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Intel's Otellini: We've nothing to apologise for over Via, FIC

But Taiwanese mobo makers are unhappy with i820 debacle

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"We have nothing to apologise for," Intel executive vice president, Paul Otellini, told The Register earlier today. Otellini was speaking in Taipei days after the giant US chipmaker sued Taiwan's First International Computer (FIC) and others for patent violation. Industry insiders claim Intel has targeted FIC to put further pressure on local chipmaker, VIA Technologies, with whom the US company has a long-running dispute. FIC along with Everex, one of several other companies named in the suit, has close ties to Taiwan's Formosa Plastics Group, and to VIA. Otellini denied this, saying "we are not picking on any one company." VIA, though far smaller than Intel, has moved aggressively into the market for low-cost CPUs and chipsets, both sectors currently dominated by the US company. A book by Andy Grove, Intel's former CEO, is called Only the Paranoid Survive. Otellini agreed that this paranoia extends to VIA and others. "We don't write any competitor off - we'd be crazy to. We consider any competitor to be a serious competitor." Intel filed a lawsuit against VIA in June alleging patent infringement. "The value of our company is our intellectual property," Otellini said today, "we have a long history of protecting it." Repeated delays in the introduction of a new Intel chipset, the 820, have given VIA and other Taiwanese chipset makers a chance to grab market share. Chipsets are a key component of computer motherboards, the main circuit board used in all PCs. Local makers of motherboards say Intel failed to promptly inform them of changes to the 820 chipset. Asked whether his visit was an attempt to repair relations with Taiwan, Otellini said the trip was scheduled months ago as part of an e-commerce seminar and was definitely not a damage control exercise. An industry source said Otellini met with motherboard makers today to give them details of the 820 chipset schedule. "We plan to ship the 820 chipset in volume this quarter," he said. Speaking to reporters in Seoul yesterday, Intel CEO Craig Barrett was more specific, saying the troubled chipset would ship in two weeks - in time for the key Comdex trade show. During the past year, Intel has thrown its considerable weight behind a new type of memory, Rambus - even to the extent of investing in the company that invented the technology. The 820 chipset, one of the first to use Rambus, has been delayed by problems with its interface to the new memory format. A last minute reduction in the number of Rambus modules supported by the 820, forced Taiwanese motherboard makers into a costly redesign. "The redesign was not hugely painful for us," said Jeremy Smith of motherboard maker, Abit, "the main problem was that we weren't told by Intel until a few weeks ago exactly how to go about doing it…it took takes a few weeks because you've got to redesign everything, lay it out… and you've got to test it to make sure it actually works." Major motherboard maker, Asus, will ship an 820-based motherboard within two weeks, an executive said. He also said belated news of changes from Intel was the major source of delays in the project. "It cost us money in the sense that it's a delay and it cost time," said a source at another motherboard maker. Otellini said Intel had no plans to ditch the popular 440BX chipset in the near future, but would continue manufacture "well into 2000". The reason is simple: "People want it." ®

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