There has been a LOT of news coming out of NVIDIA about its PhysX engine finding its way into the Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and now, a couple of iPhone games.  In just the last week we heard that NVIDIA had gotten the PhysX engine into the Playstation 3 development platform and also on the Nintendo Wii.  What we are supposed to be taking from all this news is how well the NVIDIA PhysX software API is being accepted by the gaming industry; but there a couple of issues with this.

First, NVIDIA didn’t create the PhysX platform, a little company called AGEIA actually purchased the Novodex physics API to convert it to be hardware-accelerated.  Now, doing some very EASY Google searching, you can see that Novodex was announced to support the Playstation 3 in 2005!  And the Xbox 360 in 2005 as well.  So what are these new announcements actually telling us?  That the NVIDIA-branded version of Novodex is now being accepted by developers?  I guess that’s a good thing, but hardly seems overly news-worthy. 

PhysX now on the iPhone...why? - Graphics Cards  1
Anyone remember THIS logo?

Also, we should continue to note that the PhysX engine in the PS3, Wii, Xbox 360 and especially the iPhone are software-only solutions that are FREE from NVIDIA.  NVIDIA isn’t making any money up-front on this deal and is really only hoping that somewhere, somehow, years down the road, NVIDIA GPUs will find their way into more consoles/PCs as a result of the ingrained status of PhysX in the gaming market.  That’s a very altruistic plan, and while we commend NVIDIA for it, it isn’t going to help their bottomline now.

I guess PR with no product is better than no PR with no product, right?
Chicago (IL) – In character, Apple’s allowed a different route than other companies like Sony and Nintendo. Rather than licensing Nvidia’s PhysX technology and exposing it to developers via the iPhone SDK, they’ve allowed several independent developers who created PhysX-enabled iPhone games into their App Store. And while you can’t overlook how the advanced physics comes at the expense of graphics quality, their use does serve as testbed example that iPhone too can run the Nvidia PhysX engine.

While PhysX was originally designed for desktop GPUs, its proving itself to be far more versatile. Though still not officially licensed to Apple and their iPhone SDK, Apple’s relationship with Nvidia may result in the inclusion of the PhysX engine in future versions — especially when the next-generation iPhone comes out this summer with its rumored follow-on PowerVR GPU that could be well suited to support hardware acceleration of physical calculations via iPhone-optimized PhysX drivers.