For NVIDIA, Gaming Is the Story Now, but Artificial Intelligence Is the Future

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NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) stock has returned a scorching 225% over the one-year period through June 15. Investors have been enthused by the chipmaker’s strong financial performance across its four target market platforms: gaming, data center, professional visualization, and automotive.

Gaming currently accounts for the largest percentage of revenue for the graphics chip specialist, but artificial intelligence (AI) is the future for the company — and that’s a great thing for investors because the burgeoning AI market is widely predicted to be beyond humongous. 

AI concept -- human brain on a technology background.

Image source: Getty Images.

NVIDIA’s current business: Gaming is the heavyweight

Here’s how NVIDIA’s business broke out in its most recently reported quarter, Q1 of fiscal 2018

Platform

 Fiscal Q1 2018 Revenue

Percentage of  Revenue

Gaming

 $1.027 billion

53% 

Data center

 $409 million

21.1%

Professional visualization

 $205 million

10.6% 

Auto

 $140 million

7.2% 

OEM and IP* (not target platforms) 

 $156 million

8.1%

Total 

 $1.937 billion

100%

Data source: NVIDIA. YOY = year over year. *OEM and IP = original equipment manufacturers and intellectual property.

NVIDIA’s gaming business has some seasonality, with the fourth quarter of each fiscal year getting a boost from the holidays. That means the gaming business is somewhat more important even than the 53% figure above suggests. In Q4 fiscal 2017 and the full fiscal year, gaming accounted for 62% and 58.8%, respectively, of the company’s revenue. 

(NVIDIA doesn’t break out operating income or any other form of earnings by platform, so we don’t know the relative profitability of these platforms.)

Artificial intelligence is driving torrid data center growth

Here’s how fast each of NVIDIA’s platforms grew in fiscal Q1 2018. 

Platform

Revenue Growth (YOY)

Gaming

49% 

Data center

186%

Professional visualization

8% 

Auto

24% 

OEM and IP 

(10%)

Data source: NVIDIA. YOY = year over year.

Data center revenue nearly tripled year over year last quarter, making the platform NVIDIA’s most powerful growth engine. Since it now accounts for just 21% of NVIDIA’s revenue, it might take a while for it to pass gaming, but it’s on track to do so.

Here’s how quickly the platform has grown as a percentage of NVIDIA’s business: 

Period

Data Center’s Percentage of Total Revenue

Q1 Fiscal 2018

21.1% 

Q1 Fiscal 2017 

11%

Q1 Fiscal 2016

7.6% 

Data source: NVIDIA.

In just two years, the data center segment has grown from just 7.6% of NVIDIA’s total quarterly revenue to more than 21%. That phenomenal growth is being fueled by demand for NVIDIA’s graphics processing unit-based deep-learning approach to artificial intelligence. On last quarter’s earnings call, CFO Colette Kress said: 

Driving growth was demand from cloud-service providers and enterprises-building training clusters for web services plus strong gains in high-performance computing, GRID graphics visualization and our DGX-1 AI supercomputer. …

All of the world’s major Internet and cloud service providers now use NVIDIA Tesla-based GPU [graphics processing units] accelerators: AWS, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft, as well as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent. 

Interior of a driverless car showing woman in driver's seat reading a book.

Autonomous cars are emerging as a major growth driver for NVIDIA. Image source: Getty Images.

Artificial intelligence has begun revving up auto growth

Revenue from the automotive platform jumped 24% year over year in Q1, accounting for 7.2% of NVIDIA’s total. Auto revenue has traditionally come from sales of Tegra processors for automakers’ infotainment systems. In the last year, this platform has begun to profit from the technological shift toward driverless cars, which is in the early stages and promises to be both massive and long. Fully autonomous vehicles are expected to be legal on public roads across the United States within a decade.

A year ago, NVIDIA began shipping its DRIVE PX 2 AI car platform, which is a supercomputer for processing and interpreting the scads of data taken in by cameras, lidar, radar, and other sensors about the surroundings of semi-autonomous and fully autonomous cars. More than 225 automakers, suppliers, and other entities have started developing autonomous driving systems using it.  Moreover, the company recently announced that the world’s No. 1 automaker, Toyota, will use the DRIVE PX 2 platform to power its autonomous driving systems on vehicles slated for market introduction. 

To wrap up, as Kress put it on the Q1 earnings call: “AI has quickly emerged as the single most powerful force in technology. And at the center of AI are NVIDIA GPUs.”

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Beth McKenna has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Baidu, Facebook, and Nvidia. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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