VIA enters mobo market

How else is it going to sell its Pentium 4 chipsets?

VIA has begun offering motherboards based on its own controversial P4X266 chipset and has formed an independent subsidiary to handle the sales - and, we presume, any legal action the move provokes Intel into launching.

Said subsidiary is the VIA Platform Solutions Division, which the company announced today. Superficially, it sounds like an operation formed to develop and promote reference systems based around VIA chipsets and processors.

VIA's been quite keen on promoting its wares this way for some time as a way of making its easier for hardware companies to select its products. So it makes sense to rationalise this side of its marketing operation into a dedicated business unit.

And here's the proof: "The establishment of the Platform Solutions Division provides VIA with an exciting opportunity to further extend our industry leadership by delivering innovative platform solutions that will enable our customers to speed up their time to market for leading edge technologies and product designs," VIA's chief, Wenchi Chen, said in a statement.

But there's more to it than that. The PSD is a tactical as well as strategic weapon, shown by its first two products: a pair of mobos based on the P4X266, the P4X266 PR22-R and the P4X266 VL33-S.

If major mobo makers won't sign up to supply P4X266-based boards - for all its promises to indemnify them against any legal action from Intel - VIA clearly feels it has to do so itself. We reckon the move is more about encouraging those manufacturers to choose the VIA part than anything else - which is why they're so strongly P4X266-branded - but there's always the chance it can help VIA's bottom line.

Of course, it could have the opposite effect, of pissing VIA's customer off so much that they turn their back on the company, just as 3dfx's add-in card making customers did when they heard the now defunct graphics chip company was going to compete with them. Even if the mobo makers don't like it, VIA no doubt hopes PC makers will.

And VIA is cannily exploiting the dearth of Socket 428 Pentium 4s and the excess of Socket 423 parts by offering both Socket 423 and Socket 478-based mobos - the PR22-R and the VL33-S, respectively. Other boards, for micro ATX cases, for instance, will follow. ®