Tegra Chip Growth Boosts Nvidia's 2011 Revenue, But HDD Shortage Looms

Chip maker Nvidia Wednesday reported better than expected results for its fiscal fourth quarter, thanks to the success of its Tegra mobile platform.

But the company also said it continues to grapple with the impact the hard drive disk shortage has had on its GPU shipments. Nvidia also reported a weaker than expected outlook for its first fiscal quarter ending April 30.

Nvidia reported fiscal fourth quarter revenue of $953.2 million, up 7.5 percent from the $886.4 million it reported during the same period a year earlier.

Nvidia’s annual revenue was also up year-over-year. The company reported a yearly revenue of $4 billion, up 12.8 percent from the $3.54 billion it saw in 2010.

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"I am pleased with our achievements last year. Our GPU business grew sharply. And with the success of Tegra, we established our position in the mobile market," said Jen-Hsun Huang, president and chief executive officer of Nvidia."We expect continued growth ahead, as Tegra 3 powers a new wave of quad-core super phones and Kepler, our next-generation GPU architecture, sets new standards in visual and parallel computing."

Nvidia’s Vice President of Investor Relations Rob Csongor said during the earnings call that the company’s Tegra unit has grown into a multi-million dollar business. The next-gen Tegra 3 especially drove growth for the company, shipping to consumers last quarter in Asus’ Transformer Prime tablet. The mobile chip will also fuel Acer’s Iconia Tab A700 and Lenovo’s IdeaPad K2, and the company said the market’s first-ever Tegra 3 powered quad-core smartphones will be unveiled at the upcoming Mobile World Congress event at the end of the month.

"With Tegra 3, we believe our mobile business is poised for new growth," Csongor said.

Nvidia also said its new Maximus technology, which is intended to boost workstation productivity by enabling simultaneous computational design and graphics simulation, along with its Tesla parallel processing GPUs leveraged for high-performance computing, helped boost its annual numbers.

"Tesla continued to make headlines in computational science," Csongor said, citing the chips’ use in research supercomputers such as Oak Ridge National Lab’s "Titan."

The company had originally lowered its fourth-quarter forecast, citing lower-than-hoped-for GPU sales because of the ongoing hard drive disk shortage. The shortage, Nivida said, "had more impact on the mainstream GPU segment than anticipated." With hard drive prices through the roof, PC shipments have dropped, which Nvidia said may lightened demand for its notebook and desktop GPUs.

Despite being in the green year-over-year, the company still said "tough economic conditions" were to blame for the quarter-to-quarter drop of 10.6 percent (in its third quarter, Nvidia saw a healthier $1.07 billion).

Nvidia also said it expects to continue feeling an impact from the shortage next quarter, and projected revenue to fall between $900 million and $930 million.