3 Key Things NVIDIA's CEO Wants Investors to Know

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NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) reported robust fiscal third-quarter 2018 results on Nov. 9. The graphics-chip specialist's revenue grew 32%, GAAP earnings per share (EPS) soared 60%, and EPS adjusted for one-time factors jumped 41%. Revenue and earnings both comfortably beat Wall Street's expectations.

A string of strong quarterly results have propelled NVIDIA stock to a return of 98.6% in 2017, through Friday, versus the S&P 500's 17.4% return.

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There was a wealth of information covered on the analyst conference call following the earnings release. Following are three key things that you should know.

For reference, here are how NVIDIA's market platforms performed in the quarter.

1. The Volta-driven data-center growth party is just beginning 

From CEO Jensen Huang's remarks:

NVIDIA's data-center revenue grew a torrid 109% year over year, thanks to the rapid adoption of its Tesla V100 accelerator, its first product based on its newest graphics processing unit (GPU) architecture, Volta. The company began shipping the product in the latter part of the second quarter. As Huang noted, all of the world's major cloud service providers have or will soon upgrade to Volta, from products based on NVIDIA's Pascal architecture, and server makers are also rapidly upgrading.

NVIDIA expects its data-center platform to be a significant growth driver, thanks largely to enthusiastic adoption of its GPU-based deep-learning approach to AI. While there are other approaches to AI to keep an eye on, a new potential threat on NVIDIA's home turf just emerged: Earlier this month, Intel poached Advanced Micro Devices' former graphics head, so NVIDIA can expect competition from the chip giant in discrete GPUs.

2. Expect gaming to have a "great" fourth quarter 

From Huang's remarks:

Based on Huang's comments, investors can probably expect NVIDIA's gaming business to have a super holiday quarter. Gaming is particularly important because it's still the company's largest market platform, accounting for 59% of total revenue in the third quarter.

NVIDIA has the top market position in discrete GPUs for gaming. Whether AMD's graphics card based on its new Vega architecture helps it succeed it gaining market share during the holiday quarter and beyond remains to be seen. NVIDIA investors shouldn't be concerned though, at least not at this point. The overall gaming market is growing, so NVIDIA's gaming business could still grow nicely even if it were to lose some share.

3. Timeline for revenue growth from driverless vehicle platform

From Huang's remarks:

NVIDIA's auto platform is relatively small, generating 5.5% of total revenue in the third quarter. Most of this revenue comes from sales of its Tegra processors for powering automakers' infotainment systems, but that's on track to change. The company has been laying the groundwork to profit princely from the imminent arrival of autonomous vehicles.

In the spring of 2016, NVIDIA began shipping its DRIVE PX 2 AI  computing platform, a supercomputer for taking in and interpreting the surroundings of semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles. More than 225 car and truck makers and others are developing with it. The platform is used in all of Tesla's vehicles, as well as Audi's new 2018 A8, and Toyota and Mercedes-Benz have adopted the platform for vehicles that are planned for launch within five years. Chinese tech giant Baidu has also adopted it for its self-driving vehicle initiatives.

In the third quarter, NVIDIA announced an extension of its platform to include DRIVE PX Pegasus, which is the world's first platform for Level 5 (fully autonomous) robotaxis. NVIDIA is working with several companies that are developing robotaxis, though no official partnerships have been announced yet.

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Beth McKenna has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Baidu, NVIDIA, and Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.