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Google Acquires Chip Maker Startup Agnilux 150

Posted by timothy
from the keeping-up-with-the-jobses dept.
bobwrit points out a story at PC Magazine, from which he extracts "Google has purchased Agnilux, a secretive chip house made up of engineers who architected the heart of the iPad, then left the company. Reuters' PEHub reported the story Tuesday night. A Google spokesman also confirmed the acquisition to PCMag.com. 'We're pleased to welcome the Agnilux team to Google, but we don't have any additional information to share right now,' a Google spokesman said Tuesday night via email."
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Google Acquires Chip Maker Startup Agnilux

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  • by alfredos (1694270)
    I can feel a lawsuit coming...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      I can feel a lawsuit coming...

      Why?
      If those guys didn't get sued after leaving Apple and starting their own company, why do you think Apple would have any legal grounds to come after them now?

      • Because they already started their own company, called PA Semi, and Apple bought it specifically to get their hands on the development team? I'd have expected Apple to insist that the employees had signed contracts that would prevent this kind of thing. I'd also expect Google to be a bit wary of buying a company founded by the same people who just quit the company that had just bought the last company they'd founded...
        • by LordNimon (85072)
          I'd have expected Apple to insist that the employees had signed contracts that would prevent this kind of thing.

          There's no way Apple could do that. PA Semi employees didn't have any such contract (I presume), and when Apple bought them, there's no way they could have forced the employees to sign such a contract. I've never heard of a company being purchased on the condition that the employees sign away their rights before the purchase.
        • by maxume (22995)

          It's quite likely that the price was a trifle (In Google's eyes).

          And Google probably roped them into being employees at least for a few months.

          And maybe they just wanted some particular technology.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by alfredos (1694270)

        Why?

        Apple probably doesn't care if they go on their own way and have a great success, say, making chips for controlling A/C units. But going to Google, whom they see as a big ship in collision course with them, can't end up in a happy "we're all friends" ending, can it?

      • by ezzzD55J (697465)
        because they have money now :)
      • by mjwx (966435)

        I can feel a lawsuit coming...

        Why?

        Because that's the kind of business Apple is, they don't innovate, they litigate. It's been this way for a while, the look and feel lawsuit is a great historical example.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      Why is it any different then any other day? Lawsuits are just the name of the game now.. no matter what a company does *someone* is going to sue..

    • Up until now I've been saying this Google-Apple war is very one sided with Apple doing a lot if ineffectual attacking with Google (removing the word "google" from the Iphone, various comments including the two "porn store" comments). But this changes that.

      Google I would say have just pulled off their own Doolittle raid, whilst completely ineffectual from a business standpoint it does send an important message to Apple, don't forget we can strike anywhere, even in the very heart of your business.

      On the
    • Typically, a group like that builds a chip or architecture and learns from the experience. Sitting around having a few beers or in the cafeteria they start talking about how they could make the bestest, badest, most energy efficient or highest performance or whatever chip ever, given what they know now. Someone knows someone who works higher up at google and pretty soon they are talking.

  • Android (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@noSPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:25PM (#31929352) Homepage Journal

    Google wants to make phones, netbooks and tablets. They've been investing money in coding for ARM, but it makes sense to look into producing their own chips for these devices.

    • Re:Android (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeng (926980) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:29PM (#31929446)

      With everyone saying ARM is so efficient how are we to know that Google is not investing in ARM to make more energy efficient ARM based servers?

      • by Halo1 (136547)

        With everyone saying ARM is so efficient how are we to know that Google is not investing in ARM to make more energy efficient ARM based servers?

        It's definitely a market that ARM itself is also targeting: ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/ict/docs/computing/arm-emre-ozer_en.pdf [europa.eu] (see e.g. the EuroCloud project mentioned on slide 3)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by poetmatt (793785)

        apparently nobody paid attention to the fact that every android phone runs on arm, aka google is already investing in ARM.

      • They are.

        Google has job postings all over advertising looking for infrastructure architects with ARM experience and solid state drives, with an aim of reducing power consumption.

        I'd have to guess that was a server play, though maybe it's a handheld one....

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by feranick (858651)
        Very possible. Even Microsoft (of all software houses), may be thinking along the same lines in a recent job posting...

        http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/10/04/20/2134213/Job-Ad-Hints-At-Microsoft-Move-To-ARM-Servers [slashdot.org]
        • Re:Android (Score:5, Insightful)

          by inKubus (199753) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @05:19PM (#31931512) Homepage Journal

          Seems smart. Why am I paying for (and paying to power) this Intel floating point unit when I'm only serving web pages?

          But, Google's growth has been perpetuated by use of cheap commodity hardware, ie: profiting off the fact that the rest of us drive the price down by buying lots. A switch to specialized chips would mean a new direction for the company.

          I mean, they could have done this from the beginning with fancy IBM or SUN or Unisys mainframe stuff, which typically allow you to configure IO subsystems (which is the main bottleneck of web serving). Likewise if they are doing database stuff you'd want a lot of RAM and wide I/O bandwidth, 128 bits or more. All standard for a long time on IBM stuff. But it's expensive, not commodity. Even Google's 100-300K servers (or maybe it's a million now, who knows) is not going to bring the scale of the whole worldwide market for Intel chips (100M plus annually).

          So I don't see how this could benefit them long-term. Sure, power savings might add up to a lot so it's a good investment. And since they want to be the entire Internet (including your desktop), it's really a matter of energy over all else. But they are definitely going to need to keep adding hardware to keep growing, so that means higher chip expenses upfront. But, if they can spin the same processor into a little home or mobile computer to connect to their services, they might be able to start leveraging this scale thing again. But it seems to be a big risk to get into the manufacturing business.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        What's even more amusing is that some of the seed capital that founded ARM Holdings came from.... Apple corporation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Is Google branching out into too many areas? Phones, tablets, energy, fiber, etc ... and now chips? Makes me wonder if they are going to turn into a 'Jack of all trades'.
      • by jgagnon (1663075)

        But master of none, to finish the phrase. ;)

      • Re:Android (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:39PM (#31929670)

        Google's famous for being a risk taker. They try a ton of stuff and keep what seems to work. It keeps them fluid. The search engine game was good for them for a long time but they seem to get the hint that the way of the world is "innovate or die", so they're branching out. Gmail/Google Apps and the Android seem to be working out for them pretty well.

        I think that this branching out is just a sign of a company doing the right thing and keeping active rather than resting on it's laurels.

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          Google's famous for being a risk taker.

          They are?? Seems like a "risk taker" wouldn't have required months of research and usability studies to decide on a simple color change or that they should in fact increase the font size of their home page by 2 points...

      • That's fine. While I love my iPhone and I'll gladly shill Apple's crap for free, there's hardly a master of any of these(I'll argue that yes, Apple deservedly top of the heap for mobile devices; but if there were no iPhone, Android *would* be the sexiest thing on the block; even if there are huge, radical flaws with the platform). When it comes to maps, fiber, search, even Usenet, Google does things well.

        • by maxume (22995)

          Google needs to try a little harder, Google Groups is one of the biggest sources of spam for discussion groups, to the point that many people simply block it altogether.

      • Not really android is pretty much just what a tablet and touch screen interface is for. as for fiber they've been doing that for a while i'v read. I hope the are a JOAT soon :) i'd take their internet gladly.
      • IBM was known as a typewriter company. Diversification and investing in future markets is a major reason IBM is still a major player today, even though the typewriter business is dead.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by billcopc (196330)

        The reality is that Google is not a monolithic entity that does everything poorly. I don't think the search team has much to do with the Android team. They probably don't have many "jacks of all trades", but instead have many small, focused teams that are really good at what they do.

        Just because they share the same brand name doesn't mean they all work out of one homogenous brain-pool.

    • I mean, there are plenty of companies making ARM chips for phones. Google will want to use commodity stuff for that -- it means that the cost of innovating around the phone platform (hardware side) is someone else's problem, and that's already happening.

      On the other hand, they have enormous power bills and would gain personally from computers which do the same amount of work as what they currently have for 1/10th the power.

      Google's avoided making their own servers (using a commodity board) because other pe

      • I know ARM is very efficient for low-power, small devices. But ARM has had Linux support for years. If ARM scaled up well, wouldn't we have seen ARM Linux servers by now?

        I'm assuming it doesn't scale up the way Google would need it. If I'm mistaken, please enlighten me.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)

          If ARM scaled up well, wouldn't we have seen ARM Linux servers by now?

          I suspect the answer is that none of the off-the-shelf ARM SoCs come with the kind of network and disk controllers that servers need. This means that you can't just use off-the-shelf ARM parts in a server, you need to do a fair bit of custom work. A quad-core Cortex A9 with a couple of SATA and GigE controllers on die would be a pretty nice server chip for a lot of workloads.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Enderandrew (866215)

            Going back to my question, if this was feasible, why hasn't it been done before?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by TheRaven64 (641858)
              Because you need custom silicon. The people who make ARM SoCs are not in the server market. They'd need to design a new SoC for that market, and they'd then need to persuade system builders to use it. It's a lot more effort than just buying an off-the-shelf x86 chip and using that and it's a lot higher risk because you are assuming that there is a market for ARM-based servers. It makes sense for a company like Google, because they know there is a market for whatever hardware they produce; themselves. T
  • ... Apple to serve.
  • by StCredZero (169093) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:26PM (#31929378)

    I wonder if Google just absconded with the real value in the chip company?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I don't actually believe that Apple lost a lot of momentum in this defection. In general, it's the folks who had alternative ideas for an architecture that didn't win out that tend to leave. I bet Google eventually gets stuck with something like a chip that has an insane pipeline structure, makes a different power/speed tradeoff (and probably for the worse), or has some other weird bag o'crap bolted to the side.

      In addition, there are a *lot* of chip designers still left over from the chip manufacturer lay

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        As someone else said, ARM may not be the best platform for Google's servers.

        If what you say is true - they're the divergent group of engineers - then it's quite possible that Google hired them for that very reason. Maybe they wanted to build a PPC architecture for Apple's iPad, or something else entirely. We do know that these engineers were focused on power efficiency, and that is a very big concern for Google (it's a large part of their operations costs, after all). There are a lot of ways to save power w

    • Some of the key talent, yes. However, that talent would have been wasted at Apple, just as their fine processor was. I'd be surprised if any of top people stayed long, after Apple tossed out their years of effort, only to have them doing ASIC monkey work.

      It disgusts me to see how Apple chews up brilliant companies only to scavenge a few bits and pieces.

  • by Orga (1720130) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:27PM (#31929400)
    Apple has a good handle on their vertical, from hardware to content. Google is just beginning its jump into the hardware portion. I imagine this is just another rung in the ladder from the bottom to the top, control all the way.
    • by Nadaka (224565) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:32PM (#31929528)

      Google has had their hands in some aspects of hardware for a while now. They have their own custom designed server motherboards.

      • by Meshach (578918)

        Google has had their hands in some aspects of hardware for a while now. They have their own custom designed server motherboards.

        But this is their first into the whole "digital music/iphone/ipad" world. Apple has dominated that world for quite some time so it may be good to get some competition.

        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          Um, the G1 - Google's first phone - came out 2 years ago. 1 year after the iPhone. They aren't exactly new to that space.

          The "iPad" world? It was released 18 days ago. Apple is as much of a newbie on that scene as everyone else.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Andy Dodd (701)

            Um, Google didn't design that. HTC did. It's not very different at all from HTC's Windows Mobile products.

            Even the Nexus One isn't a Google design - it's an HTC phone carrying Google branding. (Which is very common, HTC has ALWAYS been very rebranding-friendly, it is only very recently that you started seeing the HTC brand in the United States even though HTC phones have been in the USA for quite a while.)

            • by MBGMorden (803437)

              Um, Google didn't design that. HTC did. It's not very different at all from HTC's Windows Mobile products.

              Google laid out the platform, which is what people care about. Hell when the thing first came out it was just called the "Google Phone" by most people. Google providing the firmware while other companies deal with the hardware seems to be how they're approaching this market, and they seem to be doing well with it.

      • Google has had their hands in some aspects of hardware for a while now. They have their own custom designed server motherboards.

        Next - Google Chips,
        Then - Google Sand!

        • by JamesP (688957)

          Then Google Planet Formation, Google Accretion Disk, all the way down to the Google BigBang I assume

      • by Amouth (879122)

        Custom designed server boards aren't as hard as you think - based on what CPU and Chip set combo you plan on using there is a starting working reference design for you to customize (only exception was when VIA reverse engineered their own P4 chip set using no reference)

        but the point being - it is a lot easier to do something custom if you do it by modifying something that you already know works..

      • by raddan (519638) *
        For internal consumption only, though. This may be a move into producing hardware for consumers who are less, shall we say, tolerant of addenda to manuals like "Oh yeah, that rail is +5.5V and not +5V. Sorry."
    • by mjwx (966435)

      Apple has a good handle on their vertical, from hardware to content. Google is just beginning its jump into the hardware portion. I imagine this is just another rung in the ladder from the bottom to the top, control all the way.

      You seem a bit confused.

      Apple designed the vertical integration from the word go, Google designed an open platform from the word go. What you state is the antithesis of an open platform

      If Google is entering the consumer hardware business which is pure speculation at this poin

  • "architected"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:30PM (#31929486)

    I did not know "architect" could be used as a verb. Let me try: Frank Gehry architects buildings for a living. Emperor Palpatine tried to architect the downfall of the rebels.

    • by wonkavader (605434) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:36PM (#31929596)

      How about...

      "The firm's enormous security guard reacted quickly to the arrival of Carlos the Jackal. Reaching for the closest blunt instrument at hand, the guard picked up I. M. Pei and architected the terrorist to death."

      • by chill (34294)

        A +4 Insightful the hard way, congratulations.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by grcumb (781340)

        "The firm's enormous security guard reacted quickly to the arrival of Carlos the Jackal. Reaching for the closest blunt instrument at hand, the guard picked up I. M. Pei and architected the terrorist to death."

        Who said crime doesn't Pei?

    • by dfsmith (960400)
      That word has been Englished. You've got to love type-loose languages: there are so many opportunities for verbing nouns. You should try it---I think you will have an empower.
      • by Jeng (926980)

        Even better is nouning the verbs.

        What the fuck does that mean?

      • uhm...

        I think it would be "empowerment"

        I'm can't think of any verbs that can't be nounded, but maybe my imagination is failing me. LOL

        There are plenty of nous that can't be verbed easily. (such as noun and verb and door, etc)

    • Re:"architected"? (Score:5, Informative)

      by StrategicIrony (1183007) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:40PM (#31929686)

      I just looked and the Oxford dictionary recognizes it, and points to archived letters from Keats in 1813 using the word as a verb.

      It was considered an "overly formal" usage for awhile, but I think the use in computer-speak has brought it back toward mainstream.

    • I did not know "architect" could be used as a verb.

      Heck, it worked for "Googled" ;-)

    • by diamondsw (685967)

      Grammatical or not, it's been standard parlance for at least a decade in datacenter (and probably other) IT. Everything gets verbed eventually. See?

    • by tzot (834456)

      It's called NewSpeak. Don't worry. Your head will clear and your worries will be gone as soon as the war ends.

  • One Word (Score:5, Interesting)

    by codepunk (167897) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:33PM (#31929540)

    GPad

  • Servers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imgod2u (812837) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:36PM (#31929610) Homepage

    Google has been spending a lot of effort -- from custom power structures inside their buildings to buying that magic box that generates power form minerals to custom-making their own server blades -- to reduce power and make energy efficient servers; they have so many of them after all.

    These guys, while formerly PA Semi, focused their new business on energy-efficient server CPU's. So I wouldn't so much expect a gPad. It's likely the consumer will never see the chips that are being produced here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBGMorden (803437)

      It's also unlikely that Google would ever see a ROI from purchasing an entire semi-conductor company just to save a bit of money on the chips in their own servers. They're planning on marketing these to SOMEONE. They might be part of servers, or they might be part of a pad (I think Android-based pads are an inevitability myself - it's just a question of if these will power them or not). Heck they might be part of a set-top box or something else, but they are definitely planning on selling these chips as

      • by imgod2u (812837)

        We're talking millions per year worth of money for powering their server farms. The custom blade design alone saved them a few million annually. We're not talking small money, especially as they keep expanding to meet the needs of the tubes.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by MBGMorden (803437)

          I know we're talking millions per year powering their server farms, but keep things in perspective. NOTHING will eliminate that power bill. All something can do is REDUCE it. So you have to look at the difference in power consumption as the return. Total power consumption is moot. Now consider: how much did they pay for this company? We don't know, but semi-conductor firms tend to run in the HUNDREDS of million of dollars. You also have to take away from that the cost associated with RUNNING this com

          • It should be fairly obvious that your estimate of the acquisition price is substantially wrong. Yes, semiconductor manufacturing firms are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Intel and Motorola are worth billions.

            But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a startup that doesn't even have a webpage. They have a handful of employees and very likely they have little or no revenue at all. Google was buying a convenient blob of talent, nothing more. I'd be astounded if they paid m

    • to reduce power and make energy efficient servers; they have so many of them after all.

      These guys, while formerly PA Semi, focused their new business on energy-efficient server CPU's.

      Yeah, Google has to realize their trends and that they can't cover the entire Earth's landmass with servers or they'll have nowhere for their customers to live.

      There was some talk about a packet-processing oriented CPU that would be less general-purpose, but better suited to Internet-style workloads. Maybe get a 30:1 improveme

  • by jwhitener (198343) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:41PM (#31929700)

    Now that Google is getting into hardware, it's only a matter of before we see:

        The Google Search (and destroy) Robot. ;)

  • Bet they know what the engineers are doing...
  • Different Take (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JackSpratts (660957) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:55PM (#31929954) Homepage
    the times has a different spin. it's not chips so much as low-power hardware/software integration google's paying for. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/google-acquires-another-piece-of-the-tablet-puzzle/?hpw [nytimes.com]
  • It could be for their back end, to save power over intel.

    They might save enough $ in power savings alone to make it worth buying the chip company.. AND not be reliant on anyone else.

  • does it run nilux?
  • Speak fucking English dammit.

  • Why would Google acquire anyone with a website ( http://agnilux.com/ [agnilux.com] ) that currently states "This Web site is coming soon." Are we supposed to be capitalizing the word Web in website, and why can't it be one word? This acquisition is causing us to reassess fundamental assumptions about spelling and capitalization of common terms! Aha- now I realize why they acquired them.
  • ...that when I saw this headline, for some reason my first thought was "Oh, Frito-Lay is gonna be pissed, Google is moving in on them now..."
  • Are you telling me that Apple bought PA Semi in April 2008, the formerly PA Semi team designed the A4 and then they left Apple to start their own company which Google bought right away?

  • A 32-bit architecture like ARM really has no place in Google's servers, and it is hard to imagine that those who jumped ship from PASemi/Apple would want to do the same sort of ARM integration monkey work at Google.

    It is a shame that Google didn't pick up PASemi before Apple wasted their processor and years of effort; the PA6T would have served Google very well. I expect that Google is thinking long-term here, and we may even see a brand new 64-bit ISA, something that scales well from phones to low-power s

    • by JamesP (688957)

      A 32-bit architecture like ARM really has no place in Google's servers,

      Why are you so sure about that??

      I'm thinking that, for what Google does, it fits like a charm.

      Think 4 core ARM chip (maybe) with 4GB RAM and an SSD running using 10W. Compare that with the, I dunno, 50W maybe 80W current x86 + HD server

      Especially since Google doesn't care (much) about server performance rather than shoving as many servers as they can onto their datacenters.

      • That may seem fine now, but core and memory density will continue to grow. It just doesn't scale, and in a few years, the efficiency advantages will be lost with increasingly integration. For example, a single 32-core/32GB machine vs. eight 4-core/4GB machines, 8 network connections, etc. Also, 32-bits of address space is already insufficient to properly utilize 4GB of physical RAM.

        The fact is, it is a dead end, and I don't think Google is short-sighted or arrogant enough to employ some of the most talen

  • These are people who left PA Semi as soon as it was bought by Apple. They had nothing to do with iPad.

    Apparently, ex-Intrinsity people had more to do with the A4 than ex-PA Semi people also.

    The rumor now is that Apple will buy ARM, which they co-founded to make the Newton.

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