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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 @02:33PM (#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:5, Informative)

      by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:46PM (#24679693)
      Nvidia also denied that rumour vigorously, going so far as to demand a retraction of the story (from the news site, not Slashdot...). As typical, everyone seems to have caught the rumour and completely missed the denial.
      • by DarkOx (621550)

        Some maybe the rumor gets clarified to, we are getting out of the x86 chipset business for ATI and Intel chips because we are going to be building x86 chipsets for Nvidia x86 chips.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Nvidia also denied that rumour vigorously, going so far as to demand a retraction of the story (from the news site, not Slashdot...). As typical, everyone seems to have caught the rumour and completely missed the denial.

        Right. Because when companies issue a denial of a rumour, they're always telling the truth. They'd have no reason to cover up some new product they're not quite ready to release ...

        Oh, never mind, this is Nvidia, not Apple. Carry on.

        • Re:Odd (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:07PM (#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?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by hairyfeet (841228)

            Not to mention if you looked at it logically getting out of the chipset business would be majorly stupid coming so soon after the mobile chip mess. They need the chipsets for SLI,and we all know that the margins on the high end cards(which is what most gamers use in SLI) is a lot better than the low and midrange markets. With SLI they have a chance to either sell two high end cards at once or to sell a second high end card when it drops down to mid tier. Either way it is a good market to be in,and quitting

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by perlchild (582235)

          I was just thinking that the release of this rumor on slashdot at the same time as ATI's new linux drivers for crossfire couldn't be a coincidence...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by HadleyTheFox (1277144)
        Yes, but also a few months ago Nvidia was denying vigorously that raytracing has any future, right up until a week ago when they showed off raytracing on their GPUs.
    • Re:Odd (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tim C (15259) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:47PM (#24679703)

      Yes you did, and if you'd kept reading you'd have seen that story debunked - it's Via that's getting out of the chipset business, not Nvidia.

    • Well, maybe they're making a chip that competes with the x86 that doesn't require an x86 chipset. That could mean it's a system-on-chip design. It could mean it's a MIPS, ARM, or Sparc design -- all of which compete with x86 within certain segments.

      It could also be that the rumor about exiting the chipset business was just a rumor, too. It's more likely that the rumors about Via leaving the AMD and Intel chipset business and focusing on chipsets for their own processors is true than the rumor about NVidia l

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by postbigbang (761081)

        Behavioral functionality needed to emulate an x86 is non-trivial. Ask Transmeta.

        A ton of bricks awaits them, should they or others try. Look again historically at Transmeta.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Surt (22457)

      You did just read that, however that was also a false rumor.

    • That was a mix-up on NVidia and VIA. VIA is getting out of the chipset business, not NVidia
    • Re:Odd (Score:4, Informative)

      by nurb432 (527695) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:46PM (#24681967) Homepage Journal

      Perhaps its the 3rd party chip-set business they don't want to be in.

  • Okay, I'll bite... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KingSkippus (799657) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:34PM (#24679443) Homepage Journal

    Any attempt to enter the market without a license would bring down Intel legal on them like flying monkeys blackening the sky.

    How is it that AMD is able to release x86 chips, but nVidia can't without a license from Intel? Why would nVidia need AMD to be gracious?

    • by khb (266593) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:37PM (#24679503)

      In the olden days, chip consumers insisted on a second source. AMD was annointed as Intel's second source so that Intel could sell to such folks (like the US government of yesteryear).

      • by erroneus (253617)

        Cyrix used to be a player too. There was more to it than just that.

        The ability to make something compatible can't be the whole story. If that were the case, there would only be two automobile manufacturers as well.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by DirkGently (32794)

          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.

          • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@b[ ].org ['eau' in gap]> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:01PM (#24681157)

            > I don't see why nVidia would have it any different or wouldn't be able to do the same.

            There are already a crapload of people who are now or have in the past sold x86 compatible chips. You generally can't claim an exclusive on the public interfaces like the instruction set. Patents on various sub systems are a problem for anyone doing anything these days, but new products somehow manage to get to market.

            Cyrix->Via didn't have a cross license deal. Don't think Transmeta did either. I even remember 8086 compatible chips with NEC's stamp on the package. And there are a couple more I remember existed but can't pull the name from memory. The skills to make an x86 compatible processor from scratch is getting pretty widespread, making and selling one competitive with Intel and AMD is a different kettle of fish as so many others have found to this dismay.

      • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:54PM (#24679829)

        In the olden days, chip consumers insisted on a second source. AMD was annointed as Intel's second source so that Intel could sell to such folks (like the US government of yesteryear).

        That's how AMD got the schematics to the original 8086, but that's no longer very relevant. Much more important today is AMD's patent cross license agreements with Intel. (BTW, the cross licensing also helped save Intel's position in the marketplace because it entitled them to use AMD's X86-64 design verbatim after the Itanium fiasco.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by khb (266593)

          "Much more important today is AMD's patent cross license agreements with Intel."

          Indeed, I did not mean to suggest that things have remained as they were in the 8086 days; just provided the origin. There is a long and tangled history of licensing between AMD and Intel. No doubt the best bits aren't public info anyway (although I suppose combing through the various legal filings in various suits could prove educational).

          The particular rumor of NV entering the CPU market goes back several years. as an example

      • by MoFoQ (584566) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:17PM (#24680259)

        actually, it was IBM who required two sources (per their own company policy)

        later, legal disputes settled the question

      • I'm not entirely sure if I remember the details correctly, but I'll try to go on memory since researching it should be left to someone else.

        Intel licensed the 8086 processor (and 80286 if I recall correctly) to AMD per demand of IBM. Speculatively, I believe that Intel has always considered having a second x86 CPU source as a good thing. It keeps the monopoly monkeys off their backs.

        When 386 came around, AMD stayed pretty quiet. But, as you would see from NEC who produced x86 processors with 286 functions (
    • I was going to tell you to RTFA but TFA is almost as useless as the summary. Apparently Intel and AMD have a "lock" on the technology. What part of the technology they have a "lock" on is left unsaid... the instruction set? The manufacturing processes? TFA doesn't bother to say.

      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:22PM (#24680359) Journal

        I was going to tell you to RTFA but TFA is almost as useless as the summary. Apparently Intel and AMD have a "lock" on the technology. What part of the technology they have a "lock" on is left unsaid... the instruction set? The manufacturing processes? TFA doesn't bother to say.

        Intel and AMD have a lock on all the instruction sets that makes modern processors "modern".
        SSE, MMX, 3DNOW!, AMD64, Intel 64, etc are all cross licensed between the two companies.
        If they don't want to share, there isn't much anyone else can do.

        • by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:25PM (#24681669) Journal

          AFAIK, the VIA Nano supports all of those four instruction sets (Intel 64 and AMD64 are basically the same ISA). None of them are specific to Intel or AMD anymore.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by TubeSteak (669689)

            AFAIK, the VIA Nano supports all of those four instruction sets (Intel 64 and AMD64 are basically the same ISA). None of them are specific to Intel or AMD anymore.

            They aren't specific to AMD or Intel anymore because both of those companies have licensed them out.

            In 2003, VIA got a hold of some patents and forced Intel into a 10 year cross-licensing agreement. As a side issue, VIA got a 3 year extension to their use of Intel's socket 370. It expired in 2006 and you may recall that VIA had to stop shipping C3 systems.

            We'll see what happens to VIA in 2013 when their existing cross-licensing agreement expires.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by dgatwood (11270)

              Sockets are somewhat easier to patent than instruction sets, though, as they represent an actual invention, while an instruction just represents a fact---if I see this bit sequence, I perform the following mathematically definable operation. While I don't doubt that there are plenty of patents on instruction sets, I do doubt that any of them would be upheld in court if push came to shove and the opposing counsel were competent.... The only reasonably strong instruction set patents are the ones that define

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Michael Hunt (585391)

          You can't patent an instruction set, because an instruction set is an interface, not an implementation. You certainly can't copyright one for largely the same reason. There've been court rulings on this but i'm too lazy to look it up.

          Of course, that's not saying that the 2 or 3 most efficient ways of implementing SSE3 etc aren't patented to the hilt, that might be the case. But the situation is nowhere near as dire as people are making out.

    • Nothing as long as they clean room develop their own shit. If they just copy a design from amd or intel then the shit hits the fan. But nothing is stopping them from developing from scratch.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Even if you clean room design the technology, if Intel or AMD have a patent on some necessary, fundamental aspect of the technology and you duplicate it while recreating the technology, you are still required to license it.

        Keep in mind that here, lame patents are legal and enforceable.

    • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:44PM (#24679647)

      Socket and interface patents. Intel have patents on various bits of the interface between the CPU and the motherboard, which is one of the reasons why AMD use a different one for their CPUs.

      Assuming nVidia is going to make a pin-compatible processor with one of the motherboard sockets already out there, they'll need a licence from intel or AMD. That's assuming they don't produce a small low power chip wedded to a particular board, like say the intel atom or the via nano, aiming for the new netbook market or the mini pc segment.

      As I understand it, they already had to cough up a SLI licence to intel in order to get a licence from intel to make nehalem compatible motherboard chipsets, which means we'll finally see realistic motherboards with sli and crossfire.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anenome (1250374)
      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 pl
      • by dreamchaser (49529) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:58PM (#24679929) Homepage Journal

        Um no. More like long ago Intel needed a second source for CPU's and contracted AMD, granting a license in the process. AMD didn't start making any superior advances in CPU design for quite some time after that.

        Now...get off my lawn.

      • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:35PM (#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?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mikael (484)

          Nvidia and ATI already make stream processors - these are RISC type chips with read/write instructions, conditional branching along with floating point calculations. Even Intel chips have built in compilers which convert old 8086 instructions into the internal instruction set used by their superscalar processors. It looks like all the companies are evolving to multi-thread/multi-core general purpose processors with cores chained together to form vector processors. Neither Nvidia or ATI can really ignore Int

    • I'd assume that they'd need a license to include any MMX/SSE/3DNow instructions. Unless they've found some workarounds for those, releasing a chip without them would have some serious disadvantages in the marketplace. That's not to say that it can't be done, though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      AMD won a lawsuit vs Intel granting them license to use x86 technology back in 1992 (see AMD vs Intel on wikipedia). This was a different lawsuit than the one currently underway between those companies. If memory serves, AMD also has license to use many of IBM's processor patents (including SOI technology). I don't believe Intel and IBM ever reached a cross-licensing agreement, meaning AMD likely has more access to processor patents than Intel or IBM.

      I don't believe AMD can sub-license that technology - the

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Intel and AMD share patent licenses between each other - Intel gets certain technologies, including EM64T, and AMD gets other technologies. Unless Nvidia can break into the patent deals in the same way, neither AMD nor Intel are under any obligation to give them time of day.
    • by Arthur B. (806360)

      Because AMD has a license ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tonywong (96839)

      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 bi

    • by MoFoQ (584566)

      well...for the x86 (32bit) it's intel.

      For x86-64 (64bit), it's AMD.

      As far as AMD vs Intel goes, AMD does have a license from Intel....originally started way back from 1982 [wikipedia.org] and after a long legal dispute after Intel tried to cancel the license, the Supreme Court of California sided with AMD in 1994

    • by vertinox (846076) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:52PM (#24680961)

      How is it that AMD is able to release x86 chips, but nVidia can't without a license from Intel? Why would nVidia need AMD to be gracious?

      According to wikipedia nVidia does have license from its purchase of what was left over of 3dfx. Remember them?

    • by NimbleSquirrel (587564) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:14PM (#24681421)
      Actually if you look back in news a few months you'll find that nVidia and Via entered into a technology sharing partnership. If nVidia require a license to produce an x86 chip (and that is something I highly doubt), then Via's patent umberella should protect them from Intel's flying monkeys. ;)

      As far as lawsuits go, I can't see Intel opening up on nVidia either way. They already have enough problems in the US and EU with anti-trust threats: a lawsuit against a new player would be just be more evidence against them. 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).

      nVidia haven't been faring too well lately, and entering into this venture would have been well researched. I imagine that patents and licensing would have been one of the first issues to get sorted.

      Personally, I don't think nVidia would be capable of entering the market with x86 chips for high-end desktops. However, I do suspect that we'll see a system-on-a-chip based on Via's Nano, with an on-chip GPU (with PhysX and SLI capability), northbridge and southbridge. It would be rather like nVidia's Tegra is to ARM11. I'm guessing that such a processor wouldn't be destined for the desktop, but rather the portable market.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *

        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.

  • What about VIA? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:34PM (#24679453) Homepage Journal

    Does VIA has a license to make x86 processors?

    • by ArcherB (796902)

      Does VIA has a license to make x86 processors?

      That's what I was wondering. What if nVidia buys VIA? Would they be able to use VIA's license? I remember reading once, many moons ago that part of the licensing agreement prevented it from transferred when and if a company was sold. However, I see no reason why nVidia couldn't just "license" their chip design to VIA.

    • Re:What about VIA? (Score:5, Informative)

      by SlipperHat (1185737) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:55PM (#24679849)
      From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=VIA_Technologies&oldid=228622133 [wikipedia.org]

      On the basis of the IDT Centaur acquisition,[1] VIA appears to have come into possession of at least three patents, which cover key aspects of processor technology used by Intel. On the basis of the negotiating leverage these patents offered, in 2003 VIA arrived at an agreement with Intel that allowed for a ten year patent cross license, enabling VIA to continue to design and manufacture x86 compatible CPUs. VIA was also granted a three year grace period in which it could continue to use Intel socket infrastructure.

      So the answer to your question is: Yes, but only until 2013.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Spooky, Mulder. Just spooky.

    • by MoFoQ (584566)
      they should as they sued for it back in the P3 days.
    • by Molochi (555357)

      They got theirs when they bought Cyrix which, iirc, had deal like AMD.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by eclectro (227083)

      VIA actually bought Centaur [wikipedia.org] that had patents on x86 manufacturing. But intel sued VIA and VIA reciprocated in what amounted to be a long and protracted litigation. Eventually they settled [via.com.tw] after a judge ordered them to do so (as I suspect that it was too much of a technical mess for most judges to wade through).

      I actually wondered what VIA would be able to do without being able to produce a pin compatible x86 processor. But that would be answered with the very unique mini-itx line of boards which is differen

  • They could pull a Transmeta and build a RISC/VLIW core or six and package it with an x86 interpreter or JIT translator, basically do the front end in software instead of hardware. Crusoe was using the same core to do the translation and execution, but with a multi-core CPU that pipelines the translator and interpreter on separate cores they could end up with quite a nice design.

    • by Andy_R (114137)

      ture... or they could do it the Cyrix way, by reverse engineering.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Just checked Transmeta site and found this:

      SANTA CLARA, CA - August 6, 2008 - Transmeta Corporation (NASDAQ: TMTA) today announced that it has entered into an agreement with NVIDIA Corporation granting NVIDIA a non-exclusive license to Transmeta's Long Run and LongRun2 technologies and other intellectual property for use in connection with NVIDIA products.

      The agreement grants to NVIDIA a non-exclusive and fully paid-up license to all of Transmeta's patents and patent applications, and a non-exclusive license and transfer of certain Transmeta advanced power management and other computing technologies.

      Under the agreement, NVIDIA agrees to pay Transmeta a one-time, non-refundable license fee of $25.0 million. The agreement also includes mutual general releases of all claims by both parties.

      Link: http://investor.transmeta.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=326749

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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 cer

  • Well this is good for the home market and we should see some consoles targeting this chipset combo possibly. However I don't think that NVidia would possibly be a contender in the real $$$ business market.
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:38PM (#24679523) Homepage

    Sure, if Nvidia tried selling x86 chips in the US or Europe, the company would get its ass sued off. But what about China? What about India? What about the third world? Merely because Intel has a rock solid patent portfolio in the US does not mean diddly squat in Bangladesh.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044)

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by the_womble (580291)

        Nvidia has a company presence in the US so they can get sued here.

        I think not.

        Lots of companies around the world breach US software patents (for example) without their US businesses getting sued. Have you got an example of someone being successfully sued in the US for breaching US patents entirely outside the US?

        India and China want to do business with Intel and AMD

        Not half as much as Intel and AMD want to do business with India and China.

    • by vidarh (309115)
      Not to mention that Intel has been at it long enough that a huge chunk of their patents would have expired or be about to expire. There might be engineering challenges in avoiding them while getting the performance required, but it's certainly not impossible to manufacture x86 compatible CPU's without any patent licenses from Intel or AMD.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mr_mischief (456295)

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

    • by ArcherB (796902)

      Sure, if Nvidia tried selling x86 chips in the US or Europe, the company would get its ass sued off. But what about China? What about India? What about the third world? Merely because Intel has a rock solid patent portfolio in the US does not mean diddly squat in Bangladesh.

      It still matters in American courts as they are both American companies.

  • by khb (266593) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:39PM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dreamchaser (49529)

      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.

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

    by Sybert42 (1309493) *
    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.
  • Would this be the same Inquirer who (incorrectly) reported that Nvidia was pull out of the chipset business? Yes, yes it is (http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/news/2008/08/02/nvidia-chipsets-dead).

  • by suck_burners_rice (1258684) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:44PM (#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 @02:44PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:45PM (#24679661)

    Cyrix [wikipedia.org], Texas Instruments [wikipedia.org], IBM [wikipedia.org], NexGen [wikipedia.org], amongst others.

    Other companies made clone x86 [wikipedia.org] CPUs as well (The list: IBM, NEC, AMD, TI, STM, Fujitsu, OKI, Siemens, Cyrix, Intersil, C&T, NexGen, and UMC). Intel has never been really successful at prosecuting anyone for creating their own x86 compatible CPU. They won't sue, unless the company is small enough to just give up (Hint: nVidia isn't).

  • by Rinisari (521266) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:47PM (#24679715) Homepage Journal

    Check out the legal histories of AMD v. Intel and VIA/Cyrix v. Intel. These essentially show that there are agreements and settlements all over the place, but few-to-no actual court decisions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VIA_Technologies#Legal_issues [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrix#Legal_troubles [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMD#Litigation_with_Intel [wikipedia.org]

    It essentially seems that NVIDIA would need to have a patent on something which Intel has produced in order to induce some kind of Mexican standoff, just like the others have.

    • Maybe they can, if we're lucky, get the Alpha processor freed up in the process. I know, whichful thinking...

  • by jdb2 (800046) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:50PM (#24679755) Journal
    The idea of Nvidia producing an x86 CPU might seem dubious but perhaps not in the light of the fact that Nvidia bought Stexar in 2006. Stexar was a little known and quite secretive startup composed of a large portion of ex-Intel engineers and higher-ups from Intel's Xeon team. Before being swallowed by Nvidia they were intimating that work was being done on some sort of x86 "DSP".

    jdb2
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rtechie (244489) *

      Stexar was working on an ultra-low-power embedded x86 microprocessor that would replace stuff like MIPS in storage servers, set-top appliances, etc. Basically the cheapest thing possible that can still run a Linux kernel. This was a bad idea, as all the other CPU vendors are working hard on the same thing.

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @02:52PM (#24679789) Homepage

    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.

  • Actually Intel has one big reason to wish for as many x86 vendors as possible : in case of a collapse of AMD, it would take as many other competitors as possible to keep Intel out of trouble from the anti-trust authorities.

  • half right (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:04PM (#24680023)

    Look guys, here's the facts: Nvidia will be releasing a chip. It won't be x86, though, it will be ARM based (with an fpu and vector unit), running around 1GHZ or more. A couple months ago, ARM Holdings announced a major license agreement (but didn't provide any other specifics). There was a lot of speculation that it was Apple. It's Nvidia.

    My source didn't tell me if it's going to be targetted at smart phones, internet tablet pcs, etc.

  • 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.

    Particularly when the DOJ gets involved investigating Intel and AMD for antitrust collusion.

  • Old news... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ruinevil (852677) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:14PM (#24680193)
    NVidia has an x86 processor. http://www.nvidia.com/page/uli_m6117c.html [nvidia.com]
  • Unless they can produce it at 45 nm or less, I don't see how they could compete with Intel, right now AMD is not able to do this so Intel has this technology to themselves for the x86 processors. If they could produce something, as others has mentioned, Intel has to be very careful about not hindering rivals since they are in such a dominant position the market.
  • One hot fact (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    NVidia hired a guy who was SGI's Chief Engineer last November. He's also done some other very interesting things.

    I've worked with him directly in the past (as well as indirectly at SGI), and he is one of the smartest people I know.

    If NVidia management lets him be useful, then I think we'll see some interesting things coming out of NVidia. It beats me what their management is like though.

    This is really disappointing, because I'm rooting for AMD and their graphics efforts. And because NVidia is well known for

  • How can someone own rights on an ISA? Its like saying your own the rights to Esperanto and you going to demand licence fees from everyone who uses it. Languages, conventions, communications protocols etc are not copyrightable and patentable for good reason, only particular works made with them or implementations of them are. An ISA is basically a language or a protocol and the legal consensus is these are not copyrightable, and probably not patentable. We have so many independant implementations of language

  • Cyrix did it. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Inominate (412637) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:46PM (#24680867)

    Cyrix originally didn't license anything. They reverse engineered 386/486 designs. Intel sued them over it and mostly lost. The settlement allowed Cyrix to continue producing the designs, provided they were made in Intel licensed factories. Later, Cyrix nailed Intel infringing on some of their patents, and it was settled by allowing each to use the others patents.

    If Nvidia tries to produce their own CPU, I would guess they'd be sued, but it would probably end in a pro-nvidia settlement. I suspect Nvidia holds some patents they can dangle over Intel's head.

    Anyways, all of the speculation is meaningless, if Nvidia is actually doing this they've got the legal parts taken care of.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:03PM (#24681211)

    Seems easy to bypass the X86 issue. Create a full CPU using the X86 instruction set. Remove anything and everything related to 286 protected mode (keep "real" and 386 "protected" modes). Optionally, remove ring 1 & 2 from 386 protected mode, but keep the register format the same (windows and unix only use ring 0 and ring 3). Then, add a new CPU instruction or two that would really boost the performance of Nvidia's graphics drivers, which Nvidia can autodetect and use in their shipping drivers (just like most graphics drivers used to detect SSE and the like). Naturally, no one else would use these instructions, but Nvidia could be a good citizen and document them.

    The resulting chip wouldn't be X86, because all X86 code does not run. The result would be a new chip that isn't backwards compatible. Let Intel bark and moan all day long in their marketing that the chip isn't X86. All Nvidia has to do is make sure it runs Windows just fine without a new SKU from Microsoft (is it Intel's fault that MS doesn't use 286 protected mode? Is it Intel's fault that MS doesn't use ring 1 or ring 2?).

    There would still be a lawsuit, and it would be *wise* to ensure that your legal team is well funded. But it seems most legal arguments are letter of the law these days, and the subset and extended X86 is definitely not X86 (you can produce code that works on X86, but would fail on this, you can produce code that works on this but fails on X86).

    This would be a ballsy move for Nvidia, but seems right up their alley.

  • by szquirrel (140575) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:07PM (#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 greymond (539980) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:11PM (#24681357) Homepage Journal

    Why not combine Intel/Nvidia?

  • No leverage. Really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @05:02PM (#24682195) Journal

    Sure, NVidia don't have x86 patent leverage, but they have GPU patent leverage. What with the Intel's GPUs (current and futuer) and AMD's purchase of ATi, they most certainly have patent leverage. Is it enough? I would guess that it is.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

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