Nvidia Stops Research on Chipsets for Intel Architecture
Nvidia is taking its ongoing legal battle with Intel to a new level. The chipmaker has announced it will halt the research and development of new chipsets that work with Intel's microprocessors.
Nvidia attributed its decision to "unfair business practices" by Intel, and the move comes as both companies are battling over licensing violations. Intel and Nvidia reached an agreement in 2004 relating to communication between a CPU and various parts of a computer. Nvidia's chipsets, which are also made for Intel competitor Advanced Micro Devices, help a processor talk with various components.
Determining the Future
In mid-February, Intel filed a motion in a Delaware court to prevent Nvidia from producing chipsets for any Intel processors that use integrated memory controllers. This includes Intel's Nehalem processor and, most likely, most or all of Intel's upcoming processors.
Intel said it had been in negotiations with Nvidia, but to no avail. Nvidia said the 2004 agreement allowed it to build chipsets for Intel processors with integrated memory controllers.
Nvidia's decision to stop working on Intel-related chipsets could in the short run mean the company could take in revenue from its existing chipsets, without spending money on research and development. In the long run, of course, it could leave Nvidia with few or no chipsets for the vast number of products that run on Intel technology.
Some industry analysts are suggesting that, since Intel is integrating more and more functionality into its own chips, it wants to restrict Nvidia's realm to older devices. Nvidia is pushing the idea that its graphics-processing units are becoming more CPU-like. In other words, which of the two companies represents the future for computer architecture?
Intel 'in the Driving Seat'
Martin Reynolds, an analyst with industry research firm Gartner, said it would be "difficult to argue that the center of gravity for the PC is Nvidia." What's happening, he said, is that as "as Intel continues to improve graphics on its microprocessors" and other chips, there is less market for Nvidia.
So, he said, Nvidia is trying to "increase the importance of graphics processors," but Intel is "more or less in the driving seat." Nvidia, for instance, has pushed its Ion platform, which is built around Intel's Atom microprocessor.
Reynolds noted that Nvidia "can see the trend," adding that the company can work to make its GPUs "act more like a real processor," but that means, at some point, those chips are going to have to manage the operating system.
For business and consumers, Reynolds said, there should be "no impact" from this war between the chipmakers. But, he said, it could have an indirect impact, in that "it forces Nvidia to improve" -- and that should be good for PC buyers.