Nvidia signs Intel bus licence deal

nForce 4 for Pentium 4 ahoy!

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Nvidia has finally won a frontside bus licence from Intel, paving the way at long last for the graphics chip specialist to release versions of its nForce chipset family for Pentium 4 processors.

Intel's permission comes on the back of a "broad, multi-year patent cross-license agreement spanning multiple product lines and product generations", the two companies announced today.

While Nvidia gets to use Intel's frontside bus technology, the chip giant can now make use of elements of the nForce platform and - interestingly - Nvidia's SLI system, which allows two graphics cards to co-operate on the rendering of a single image.

Further details of the extent of the intellectual property the two firms have granted each other, and other terms and conditions of the deal were not disclosed.

Nvidia has been offering nForce chipsets for AMD processors since 2001, and while rival chipset makers have targeted both Intel and AMD platforms, Nvidia has steadfastly refused to do so until now. It's certainly had access to some Intel bus patents - Microsoft's Xbox console is based on a Pentium III processor connected to an nForce-derived chipset - but presumably that license wasn't sufficient to allow Nvidia to ship a P4-compatible nForce.

Maybe it has never wanted to, preferring to focus on the AMD platform where it has a better chance of building market share. Maybe it simply could not get Intel to lower its price. Either way, it now can offer nForce for P4, and will presumably be announcing a compatible version of its nForce 4 PCI Express product shortly.

Certainly arch-rival ATI is expected to do just that - launch an Intel-oriented version of its AMD-targeting Radeon Xpress 200 chipset - real soon now. Nvidia may also have been prompted by Intel's falling share of the chipset market - the chip giant lost 6.7 percentage points of its lead to rivals VIA, SiS and ATI. ®

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