Why is Nvidia stock going up? AI brings near trillion-dollar valuation

SAN FRANCISCO — You may not have heard about Nvidia, but thanks to the artificial intelligence boom it’s now one of the most valuable companies in history.

The company has for years made the computer chips that can run graphics-heavy video games. But several years ago, artificial intelligence researchers began using those same chips to run the powerful new algorithms that were causing breakthroughs in the field.

This week the company reported earnings and explained the incredible surge in demand it has seen as the tech world races to create new versions of AI — prompting potentially the largest one-day increase in a company’s value, ever.

The 24 percent rise in stock price means Nvidia is now worth $939.3 billion. That’s more than Tesla and Facebook, which are worth $584.7 billion and $647.6 billion respectively. And it sits just behind the Big Tech companies of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon and Saudi state oil giant Saudi Aramco — the only companies more valuable.

Nvidia began in 1993 as the brainchild of three computer chip engineers, who predicted that as computers developed, they would need to get better at processing complex visuals. The bet paid off, and by the early 2000s, the company had won a contract to make chips for Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console. Since then, Nvidia has continued to grow as the video game market has exploded and eclipsed the film, television and music industries in sheer size and value.

But the current boom has come as Big Tech companies and start-ups alike scramble to buy the company’s graphics processing units, or GPU chips, for a totally different reason. The chips are well-suited to crunching the massive amounts of data that is necessary to train cutting-edge artificial intelligence programs like Google’s PaLM 2 or OpenAI’s GPT4. Nvidia has been steadily growing its AI-focused business over the past several years, but the explosion of interest and investment in the space over the last six months has turbocharged its sales.

The launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a chatbot that could have complex conversations, pass professional licensing exams and write computer code, in November helped show the promise of the technology, essentially serving as a firing pistol for a new AI arms race.

In a conference call with investors on Wednesday, Nvidia’s Chief Financial Officer Collette Kress called ChatGPT’s launch the technology’s “iPhone moment,” marking the point at which the world realized the potential for the new tech.

“The technology came together and helped everybody realize what an amazing product it can be and what capabilities it can have,” Kress said.

Nvidia’s stock had already more than doubled this year as the AI boom took off, but the company blew past already-high expectations on Wednesday when it forecast that sales in the second quarter would be $11 billion, compared to the $7 billion that Wall Street analysts had forecast.

The numbers “blew everyone away,” said CJ Muse, an analyst with Evercore Inc. “No one saw that.”

Other companies are trying to find ways to run AI programs without using Nvidia’s chips, such as Microsoft partnering with Nvidia rival AMD to build new AI-focused chips, or Google’s Tensor Processing Units. Even so, those alternatives won’t be enough for the biggest companies, Muse said.

“I think Nvidia dominance will continue,” he said.

Source : https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/05/25/nvidia-ai-stock-gpu-chatbots/

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