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Why Halla's head should be on the block

Cyrix debacle sorry tale with bitter end

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We first met Jerry Rogers, who co-founded Cyrix, about nine years ago at an Etre conference, in a bar. He's a tough boy. The Texan, who formerly worked for Texas Instruments, had some strong ideas about microprocessor design and was finding venture capital to put those ideas into practice. The guy has guts and also a sound engineering background which made us listen to what he had to say. You didn't need fabs to compete with Intel, he said, and you didn't need to do what AMD was doing then, essentially cloning Intel designs. Jerry Sanders III's statement that "only real men have fabs" was just talk, Rogers said. Over the next few years, we saw Intel boot up its profit and loss based legal division several times in a bid to knock Cyrix designs on the head. We were amused to see a fake cemetery with this headstone at its Richardson, Texas HQ, when we visited Cyrix a few years back. Cyrix had beaten the Intel legal machine. Rogers, after he'd shouted down a corridor: "Who let The Register into this building," proudly showed off the patents under the Cyrix belt. AMD had fared worse with Thomas Dunlap, Intel's legal counsel, and bought in the technology it craved and needed from NexGen. But whether real men needed fabs or not, Cyrix did need some place to make chips and it struck a deal with IBM Microelectronics (and SGS Thomsen) to make the pesky things. Unfortunately for Cyrix, IBM Micro never played fair. It wouldn't use its chip allocation in its own PCs, preferring instead to sell them through the merchant channel at prices which undercut Cyrix prices. Eventually, Rogers left Cyrix and, as we know, National Semiconductor took over the company. IBM Microelectronics eventually became an albatross around NatSemi's neck and the fabbing deal was terminated, leaving Brian Halla, CEO of National, to foot a whopping deal. NatSemi has made losses over the last seven quarters so it isn't too much of a surprise that its discrete x.86 business has gone. But it is a shame. Despite the fact that the Cyrix roadmap was flagging, it still had some top engineers working for it. Intel now has even less competition to worry about, with only AMD, Rise and IDT left in the game. But if Cyrix has gone, surely Mr Brian Halla should follow? He, after all, masterminded the $550 million takeover, and now only rubble remains. His system on a chip idea might work, but there's lots of competition there as well. It turns out that the gravestone that Jerry Rogers put in the reception area of the Richardson site was actually engraved with the wrong epitaph. Intel Inside lives. RIP, Cyrix. ®

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