NVIDIA Stock Is a Buy: 3 Reasons Why

By Chris Neiger Markets Fool.com

NVIDIA's (NASDAQ: NVDA) stock is up more than 212% over the past 12 months, which is great for investors who bought the company's stock a while back, but those same gains have left other investors thinking that they've completely missed out on NVIDIA's growth story.

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After NVIDIA's stellar fiscal 2018 first quarter, I wrote that the company's continually strong quarterly results, plus its ongoing expansion into artificial intelligence (AI), made a strong case for the company to remain on investors' buy lists. That's still true, but let's dig a little deeper and look at three opportunities that should encourage new investors to consider this stock.

1. Driverless cars

NVIDIA's driverless car supercomputer is called Drive PX 2, which uses artificial intelligence (more on that later) to understand what the cameras on the car are looking at, and learn from its past driving experiences.

Drive PX 2 is physically inside the trunk of autonomous cars, but the vehicle can also send all of its information to the cloud for more data-crunching using NVIDIA's DGX-1 supercomputer. DGX-1 can handle even more data than Drive PX and help autonomous test vehicles learn from each other by sharing the information they receive.

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With these two technologies, NVIDIA is quickly expanding its presence in the driverless market. On the company's recent quarterly earnings call, NVIDIA CFO Colette Kress said:

Since our DRIVE PX 2 AI car platform began shipping just one year ago, more than 225 car and truck makers, suppliers, research organizations and start-ups have begun developing with it. That number has grown by more than 50% in the past quarter alone, the result of the platform's enhanced processing power and the introduction of TensorRT for the in-vehicle AI inferencing.

It's worth pointing out that NVIDIA's automotive revenue only account for 7% of its top line right now, so it's not the only reason to invest in NVIDIA. But when paired with the opportunities below, the case for buying NVIDIA grows even stronger.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is poised to become a $33.9 billion market by 2022,and NVIDIA's GPUs are already playing a leading role in the burgeoning VR story.

The company holds 70.5%of the discrete desktop GPU market right now, meaning NVIDIA's chips are the go-to source when PC makers are looking for high-end graphics processing. That's helping to keep NVIDIA ahead of the GPU competition (read: Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD)), and the company is doing everything it can to ensure it keeps it that way.

NVIDIA released several new laptop GPUs last year that are designated as VR-ready, an impressive move when most laptops are still fall far behind their desktop counterparts. And thecompany also just revealed a VR collaboration environment, called Project Holodeck, which allows multiple users to collaborate and share information in a photorealistic VR environment.

NVIDIA used some of its current VR building tools, like GameWorks, VRWorks and DesignWorks, to create Holodeck, and the technology shows that NVIDIA is committed to using its GPUs and software for new VR experiences.As VR continues to grow, NVIDIA's GPUs are perfectly poised to grow along with it.

AI and Datacenters

NVIDIA's graphics processors (its bread and butter) are already used to train the vast majority of machine-learning computers in use right now, and the company's latest quarter proved it knows how to profit from that position.

Revenue from the company's data center segment nearly tripled in fiscal first-quarter 2018, to $409 million. The rise marked seven consecutive quarters of growth from its fastest-growing business.

Kress explained on the earnings call:

Driving growth was demand from cloud service providers and enterprises building training clusters for web services plus strong gains in high-performance computing, GRID graphics visualization and our DGX-1 AI supercomputer. AI has quickly emerged as the single most powerful force in technology. And at the center of AI are NVIDIA GPUs.

In short, NVIDIA's data center growth is coming from the company's strong position in AI -- and there appears to be no slowing it down. Kress said, "All of the world's major Internet and cloud service providers now use NVIDIA Tesla-based GPU accelerators," including Amazon,Facebook, Google, IBM,Microsoft,Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.

NVIDIA is also releasing a new Volta graphics card this year that's specially designed for artificial intelligence, and it should help the company continue its lead for the foreseeable future. All of this is opening up NVIDIA to the broader $36.8 billion AI market (by 2025).

For investors wondering whether or not buying NVIDIA is a bet on the future, all of the the examples above should be enough proof that this stock still has plenty of room to grow.

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Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Baidu, Facebook, and Nvidia. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.