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Interview with Derek Perez on Xbox: NVIDIA Corporation

ActiveXbox: How is CES going so far?

Derek Perez: It’s going okay. Um, the Xbox stuff was kind of funny because you start off with something so good on the first day that the rest of the week is not as exciting.

ActiveXbox: Yea, The broadcast yesterday was quite amazing.

Derek Perez: Yea, it was quite an event – Microsoft and the Xbox group know how to “wow” you and keep you on the edge of your seat and always show you something extraordinary.

ActiveXbox: I think some of Microsoft’s main points is too really “wow” the audience, especially with launches like Windows 2000…I don’t know if you saw that or not?

Derek Perez: Yea, I did. It was pretty good. All their launches are pretty good, but this Xbox stuff is just phenomenal and we (NVIDIA) are so excited about it.

ActiveXbox: NVIDIA’s role is pretty amazing on the Xbox deal, isn’t it?

Derek Perez: Yes, if you think about it, NVIDIA is definitely the “heart and soul” of the Xbox I’d say. If you look at the games, the experience, everything being done on the two chips we provide without us I don’t think you could get that (the Xbox). The immersiveness that you are getting and feeling when you view the demos.

ActiveXbox: Can you give us a clear definition on NVIDIA’s role on the whole Xbox deal? Microsoft hasn’t released much official information, other than the fact the you guys are making some key components for the console?

Derek Perez: So right now NVIDIA is designing, manufacturing, and supplying two of three chips currently in Xbox. One is the graphics chip, of course, which everybody is so familiar with. The second one is what we are calling the Media Communications Processor. What that is all of the audio (3D environmental audio), all of the broadband (The Ethernet), all of the USB, all of the wireless parts, basically all of the connecting stuff.

ActiveXbox: So the controllers will go through the MCP as well?

Derek Perez: If Microsoft so chooses so, yes. That’s why I say if you think about it we are the “heart and soul” of what is in Xbox.

ActiveXbox: How has Microsoft’s support been so far in the development of the Xbox?

Derek Perez: Oh, phenomenal. It’s been such a good partnership and you know it should be because we’ve worked together before in the past on DirectX 8, all of the DirectX APIs, all of their PC games in their games division, windows stuff, design platforms, and what not. Again, we’ve always worked together on things. Microsoft is definitely a great company to work with.

ActiveXbox: I think that with NVIDIA providing the graphics processor and the MCP for Xbox that it will better establish NVIDIA as a company that can be innovative in other areas than graphics technology, especially with the MCP component.

Derek Perez: Oh, definitely. When this first happened it was kind of like Microsoft’s Trojan horse in your living room but the same holds true for NVIDIA. This technology can be found in the next three to five years in just about every digital appliance you could think about. The core technology you could probably put in a PDA, in a cell phone, in any digital appliance you could think about because the guts of every digital appliance are about the same. You are going to have to have good graphics, connectivity, and the main brain CPU.

ActiveXbox: I believe the GPU for the Xbox will trump over the competition of Sony PlayStation 2, and Nintendo’s upcoming Gamecube by looking at the current stats right now.

Derek Perez: Yea, we truly believe so. Like Bill Gates said on stage this technology is so cutting-edge. We design such high-end stuff, our processors are bigger than Pentium processors so you know how complex they are. We just add more. We are a graphics company, we’ve been doing graphics now for seven years. We’ve worked with all the big graphics companies on desktop PC products.

ActiveXbox: I was wondering, during the development of the Xbox did NVIDIA work at all with Intel on the CPU for compatibility or any other issues?

Derek Perez: No. We do work with Intel and AMD on compatibility with all their chips. We make it pretty seamless whether it is in a PC or a game console.  No matter what CPU processor shows up, we are compatible with.

ActiveXbox: There was some question over why NVIDIA dropped the GPU processor speed from 300 MHz to 250 MHz?

Derek Perez: We didn’t drop it. It’s the same reason as why they bumped up the CPU processor. Until the actual final product comes out nobody really how it will perform. Sometimes with the chips the numbers on paper do not seem fast but the thing just “smokes”. I always reserve judgment until the final product.

ActiveXbox: What was on stage yesterday, the Xbox development kit 1?

Derek Perez: Yea, running on 1/5th of the power and on our next-generation chip, too.

ActiveXbox: Was that running on a prototype chip as Bill Gates said that the chip was still in development?

Derek Perez: That was not the Xbox chip that they were running. It was the same core architecture, but not the actual chip.

ActiveXbox: So it was an early prototype?

Derek Perez: Yes.

ActiveXbox: Do you know the final name of the GPU, is it the NV2A or the NV20?

Derek Perez: We’re actually calling it the xGPU. NV2x is one of the codenames being tossed around. Everything for Xbox we simply put an “x” in front of.

ActiveXbox: I think that NVIDIA is on the sidelines here with this, the GPU and MCP like you said are the “heart and soul” of the console and you guys aren’t really getting your deserved credit yet.

Derek Perez: No, but you… know it will get there. As more games come out, you will get to see what they look like and feel you will say “wow, the stuff NVIDIA is doing is really compelling and it really is bring these games to life.” 

ActiveXbox: Do you know how long NVIDIA will be producing these two chips for Xbox?

Derek Perez: I don’t really know the details on the contract.  Typically the life expectancy for a console is about three years, and the platform doesn’t change. So it’s not like they will do an upgrade, like Xbox 1.5. It will just be Xbox…for three years…until the next generation comes out.

ActiveXbox: Then Xbox squared! But I can’t even imagine what the next-generation of Xbox would be like.

Derek Perez: Like Toy Story, Jurassic Park…stuff like that.  That’s what I think five years away will look like.

ActiveXbox: Will the MCP include Dolby Digital or DTS output?

Derek Perez: Yea, and I believe Microsoft is working on details to get Dolby Digital included.

ActiveXbox: Combine that with HDTV and it will be more fun than any PC game I’ve seen.

Derek Perez: I’m really looking forward to Xbox and Xbox games.

ActiveXbox: Microsoft is really shooting for an unprecedented amount of games to be ready for the release of Xbox, aren’t they?

Derek Perez: They are doing such great work with the developers. Microsoft doesn’t want to run into a situation like PlayStation 2, where when it came out there were only a couple of games. Microsoft and NVIDIA the work that we are doing with developers – assures us that when it comes out it will look great.

ActiveXbox: Do you think when the actual manufacturing begins that there will be enough NVIDIA chips to go around, there won’t be any problems like PlayStation 2 with shortages?

Derek Perez: I don’t think so. We’ve never had a problem with production and execution – I don’t think it will be a problem here.

ActiveXbox: Does the MCP have anything to do with the “Rumble” technology in the controller?

Derek Perez: No, that’s totally in the controller itself. Just like on other consoles with “rumble packs.”

ActiveXbox: Will there be any driver updates for the NVIDIA chip?

Derek Perez: I’m sure there will, although I don’t know. But I can imagine with the broadband connectivity with the Xbox, you will be able to download not only patches or new versions of game but also drivers too.

ActiveXbox: The xGPU that NVIDIA is manufacturing, how much does that differ from the high-end PC chips?

Derek Perez: It’s totally different. It’s a whole new architecture. It will be close to the chip that we develop for the PC, but it’s a different design and packaging. The chip we are doing for Xbox is its own chip that you won’t see anywhere but Xbox.

ActiveXbox: Do you think any of the technology that NVIDIA has acquired by 3dfx will appear in the Xbox?

Derek Perez: No, not right now. Probably a year away from that.

ActiveXbox: Do you use any of the DirectX elements? I remember at E3, Microsoft was big on the DirectX elements in Xbox.

Derek Perez: Yes we use all of DirectX. In fact, we licensed a number of features to Microsoft for DirectX 8. 


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