3D, Business, Graphics, Hardware, Mobile Computing

Legal and PR trouble looming for mobile GTX260/280?

After going through dozen or so phone calls and IM conversations with several worried investors, analysts and attorneys, I felt inclined to write this story. One has to wonder what branding wizards at Nvidia thought when they decided to brand three year old architecture under the same name as current desktop parts. In case you didn’t know, Nvidia is going to use the same 55nm G92b chip on GeForce GTS240/250 boards for desktop and GTX260M and GTX280M for notebooks. This is nothing else but a disastrous call.

G92 chip now spans across four product generations – GeForce 8800GT/GTS512/GSO, 9800GT/GTX/GTX+, GTS240/250 and GTX260M/280M. The decision Nvidia obviously made can constitute as “deliberate misleading naming for confusing of consumers” and is making this company potential for not just consumer (private class-action/consumer watchdog) action, but also legal wrath from consumer protection agencies in the US, and several countries in EMEA region – Germany, Sweden and UK being prime examples.

If Nvidia labeled their mobile parts as GTS240/250, nobody would notice – because it would be a case of rebranding (in all honesty, ATI isn’t a saint there either, branding some Mobility Radeon 2000 parts as 3000 series and then rebranding some 3000 chips into 4000). But in this case, the company is deliberately naming GTS240/260 as already shipping desktop parts – GTX260 and 280, both based on GT200 chip.

Will the real GeForce GTX 280 please stand up?

Will the real GeForce GTX 280 please stand up?

The list of differences doesn’t stop there – we have a GTX280 consisting out of 128 shader processors (GTX280M), or 240 (the original GTX280), different memory controllers (256-bit vs. 512-bit) and the list goes on.

The potential legal part lies in the fact that if consumer types something like  “GeForce GTX 280 notebook” in “accepted way of finding information relevant to consumer” such as search engines – consumer will find information and glowing reviews about desktop parts and potentially form a wrong opinion/expectation about the product itself.  This is a slippery slope that none of IT companies slipped on, but as computers became a commodity, you can expect more and more watchdogs looking into the land of (rebranded) silicon.

Just like all birds in trees know, GT200 chip is in whole another league compared to G92 architecture, and this is nothing else but deliberate misleading of consumers. In case G92b is really named GTX260M/280M, expect a PR disaster and potential legal issues.

Sorry Nvidia, but according to conversations I had in the past 48 hours, it looks like Intel chipset license war won’t be the only court meeting. This branding exercise can lead to a class action lawsuit on behalf of consumers and worse of all, an official inquiry is possible in four states (that I know so far). Biggest damage would of course, be a stock downgrade from worried investors.