Silicon Valley startup aims to make mobile x86 processors

Last month, we reported on VIA’s new Isaiah architecture, which could well steal some thunder from Intel in notebooks and mobile devices. The idea of another serious competitor to Intel besides AMD in the mobile x86 space is enticing, but VIA may not be alone. News.com reports on rumors that a Silicon Valley startup called Montalvo Systems is quietly developing an x86 microprocessor aimed at notebooks and ultraportable systems. Little is known about the chip itself so far other than that it’s a multi-core design, that it’s energy-efficient, and that it could end up being manufactured by Fujitsu.

The lack of publicity surround the project hasn’t stopped Montalvo from pocketing $73 million in investments from a variety of venture capital firms. The investors likely have a certain degree of confidence in the industry veterans who run the company, such as Montalvo CEO Matt Perry, who was previously CEO of Transmeta; Montalvo board member Vinod Dham, a former Intel architect from the Pentium days who later joined NexGen and finally AMD; Greg Favor, former chief architect on the AMD K6 processor; and Mike Yamamura, who also worked on the K6 project.

Montalvo has filed a number of patents, although only a few have become public so far. News.com said those patents are generally related to "conserving energy while retrieving data from memory or caches."

An official announcement from Montalvo is expected later this year, at which point the company should pull back the curtain a little and shed some light on its progress. Until then, the company’s website is empty except for contact information and a variety of postings for jobs in Santa Clara, California, Boulder, Colorado, and Bangalore, India.

Comments closed
    • AMDisDEC
    • 12 years ago

    Good news. I was wondering when this would happen.
    With AMD foolishly chasing Intel for performance, they aren’t able to compete with any low power design.
    This startup should fill the void nicely.

    • LSDX
    • 12 years ago

    1) Now nvidia has one more company to buy, if they need x86 IP rights.
    2) I hope for VIA they can position their new Isaiah and maybe bring it to desktops as well.

    With the troubles AMD has lately, it would be good if Intel gets serious competition from someone else. They already started delaying products simply because they can do so, reminds me of the early ’90.

    • Cyril
    • 12 years ago

    Edit: disregard.

    • wingless
    • 12 years ago

    They have a lot of AMD boys aboard. They may actually survive long enough to be bought by INTEL and crushed…

      • UberGerbil
      • 12 years ago

      That hasn’t been Intel’s pattern with competing chip designers. AMD has bought other x86 players, not Intel. Intel didn’t buy Via, or Centaur, or Cyrix, or NextGen, or Transmeta.

        • willyolio
        • 12 years ago

        intel doesn’t need to buy their competitors to crush them

      • pogsnet
      • 12 years ago
    • UberGerbil
    • 12 years ago

    g[

      • dlenmn
      • 12 years ago

      Apparently those VC types are easily had…

        • ludi
        • 12 years ago

        The problem wasn’t TMTA’s product or capabilities, the problem was that they made too much noise too early and woke up Intel. Banias & Sons promptly crushed TMTA’s window of opportunity to run with the low-power laptop market.

        This time around, it looks like the guy’s new company is keeping a lower profile and shooting for mobile devices along the lines of iPhone, instead of notebooks. There’s more competition there, and a lot of room for improvement over what current devices offer, so they might have a shot at it.

        Besides, $73M is pocket change for this kind of project. The VCs, whoever they are, probably pulled it out of their couch cushions just to make sure they would have a foot in the door if it actually succeeds.

          • UberGerbil
          • 12 years ago

          Yeah, I agree on the VC thing (see my #2 post) and there’s probably a profitable exit strategy no matter what happens assuming they develop any decent IP. I was just noting how unusual it was to see the same guy trying again with what /[

    • dlenmn
    • 12 years ago

    Yes, and? (Bah, forgot to hit reply)

    • dlenmn
    • 12 years ago

    What’s so great about putting x86 in small devices? It’s seems to be all the rage right now, but there are already other architectures that work perfectly well in the environment (hell, they may well work better). Is it because (non-CE) Windows only works on x86 right now? These ultra portable devices seem to be mostly running linux (or BSD) anyway.

    I’m with Jon Stokes on this one:

    q[http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080205-small-wonder-inside-intels-silverthorne-ultramobile-cpu.html<]ยง

      • UberGerbil
      • 12 years ago

      Because if you claim you can leverage the entire x86 ecosystem to bite off even a tiny piece of Intel’s revenue, you can get VCs to give you money.

      • Cyril
      • 12 years ago

      The iPhone doesn’t have Flash support.

        • dlenmn
        • 12 years ago

        Yes, and?

          • Cyril
          • 12 years ago

          So I wouldn’t quite say a handheld device without Flash support offers “the full Internet in your pocket.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

          That’s the advantage of these x86 devices, in my view. They should have no trouble supporting not only Flash, but also Silverlight and whatever else rolls around in the future. Virtually all modern desktops and notebooks used for Internet access have x86 processors, so I’d say it makes sense for handhled devices to use compatible hardware so they can run the same software.

            • dlenmn
            • 12 years ago

            Yeah, not having flash makes a better internet in the pocket ๐Ÿ™‚

            It already works on x86 linux. If manufactures want it, they can probably just give Adobe some money so that they can hit “compile” (hell, there are rumors that it’s all ready going down… just google around a bit). Do you think it’s incapable of being made to run on non x86 systems or something?

            • Cyril
            • 12 years ago

            q[

            • dlenmn
            • 12 years ago

            q[http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=695) so support for non x86 systems (even non-linux systems) may be a non issue. Plus, who uses silverlight anyway? Flash is really the only plugin that matters.

            q[

            • Cyril
            • 12 years ago

            q[

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