Sun buys out x86 processor start-up Montalvo

— 2:45 PM on April 25, 2008

A decent amount of ink has been spilled over Montalvo Systems, a Silicon Valley startup that aimed to take on Intel with an original, x86-compatible mobile microprocessor design. We recently reported that the start-up was running out of money and in a desperate search for investors. In an interesting twist, eWeek now says Sun Microsystems has gone and acquired the company.

eWeek goes on to quote a Sun spokeswoman who said the acquisition was completed on April 21 on undisclosed terms. Sun aims to integrate Montalvo into its Microelectronics business unit, and the spokeswoman explained, "We believe acquiring these assets will enhance the current and future products we are developing and expect them to contribute to future generations of Sun's microprocessor technology, which will in turn drive additional differentiation for Sun's Systems products."

Judging by information that leaked out three months ago, Montalvo was working on a power-efficient mobile CPU based on the same x86 instruction set architecture as Intel's products. Unlike Intel chips, though, the Montalvo processor is purportedly based on a mix of high- and low-performance cores, which the chip can turn on and off depending on processing load in order to save power.

Coupled with the terse public statement, Sun's decision to pocket Montalvo hints that the company could seek to start competing with Intel in the consumer space. Sun is no stranger to the microprocessor market, but its line of SPARC processors are aimed at high-performance servers and aren't Intel-compatible.

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