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Nvidia halts future Intel chipset development

Until we get a bus licence, at least

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That's it. Enough. No more. We're not doing any new chipsets for Intel processors. So says Nvidia, echoing a forecast made a year ago.

Well, for the moment, at least.

"Until we resolve this matter in court next year, we'll postpone further chipset investments for Intel DMI CPUs," the GPU specialist said in a statement sent out to a number of websites yesterday.

The reference to court action arises because Nvidia is seeking legal redress for what it claims is Intel's refusal to let it get its mitts on the chip giant's DMI (Direct Media Interface) bus technology. Intel says it's not allowed to use the technology, and in February sued the company to prevent it doing so. Nvidia countersued soon afterward, claiming its existing bus licences cover DMI.

DMI is used to connect Intel's Nehalem-architecture processors to I/O chips, occasionally through an intermediate part that's equivalent to an old-style northbridge chip but now increasingly direct.

"Because of Intel's improper claims to customers and the market that we aren't licensed to [use] the new DMI bus, and its unfair business tactics, it is effectively impossible for us to market chipsets for future CPUs," Nvidia said.

Intel has been promoting its own chipsets in partnership with its CPUs for years, and AMD is increasingly doing so too. Both would (understandably) rather not lose sales of system logic to third-parties.

That's bound to hurt Nvidia, the third of only three major players in the PC chipset business, the other two being AMD and Intel. VIA got out some time ago, preferring instead to focus on the embedded market.

Worse, with more chipset components - the GPU, always Nvidia's strong point, included - moving into the CPU package and, ultimately, onto the processor die itself, the value in such ancillary chippage as separate products is going to diminish.

For users, that's a shame. Nvidia's chipset-integrated GPUs have proved to be rather better than Intel's, from both performance and power conservation perspectives.

Nvidia may get its day in court, and it may even get its DMI licence. We're just not sure what value it's going to be to it in the long run. Halting development now will at least save it some money in the short term. ®

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