NVIDIA Controls AIB Launch and Driver Distribution

Since NVIDIA's GPP program got exposed to the world, there have been a lot of changes over at Team Green in the way information about its company is controlled. After its heavy-handed NDAs have sought to muzzle journalists that work with the company, now it is pushing back on its AIBs in order to control the AIB's actions with reviewers.

I had mentioned this last week in our forums, but I have gotten a little more information about the amount of control that NVIDIA is exerting around its RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti card launch.

First and foremost, NVIDIA has demanded that its AIBs tell NVIDIA who will be reviewing the AIB's custom RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti cards. We were forwarded emails from other reviewers, from the AIBs that were asking specifically, at NVIDIA's direction, "Who will be performing the review content?" "What is that person's phone number and email address?" That is a bit odd, as we have never seen this before in 20 years of reviewing video cards. AIBs in the past have been left to pretty much operate their own review campaigns on new video cards, but that seems to have come to an end. From these lists of reviewers submitted to NVIDIA by the AIBs, NVIDIA has put together its own list of "approved reviewers," and sent their approved list back to the AIBs in order to let them know who they are allowed to sample review cards to. Much like NVIDIA exerted control over AIB's and OEM's brands with GPP, it is now exerting control over who the AIB has review its own custom cards.

This is where it gets a bit more interesting, and likely should give you concern with any leaked benchmarks you see on the web. NVIDIA is not allowing its AIBs to distribute drivers with their review cards. For a reviewer to have access, he must first sign NVIDIA's multi-year NDA (which is fine if you are "just" a card reviewer), then he will log into a protected site which is most likely a secured version of GeForce Experience in order to obtain the driver, and download from there into a specific machine with the new RTX card being present. If you are seeing any benchmarks between now and the ~20th (we think the 2080 launch and 2080 Ti launch will be split on different days possibly), you are likely not seeing cards benchmarked with its launch driver. So keep that in the back of your mind as you see performance leaks come forward.

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We did reach out to NVIDIA a week ago and asked to be included in the RTX launch. It seems as it is our duty to do so, and not just assume we were cut off because of GPP. NVIDIA did tell us they had no issue with including us in the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti launch as long as HardOCP signed its multi-year NDA. This is what my attorney had to say about HardOCP signing NVIDIA's NDA.

If I’m a reporter, I probably would not sign it. I could pick on several elements but basically, it is intended to provide a strong control over work product of the reporters. The definition of confidential information is way too broad. Broadest I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen and drafted and enforced a large number of these. Also, the typical exclusions to confidential information are not provided, but they exist at common law anyway. The 5 year duration of the obligation is just stupid for this type of technology. It’s pretty ridiculous top to bottom.

I don’t really agree with the interviewed attorney. He seems to think it very reasonable and "not that onerous." I have to wonder what he thinks is. It’s a very heavy-handed way to deal with the media.

Another industry source fairly high up the GPU food chain also made this remark to me about NVIDIA's new NDA.

You also inspired them to create this fine piece of content (NDA) so that disobedience does not take momentum .

Given that we do a bit more around here than review video cards from time to time, we did ask if NVIDIA was open to us marking up the NDA and returning it for some changes. HardOCP has gotten no reply from NVIDIA since last week. Given this, and the fact that our readers have made their voices heard (67% Against Signing / 33% For Signing), HardOCP will not be signing the NDA.

While we do think it is possible to source 2080 hardware, our review would be irresponsible without the correct drivers. Good job, NVIDIA, good job. That is exerting excellent control.

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