Nvidia, Intel fight over chipset licensing


— 10:55 AM on February 18, 2009

Sparks are flying between Intel and Nvidia right now. A statement from the latter about an Intel court filing popped into our inbox this morning, suggesting that Intel wants to keep Nvidia chipsets out of systems with Core i7 processors—and upcoming derivatives likes Lynnfield and Arrandale.

Apparently, Intel thinks its licensing agreement with Nvidia doesn't cover processors with integrated memory controllers (like the Core i7). Nvidia sees things differently. Here's the graphics firm's statement in full:

NVIDIA responded to a court filing in which Intel alleged that the four-year-old chipset license agreement the companies signed does not extend to Intel's future generation CPUs with "integrated" memory controllers, such as Nehalem. The filing does not impact NVIDIA chipsets that are currently being shipped. Intel is trying to delay the inevitable value shift from the CPU to the GPU.

NVIDIA believes that our bus license with Intel clearly enables us to build chipsets for Intel CPUs with integrated memory controllers. We are aggressively developing new products for Intel's current front side bus (MCP79 and MCP89) and for Intel's future bus, DMI.

The soul of the PC has become the GPU and the CPU is becoming less relevant. Intel is trying to prevent GPU adoption since the evidence is undeniable that the CPU has run its course. The rapid shift to the smallest and lowest price CPUs like Atom is a clear reflection of this trend.

NVIDIA has delivered significant platform innovations to the market over the last few years such as SLI, Hybrid Power, and CUDA. ION, our most recent platform innovation, has tipped the industry to favoring the GPU. When paired with a low cost CPU, it is a 2 chip platform offering 10x the performance of Intel's current three chip design using the same low cost CPU.

This is a clear attempt by Intel to slow the broad adoption of NVIDIA platforms and to protect a decaying CPU business.

For what it's worth, Intel does seem bent on shutting out competitors to its current integrated graphics products (and likely future IGPs based on its Larrabee discrete graphics processor). The chipmaker's 32nm Westmere design, which includes an IGP core in the CPU package in both desktop and mobile iterations, looks like further evidence of that.

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