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Move over, Intel. Nvidia’s the best chipmaker now

September 14, 2020, 1:32 PM UTC

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Some seemingly momentous changes are temporary.

One day the U.S. Centers for Disease Control will return to being the world’s preeminent public health organization, unaffected by the actions of norm-busting political appointees. And Oracle, which has been sucking at the government’s teat since its earliest days, will never be a consumer company, though its opportunism to grab grubbily at the political moment is unparalleled.

Far more momentous is the changing of the guard in the semiconductor industry. For decades there has been one cock of the roost in the chip business. That was Intel, first a giant of memory chips and then, in a paranoia-driven strategic shift for the ages, the king of microprocessors for PCs and similarly functioning servers.

Intel’s era is over now, thanks to the dominating run of its crosstown rival, Nvidia. The younger company had already surged past Intel, thanks to its attention to chips powering the graphics of video games, technology that came in handy for all sorts of artificial intelligence-fueled applications. With its $40-billion acquisition of ARM from a faltering SoftBank, Nvidia will compete on every important semiconductor application in the technology landscape.

Nvidia isn’t a household name in the way that Intel was, a feat Intel accomplished with epic marketing that convinced consumers who wouldn’t know a byte from a bite that they needed Intel to be inside their computers. Instead, Nvidia has won in the marketplace, with nary a consumer marketing campaign.

To come up to speed on Nvidia, read Andrew Nusca’s masterful 2017 profile of its CEO, Jensen Huang, a Taiwanese-born American success story.

***

Tomorrow at 12:30 Pacific I’m interviewing Peter Strzok, the FBI agent at the center of the Hillary Clinton email server imbroglio and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. We’ll discuss his new book, Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump. Suffice it to say Strzok is not a fan of the 45th President of the United States. Register for the event here.

Adam Lashinsky

@adamlashinsky

adam.lashinsky@fortune.com

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.

NEWSWORTHY

My loophole has developed a little loophole. Big news over the weekend almost erased all of Friday's news from the headlines. But don't sleep on Apple's new app store developer guidelines. For many kinds of free apps like Wordpress or Hey that offer access to a premium service, the revisions should allow developers to avoid drawing Apple's wrath. But the revised rules that seemingly allow cloud gaming services like Microsoft's xCloud are offering terms that can't realistically be met, so gamers probably should remain sad.

The heat is on. One thing in common between the Nvidia-ARM deal and the Oracle-TikTok deal is that both will be subject to tremendous regulatory scrutiny from antitrust authorities. So, too, the just-announced deal for Verizon to buy the top prepaid wireless service, TracFone, for $6.3 billion.

Dousing the flames. With wildfires burning across many western states, Facebook said over the weekend that it is removing posts falsely blaming political groups for starting the blazes.

Not exactly a win-win. Many tech companies are planning on incorporating more remote workers in their future plans, even after COVID-19 recedes. But it's not all good news for workers who want to live away from expensive cities like San Francisco. Bloomberg reports companies like Twitter and VMware that plan to allow workers to move away also plan to cut their salaries if they move to places with a lower cost of living.

Shall we play a game. Getting over the embarrassment of being beaten by a computer, now some human chess champions are working with the computer to improve the game. A team including world champion Vladimir Kramnik used DeepMind's AlphaZero program to experiment with nine rules variations on traditional chess. After seeing the computer play millions of games, Kramnik felt the most interesting variants were a ban on castling and allowing pawns to move sideways.

Colonel Mustard in the parlor with a candlestick. I spent Saturday on a long bike ride. Tesla CEO Elon Musk woke up hankering for a new Twitter fight. Asked about Bill Gates' recent statement that electric battery tech was great for cars but not big trucks, Musk tweeted: "He has no clue." We may learn more on that subject at Tesla's upcoming battery reveal on September 22. Elsewhere in EV land, Nikola released a point-by-point rebuttal of short seller Hindenburg Research's attack on the company, but it's not helping. After Nikola's share plunged 14% on Friday, they are down another 7% in pre-market trading on Monday.

The Skynet funding bill is passed. Following in Amazon's footsteps, Microsoft got approval from the Federal Communications Commission to try connecting its cloud computing platform with orbiting satellites, or what some refer to as the Internet of Space.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

One reason Apple's app store rules are so important is that the app economy has grown into hundreds of billions of dollars per year. But many of those dollars come from spending in casino-like mobile games, as Cyrus Farivar reports for NBC News. Big Fish Games recently settled two lawsuits for $155 million that alleged its games were a form of illegal gambling.

While some players are happy to recoup some of their losses, gambling addiction experts and some lawmakers say it does not go far enough to help those whose lives have spiraled out of control after they got hooked on social casino games. They call for further regulation of the industry.

"What we would have welcomed as part of this settlement as a wake-up call for the industry is a change in practices," said Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

"I think their model is so lucrative and in some ways so aggressive that they're doubling down, and it's going to do a lot more harm. I think it's going to eventually be reined in, but it appears they are prioritizing short-term profit over long-term sustainability and responsibility," Whyte said.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Will Oracle’s reported TikTok deal satisfy Trump? By David Meyer

Why even the best stocks have to crash By Ben Carlson

Need to entertain your kids? These educational apps may help By Michal Lev-Ram

‘Going to Vegas:’ Newbie options traders face a reckoning as the tech stock rally fades By Jeff John Roberts

Voting by mail is more secure than the President says. How to make it even safer By Jenny Blessing, McCoy Patiño, Julian Gomez, and Tran Nguyen

How a vacation—or a pandemic—can help you adopt better habits now By Kristen Berman

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)

BEFORE YOU GO

The all-time classic movie about rock and roll has to be Cameron Crowe's paean to 1970s bands, Almost Famous, which hit its 20th anniversary over the weekend. It's also a pretty good primer on how to write a great magazine feature story (Crowe's first superstar career before he went to Hollywood). Ellen Johnson weighed the movie's continued relevance over at Paste, while many of the cast and crew reminisced on Instagram and Twitter.

Aaron Pressman

@ampressman

aaron.pressman@fortune.com