An interesting story over at Digitimes is reporting that with the upcoming launch of the Fermi-based GF100 graphics cards (GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470) only a select few of NVIDIA’s partners are going to have product available at launch.  The story tells us that only that select few have even received complete reference platforms as of today even though the launch of the product is going to be on March 26th (as NVIDIA has publicly stated). 

GF100 cards only coming from a select few NVIDIA partners - Graphics Cards 2
Fermi-based GF100 parts: maybe not coming to your favorite NVIDIA partner?

Board partners obviously need to have the full reference designs from NVIDIA in order to correctly reproduce and manufacture GF100 cards in a timely manner.  If some companies are getting preference over others, it could be seen as favoritism or a not-so-subtle “GTFO” to those on the outside.  Recent rumors surrounding NVIDIA indicated that an overabundance of partners has been weighing it down in changing PC gaming market.

The story also notes that manufacturers like XFX and PNY are already taking preorders for GF100 based cards priced from $679 to $499 though I wonder if that is because these vendors are on the short list of resellers that will have these at launch or if they are instead trying to make a case to NVIDIA that their customer base DESERVES some of the first boards that they might not otherwise have access to.

Over the past 6 months or so I have heard rumblings of a completely shifted landscape for NVIDIA’s board partners; this includes the removal of one or more partners as well as seeing brands like Galaxy and Palit take over manufacturing duties almost exclusively.  While we can’t say for sure which partners might get the boot, and NVIDIA is still denying that this will happen at all, it looks like companies that many of our readers might think of as “second tier” partners might in fact turn out to be the big boys on the block when the GF100 cards finally hit the street next month.
Second-tier graphics card makers are unlikely to start mass shipments of their Nvidia GeForce GTX 480/470-based (Fermi) graphics cards until April despite that Nvidia plans to announce the GPU on March 26 since most of the them have not yet received complete reference board designs, according to sources from graphics card makers.

The sources expect Nvidia will give supply priority to first-tier makers or makers that only produce Nvidia cards. Makers including XFX and PNY are already offering pre-orders for these upcoming cards with GTX 480 priced at around US$679.99 and GTX 470 at about US$499.99.

Some market watchers originally expected AMD to drop its graphics card price to counter the launch of Nvidia’s new cards, but since the prices of Nvidia cards are higher than AMD’s existing cards, watchers now believe any price war between the two chip makers is unlikely to start until after May.