Nvidia CEO says Google is the company’s only customer building its own silicon at scale

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Jensen Huang, president and CEO of Nvidia, speaks during the company's event at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 6, 2019.David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nvidia's CEO, Jensen Huang, has reason to be concerned about other chipmakers, like AMD.

But he's not worried about Nvidia's own big customers turning into competitors.

Amazon, Facebook, Google and Tesla are among the companies that buy Nvidia's graphics cards and have kicked off chip-development projects.

"There's really one I know of that have silicon that's really in production," Huang told CNBC in an interview on Thursday.

That company would be Google, he said.

"But our conversation with large customers is intensifying," Huang said. "We're talking to more large customers."

Nvidia was one of the major beneficiaries of the recent wave of interest in artificial intelligence. The company's stock multiplied more than ten-fold in less than three years as major companies rushed to buy chips that could smarten up their own applications, offer AI services to other companies — or both. Inventory issues and a sudden drop in demand for cryptocurrency mining put a stop to the meteoric rise, but Nvidia continues to talk up the impact and market potential of AI, even as gaming remains its biggest source of revenue.

Google first announced its entrance into the data center AI chip-making world in 2016. As it came up with new versions, the web company pointed to performance advantages over graphics cards that were available at the time. Google hasn't started selling data center chips for training AI models to other companies, though. (Google has started offering various products that use its Edge tensor processing unit chips, but those chips aren't as powerful as the TPU chips for training AI models in Google's cloud.)

Similarly, Amazon uses its AI chips only in its own data centers to deliver services for third-party developers.

Traditional chipmakers pose a bigger threat.

"Today Nvidia dominates the data center market and probably has 90%+ share," Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research told CNBC in an email. "However, AMD has won some great engagements and will be increasing its share. I think it's reasonable to forecast a 20/80 split by the end the end of 2020."

Earlier on Thursday, Nvidia shares rose after the company reported quarterly results that topped expectations. But revenue in its data center business dropped 14% from the previous year.

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