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Why Investors are Turning Away from Nvidia to These 2 cheaper AI Stocks which are also the magnificient 7 members

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In the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence, one company has emerged as the early titan – Nvidia. The semiconductor firm’s cutting-edge graphics processing units (GPUs) have become the buildingblocks powering many of the industry’s compute-intensive AI applications. However, Nvidia’s dominance is now being tested as established tech giants develop their own AI chips that could undercut Nvidia’s premium pricing.

Riding the AI Wave to Dizzying Heights

Nvidia’s ascent has been nothing short of meteoric. Over just the past year, the company’s stock has skyrocketed, propelled by ravenous demand for its flagship A100 and H100 data center GPUs. According to estimates from analysts at Citigroup, these two chips alone could capture over 90% of the GPU market for AI data centers in 2024.

“Nvidia hit the sweet spot by developing hardware perfectly suited for the machine learning workloads that power modern AI,” said Wedbush analyst Matt Bryson. “Their first-mover advantage allowed them to charge premium prices as demand for AI compute power exploded.”

However, that first-mover pricing power may be on borrowed time. While Nvidia raced ahead, tech’s biggest incumbents were investing billions to develop in-house AI chips that could allow them to reduce their reliance on Nvidia’s products.

The Potential Challengers Emerge

Four of Nvidia’s largest customers – Amazon, Alphabet, Meta and Microsoft – now field their own accelerator chips tailored for AI workloads. Collectively, these four giants accounted for 40% of Nvidia’s revenue in its latest fiscal year. Even if their in-house offerings can’t completely replace Nvidia’s best chips today, the companies could opt to scale back Nvidia orders to contain costs.

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“Nvidia optimized for performance first, but now cost is becoming a bigger factor as AI goes mainstream,” said Bryson. “Their customers have every incentive to pursue alternatives that are ‘good enough’ but priced lower.”

At Amazon, the Graviton3 processor is being enlisted across the company’s cloud services to accelerate workloads like machine learning inference. Graviton3’s capabilities are seen as solid, if not state-of-the-art when compared to Nvidia’s best offerings.

Alphabet’s offerings include its own tensor processing units (TPUs), like the latest Cloud TPU v4 chips. While TPUs are highly specialized for AI training, they could offset some Nvidia demand for Google’s cloud services. “Google has made it a priority to control more of the AI stack themselves,” said Bryson.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft has developed its own AI chips, including the Graphcore-powered AI accelerators used in Azure cloud instances. The tech titan has partnered with Nvidia but could look to reduced its reliance over time.

Meanwhile, Meta has taken an unconventional multi-chip approach. Its AI Research SuperCluster uses a combination of Nvidia GPUs alongside custom chips from vendors like Habana Labs. As Meta brings more AI into its consumer products and services, it will have incentive to double down on its own silicon.

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And then there’s Apple, a wildcard in the AI silicon race given the company’s penchant for secrecy. Rumors have swirled of potential Apple-designed AI accelerators, which could first be deployed for on-device machine learning tasks across the company’s product ecosystem.

“Apple is almost certainly working on custom AI chips, it’s just a matter of when they’ll be ready for primetime,” said Bryson. “If they can match or even approach Nvidia’s performance, we’d expect Apple to embrace their own designs wherever possible to control costs.”

Margin Pressures and Competition Loom

Beyond the threats from big tech’s in-house alternatives, Nvidia also faces growing competition from semiconductor rivals like AMD and Intel. AMD’s Instinct GPUs and Intel’s Ponte Vecchio processors both target AI and could apply pricing pressure.

But Nvidia’s largest challenge may be preserving its lofty margins as supply constraints ease. During the AI frenzy, Nvidia was able to charge premium pricing due to scarcity. However, as manufacturing capacity ramps up at partners like TSMC, GPU supply shortages should dissipate.

“Easing supply constraints take away some of Nvidia’s pricing power on the margin,” said Bryson. “They may have to balance their thirst for high margins against offering more attractive pricing to fend off entrenched competition.”

Of course, Nvidia isn’t resting on its laurels. The company continues investing heavily in R&D to push the performance envelope. Its next-gen “Blackwell” GPUs promise industry-leading AI capabilities. Nvidia has also focused on developing AI software tools, cultivating an ecosystem around its hardware.

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“Nvidia deserves immense credit – they’ve been visionary in the AI silicon space,” said Bryson. “But the forces of competition are intensifying. Nvidia has to run incredibly fast just to maintain their lead.”

Nvidia’s Lofty Valuation Premised on Continued Dominance

For now, investor enthusiasm for Nvidia’s AI prospects remains undiminished. The company holds a staggering $660 billion market capitalization, making it one of the world’s 10 largest public companies.

However, that nosebleed valuation prices in years of AI hardware dominance. At its current share price, Nvidia trades at over 30 times forward cash flow estimates. That makes the stock considerably more expensive than potential AI rivals like Amazon and Alphabet on a cash flow multiple basis.

“Nvidia’s premium multiple reflects its perceived technological lead and long growth runway in AI,” said Bryson. “But that multiple could get punished if big tech throws its massive R&D weight behind credible competing solutions.”

Only time will tell if Nvidia’s commanding lead in AI compute holds firm. The big tech giants remain formidable adversaries with the cash and talent to mount a serious offensive. Nvidia has seized the early AI hardware crown, but keeping that crown atop its head will be no easy task.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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