It certainly has been a strange week for those companies involved in producing all the gubbins that make your PCs and mobile devices run. First we saw the official unveiling of Nvidia’s Tegra 2 processor, then the announcement by them of their very own CPU called Project Denver, the official unveiling of Intel’s next gen CPU Sandy Bridge and finally Microsoft announcing that its Windows 8 will be compatible with ARM chipsets.
So with the CPU manufacturing area in a state of flux, news today that Intel will pay $1.5 billion to Nvidia to be allowed to use their graphical processing technology for the next six years, just adds to the confusion. In the cross-licensing settlement each company has been given extended access to each others' technology. However in an important limitation for Nvidia, it will not be allowed access to Intel’s proprietary x86 architecture. Given Nvidia’s cosying-up to ARM however, this may be less of a restriction than it would have been previously.
The issue began back in 2009 when Intel initially sued Nvidia over the right to keep making an Intel designed chip. Nvidia then counter-sued. "This agreement ends the legal dispute between the companies," said Doug Melamed, Intel senior vice president and counsel. "It also enables the companies to focus on innovation and the development of new products."
While Intel currently dominates the CPU market with up to 80 percent of its micro-processors inside the world’s PCs, times are a-changing and the more power efficient mobile processors based on ARM’s architecture are becoming more and more important.
From Nvidia’s point of view, Project Denver signals its first foray into the full CPU game with Nvidia CEO, President and Co-Founder, Jen-Hsun Huang saying: “At the moment energy around ARM is absolutely enormous and if you, as a software developer, are not working with ARM, you have you head in the sand,” adding that ARM is “pervasive and open.” Microsoft obviously believe ARM is also the way of the future by making Windows 8 compatible with the British-based company’s technology. This settlement seems to be Intel’s attempt to ensure it continues to dominate in the years ahead, but whether it remains as dominant is now open for discussion.