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Nvidia Rumored To Be Readying X86 Chip Release 307

Posted by timothy
from the probably-not-for-wristwatch-computers dept.
jdb2 writes with the (honestly labeled) rumor from the Inquirer "that Nvidia is preparing to release an x86 microprocessor with its guns targeted directly at its two major rivals — Intel and AMD/ATI," and excerpts from the just-linked Inquirer article: "THE HOT RUMOR going around IDF ... [is] that the company will do an x86 part. The background whispers say that the part will be announced next week at Nvision ... Nvidia's men in white coats certainly have the brainpower to do it, but they also most certainly don't have a license to sell such a part. NV is basically locked out unless Intel and AMD both decide to be magnanimous, and we would not recommend holding your breath waiting for this to happen ... That leaves the lawsuit option open ... Any attempt to enter the market without a license would bring down Intel legal on them like flying monkeys blackening the sky. It would get ugly. Really ugly. Expensive too.""
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Nvidia Rumored To Be Readying X86 Chip Release

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  • Odd (Score:4, Insightful)

    by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:33PM (#24679435)

    Didn't i just read that nVidia was getting out of the x86 chipset business? Why would they now be releasing an actual x86 Chip if they don't want to even be in the chipset business?

    http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/08/02/1749213 [slashdot.org]

  • Re:Odd (Score:1, Insightful)

    by fadir (522518) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:35PM (#24679473)

    Maybe they managed to develop a "everything on a chip" solution that doesn't require a dedicated chipset?

  • WTF is this story? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:36PM (#24679493) Journal

    It's a rumor about Nvidia producing a commercial product they're not able to produce and sell without getting a much larger and more wealthy companies lawyers descending on them like a plague of locusts.

    Is there really nothing else to post stories about?

  • by khb (266593) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:39PM (#24679559)

    Given the cost of developing a full custom microprocessor (several tens of millions of dollars) including the complexity of verification ... surely a Legal Plan would have proceeded either development or acquisition.

  • No, not x86! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sybert42 (1309493) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:42PM (#24679621) Journal
    I'm tired of looking at gross call traces that are aligned every which way. Itanium was weird, but at least it would make sense. The x64 extensions are at least interesting, but don't remove the basic flaws in x86. Anybody doing systems or embedded software will have to deal with this at some point. How much brain power do we need to waste on it? Of course, the hacks that Intel itself has to go through are bad enough as it is.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:43PM (#24679633)

    If you are thinking about answering someone, please don't bother unless you have actually read and understood the question first.

    If you read the parent's question once more, and still don't get what you missed first time around, you might want to consider taking a course in reading comprehension.

  • by Anenome (1250374) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:44PM (#24679649)
    Long ago AMD invented technologies that were better than what Intel had. Intel also had technologies patented which were better than what AMD had. They decided to share. What they did was license each other's technology to each other, basically agreeing to coexist. Intel also needs AMD, in a sense, to avoid monopoly charges. Meanwhile AMD keeps Intel honest with stiff competition. The problem with any new competitor entering the market is that neither Intel nor AMD have to license their patents to a new player. So, unless a new player comes up with some amazing new technology which Intel and AMD want enough to let that company into the patent-party, it would be very difficult for a new competitor to walk in.
  • by suck_burners_rice (1258684) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:44PM (#24679653)
    I wouldn't worry about the licensing. Because if it were impossible for anyone besides Intel and AMD to make an x86 part, then please be so kind as to tell me how in the heck there are a bunch of companies out there that provide x86 parts at various levels of compatibility with the Intel original? It's not just Intel and AMD. There are Transmeta, VIA, Cyrix, ST, Fujitsu, just to name a few. Innovasic Semiconductor makes processors to replace ones that Intel has declared obsolete (see this [edageek.com]. The fact that even one company besides Intel exists (AMD) proves that it is possible for such a company to exist, either through a licensing agreement or through no agreement if none is required. This indicates that if Nvidia wishes to enter this business, it is possible for them to do so in one way or another. So I wouldn't worry about monkeys blackening the sky with thrown chairs. Instead, I would ask if it sounds reasonable that Nvidia would want to enter this business, and if so, what does this mean for the computer hardware and software communities, and let Nvidia's legal team figure out what legal strings need to be tied up. They do that all day long anyway.
  • interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MoFoQ (584566) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:44PM (#24679655)

    though currently, these are only rumors, it would be interesting to see how it will play out if these turn out not to be rumors.

    For one, aren't both Intel and AMD having their own problems with anti-trust litigation in various places around the world? (I know Intel and the EU like to go at it)
    Intel might just quickly license nVIDIA to do so just so that they can claim that there is no anti-trust going on, especially when there's a 3rd player at the table.

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:52PM (#24679789)

    So can someone tell me how anyone outside of NVidia (who isn't quoted here) would know they need a "license" (patents I'm assuming) for a technology that nobody knows anything about, is completely unreleased, and likely doesn't even exist?

    This story is complete nonsense. We're all dumber after having read it.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:56PM (#24679867) Homepage Journal

    Sure they do.
    Nvidia has a company presence in the US so they can get sued here.
    Not only that but India and China want to do business with Intel and AMD so they will not be real happy with open disregard for IP.
    They may be perfectly happy to ignore IP but they know they must be subtle about and at least pretend to fight it.

  • by tonywong (96839) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:58PM (#24679943) Homepage

    The original article is atrocious. There are no details on what type of licensing this fellow is claiming and he throws in some patent leverage that allows VIA to get away with making x86 parts.

    The author of the original article sounds like he doesn't have a clue what he has heard and has no idea how to explain it.

    From what I can tell from his badly munged writing, it looks like nVidia can make x86 compatible processors to take on Intel and AMD in the performance processor market, but they are in a legal bind potentially.

    This might mean that they want to make specific socket compatible parts, of which Intel and AMD have made proprietary connections and protected by numerous patents and trade secrets. nVidia probably has signed agreements with these companies for their northbridge chipset and GPU/SLI business and making CPUs would probably break all sorts of clauses therein. This is probably where the author is claiming the licensing would be required to make a socket compatible CPU.

    It might also mean that nVidia wants to make their own x86 class CPU with a new northbridge of their own. Probably a nonstarter since that means you'd have to purchase a motherboard from nVidia just to use their new CPU. Probably breaks the previously mentioned clauses too.

    The last scenario I could see is that nVidia cannot make a decently performing x86 compatible processor without infringing on patents that AMD and Intel own. Unless nVidia has a massive patent portfolio of their own that Intel or AMD are currently infringing upon, neither would open up any (cross) licensing discussion to nVidia and allow them to muscle in on the performance x86 market.

  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:06PM (#24680051) Homepage Journal

    There is no legal problem if they reverse enginneer it and don't copy the socket design. There is not a single legal barrier to making a processor that can decode x86 instructions.

  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:07PM (#24680071) Journal

    x86 is basically free for the taking. MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, 3dNow!, and x86-64 are not.

  • Re:Odd (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:07PM (#24680083)
    And every rumour that makes it to the press is real? Apple doesn't actually deny rumours as such, they just don't discuss them at all - in this case however, spreading a rumour about the imminent withdrawl of a company from one of their core industries can be *extremely* costly to that company in terms of customer and shareholder confidence.

    So based on past performance, I would say that the Nvidia denial is correct, and the rumour is false - we aren't talking about a denial to cover up a new product, we are talking about a denial of a rumour that could cost Nvidia significant stability and market confidence. In my opinion, whomever spread the rumour should be investigated by the SEC or whoever else has jurisdiction.

    But anyhow - why should we put more weight on the rumour and dismiss the denial as you seem wanting to do?
  • by DirkGently (32794) <dirk@nospaM.lemongecko.org> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:07PM (#24680085) Homepage

    Car analogies suck. The big difference between the two are that nobody holds a primary patent on the internal combustion engine. However, Intel does hold the patents to the i386 arch.

    It was a deal not with the US Govt, but with IBM that allowed AMD to license and clone the 8086. Still, a lot of legal went down in the 486 era that left AMD having to clean-room reverse engineer. I don't see why nVidia would have it any different or wouldn't be able to do the same.

  • Transmeta and Via (Score:3, Insightful)

    by goombah99 (560566) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:29PM (#24680491)

    Okay so did transmeta and Via have licences?

  • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:35PM (#24680613)

    So, unless a new player comes up with some amazing new technology which Intel and AMD want enough to let that company into the patent-party, it would be very difficult for a new competitor to walk in.

    What are the odds of nVidia finding some patent violation in Intel's or AMD/ATI's graphics chips? Would nVidia be able to play the Mutually Assured Destruction card?

  • by szquirrel (140575) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @05:07PM (#24681293) Homepage

    I assume Nvidia has some juicy tech they could cross-license to Intel and AMD in return for the rights to make their own x86.

    But who will build it? Last time I checked Nvidia didn't own a fab plant. All their stuff is built by TSMC, a very respectable GPU fab but still a generation behind Intel in process technology. Unless Nvidia has some secret fab project going for the last ten years, they certainly don't have "guns targeted directly" at Intel or AMD.

    Now if you told me they were going to compete with VIA in the ultra-low-power SOC [wikipedia.org] market, that might be interesting. Still, I imagine Nvidia has better things to do than throw resources at such a low-margin business.

  • by mcelrath (8027) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @06:28PM (#24682487) Homepage
    Nvidia certainly has lots of patents on the tech to make 3D chips. Intel is now entering the 3D chip market [cnet.com]. NVidia can leverage their 3D patent portfolio to get the relevant licenses from Intel on x86. They can probably do the same thing with AMD/ATI. I'm not sure what cross-licensing agreements existed between ATI and NVidia, nor what became of them after the merger...
  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:03PM (#24682923)

    Secondly, nVidia are a major producer of chipsets for Intel, and a lawsuit could see them dump support for Intel (and either solely support AMD or leave the chipset business altogether).

    That would hurt nVidia much more than it would hurt Intel.

  • by NimbleSquirrel (587564) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @09:22PM (#24684163)
    There are several key parts here:

    "fully paid-up license to all of Transmeta's patents and patent applications"
    This means that nVidia now have licenses for Transmeta's code morphing and VLIW technologies. This is more important than the LongRun and LongRun2, as nVidia could use this technology to emulate x86 on a GPU (or multiple GPUs with SLI). This is the same tech that Intel was forced to license back in 2007 when they realised they weren't going to win a patent war against Transmeta.

    "transfer of certain Transmeta advanced power management and other computing technologies"
    This seems to mean that as well as licensing, Transmeta have sold patents to nVidia. This could be an important weapon should Intel come knocking in nVidia's door.

  • Re:Odd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @07:53AM (#24687647) Journal
    They've already announced that they're producing an ARM SoC. I would be quite surprised if they wanted to produce an x86 part too. The x86 market is a lot harder to enter, and they'd probably do better in the long run to be seen to be backing ARM for smallish devices because Intel, who can easily out-spend them, have sold their ARM business and can't compete here.

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