Nvidia CEO: Cryptocurrency mining drove a spike in graphics-chip sales
Nvidia reported better-than-expected earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter that ended on January 31. The company said it’s earning non-GAAP revenues of $ 1.72 a share on revenues of $ 2.91 billion. Analysts had expected $ 1.16 a share on revenue of $ 2.68 billion.
It makes you wonder if all of those rumors about cryptocurrency mining driving up the prices of graphics processing units (GPUs) are true. But for the past couple of quarters, Nvidia hasn’t acknowledged much contribution to its bottom line coming from mining-related sales. That led to a bit of a mismatch between Nvidia’s stellar financial results — which sales of graphics chips for games and artificial intelligence have driven — and the anecdotal chatter about how it was hard to find any graphics cards anymore because of miners.
Cryptocurrency mining uses computing to solve cryptographic equations, and if you solve enough equations, you can get an award of cryptocurrency. Bitcoin prices spiked toward $ 20,000 per Bitcoin in December, driving a frenzy of demand for mining — which is best done with GPUs.
But this quarter, Nvidia finally acknowledged that cryptocurrency was making a notable difference. In an analyst conference call, Nvidia chief financial officer Colette Kress acknowledged that cryptocurrency mining contributed to the solid sales of graphics processing units (GPUs) during the company’s fourth fiscal quarter, which ended January 31.
“[It is] difficult to quantify, but cryptocurrency accounted for a higher percentage of revenue than the previous quarter,” Kress said in a call with analysts.
But she added that the company is cautious about projecting the future impact of such activity, as “cryptocurrency trends will likely remain volatile.”
Nvidia does not break out sales of cryptocurrency, but investors have been excited about it. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said in the analyst call that Nvidia is modeling cryptocurrency mining revenues to be flat going forward, and he said that the company is doing everything it can to get GPUs in the hands of gamers and catch up with demand. I spoke with Huang briefly after the conference call on Thursday to ask him about the cryptocurrency connection.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: I wonder how you feel about all the cryptocurrency questions. It almost seems like that’s what people care about more.
Jensen Huang: You can’t not care about cryptocurrency. It’s a global and social and economic phenomenon. You can’t not care about it. I don’t not care about it, and I don’t mind talking about it. The important thing, though, is that the GPU — because of its super efficient parallel computing capability and because GPUs are everywhere in the world — these interesting applications that require computation beyond what Moore’s Law provides, are finding their way to us. Whether it’s deep learning or virtual reality or cryptocurrency — you name it — it’s going to find its way to us. The mega trend is that GPU computing has come into its time.
GamesBeat: It seems this quarter that your comments about cryptocurrency mining are starting to line up with the anecdotes that people have that GPUs and graphics cards are getting scarce in the wild. They are being bought up for mining.
Huang: We have to be mindful of its existence and make sure we have plenty of supply to deal with it.
GamesBeat: I guess you don’t always know what people are buying the end products for, right?
Huang: Not really. There are people buying GPUs for deep learning. Some use GPUs for photo editing. Some people use them for playing games and all of it. We hear people buy our GeForces to play games and do some editing, and now, they can do a little mining.
GamesBeat: I saw your automotive revenues were only up 3 percent this quarter from a year ago. Is there a lull there — or … you have a lot of things in automotive that haven’t kicked in?
Huang: There is a lull there we have been talking out for some time. The reason is several years ago we transitioned away from infotainment and diverted all of our focus toward autonomous driving. I expect autonomous driving to pick up in the next couple of years. In the meantime, our infotainment business, aside from the AI and the advanced infotainment business, is increasingly a commodity business, and we aren’t going to chase those anymore.
GamesBeat: Does the self-driving car development revenue show up somewhere?
Huang: Three things show up. Deep-learning systems for training and neural nets. We have 320 partners, and everybody needs it. There are development systems. [Nvidia’s system-on-a-chip] Xavier is now back, and we can start offering development systems. And there are development contracts.