel's results actually contained some fairly good news for NVIDIA.
Remember, NVIDIA is only exposed to part of the PC market
The majority of Intel's revenues come from the sale of PC platforms. The chipmaker's products span the entire gamut of PCs, from very low-cost "netbook"-like systems all the way up through extremely high-performance gaming PCs.
The majority of NVIDIA's graphics-related revenue, on the other hand, comes from selling products to PC gamers. Unlike the mainstream PC market, which is still fairly weak as device upgrade cycles are longer, and many "typical" computing tasks have moved to devices like smartphones and tablets, the gaming PC market is doing extremely well.
In fact, on Intel's earnings call, management claimed that both its Core i7 processors as well as its unlocked, PC gaming enthusiast-oriented "K" series parts (which includes both Core i5 and Core i7) "set all-time volume records."
It is the strength of this segment that gives me confidence that a large portion of NVIDIA's graphics business should remain quite healthy, even if the overall PC market slows down.
How can we draw that conclusion?
In order to understand why the Intel results are good for NVIDIA, it's important to have some understanding of the buying habits of the kinds of folks who will buy Intel's gaming-oriented CPUs.
In a typical gaming PC, I have found that the graphics cards usually need to be replaced at a more rapid rate than the CPU and motherboard do. This is because advancements in enthusiast PC processor performance tend not to be huge generation-over-generation, and the CPU requirements of most games aren't going up at that rapid of a clip.
In contrast, graphics processors tend to get significantly faster with each passing generation, and games tend to see dramatic increases in the kind of graphical horsepower needed to run. Additionally, PC display resolutions continue to increase, as do maximum refresh rates (the rate at which the screen can update) and to support both of those, significant additional graphics horsepower is needed.
All in all, if Intel's high-end, gaming-oriented CPU business is healthy, the bulk of NVIDIA's gaming business should be in good shape.
NVIDIA isn't completely immune, however
Although I would say NVIDIA is more insulated from a broad PC slowdown than Intel is given NVIDIA's narrower focus, the company isn't completely immune to a potential slowdown in the PC/workstation market.
NVIDIA still has exposure to the non-gaming segment of the PC market via its OEM and IP business, and the performance of the company's Quadro workstation/professional graphics still seems largely tied to the performance of the workstation market (and with NVIDIA reporting that Quadro sales were down 8% year over year last quarter, that market doesn't look great).
With that in mind, I would say even though NVIDIA isn't totally shielded from any broad PC/workstation weakness, the gaming-oriented nature of the bulk of its revenue probably means it's better off than most of its peers.