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Nvidia CEO says 'no' to VIA acquisition

Graphics company doesn't need in-house CPU tech - for now...

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Nvidia doesn't want to buy VIA, the graphics chip maker's CEO has claimed. Nvidia is completely focused on being a "visual computing technology company", he said. Well, for the moment, at any rate...

Speaking to CNet, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang suggested neither Nvidia nor VIA are interested in acquiring each other's business.

That the two might be considering such an option has been doing the rumour-mill rounds of late, primarily because pundits feel Nvidia desperately needs to get into the processor business if it's to remain relevant.

AMD is busily attempting to integrate graphics processing cores into future 'Fusion' CPUs. Intel is taking a similar approach, having said its upcoming 'Nehalem' processor family will include models that incorporate a graphics engine.

Both moves are fuelled by the shift of functionality off ancillary northbridge chips and onto the processor. First it was the memory controller, and now we're looking at integrated graphics coming on board too.

If Nvidia isn't to lose out, it has to follow suit, the argument runs. And since buying a CPU maker is easier than kick-starting development on its own, the pundits look around to see who Nvidia could buy and settle upon VIA.

Huang's point is that there's plenty yet to Nvidia to do in the graphics arena before it needs to worry about the longevity of its core business. Fusion and Nehalem are a threat to Nvidia's chipset sales, not its discrete GPU lines. Yes, Intel has its eye on that too, with its 'Larrabee' chip, but it's very hard to imagine Nvidia not working on a ray-tracing chip of its own, if only as an insurance policy.

And it's easy to look at Nvidia and think only of PC graphics and chipsets, the two areas where the company is most vulnerable from the Fusion and Nehalem initiatives, but its efforts extend far beyond that into industrial and mobile graphics.

There, Huang said, Nvidia works successfully with other chip makers to allow CPUs and GPUs to co-operate efficiently. The upshot: Nvidia doesn't need an in-house CPU design and production team.

Since VIA's share of the x86 processor market is way smaller than AMD's, let alone Intel's, it's questionable how much real value Nvidia would get out of it. VIA has a decent CPU business, but it's hard to see it mounting a serious challenge to its rivals.

Combining Nvidia GPU technology and VIA CPU architectures isn't going to change that, leaving such a plan as little more than a survival strategy. Nvidia's not yet in a position where it desperately needs one of those.

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