Nvidia x86 processor rumors resurface

The rumor mill is at it again. According to EE Times, an equity research firm has revived last year's speculation by claiming Nvidia is covertly developing an x86 processor to compete with AMD and Intel.

Broadpoint AmTech analyst Doug Freedman says in his report, "We believe that Nvidia has hired former Transmeta staff extensively, and that instruction code 'morphing' requirements have declined as more x86 instructions have come off of patent coverage." Transmeta, of course, developed low-power, x86-compatible processors before turning into an intellectual-property licensing firm and eventually folding in September of 2008.

The analyst thinks Nvidia is likelier to come up with its own design than to buy out Via, as other sources suggested early last year.

Why launch an x86 processor at all? "By necessity to preserve both GPU and chipset revenue," Freedman says. Last month, Nvidia announced that its chipset business was on life support because of a licensing dispute with Intel. Also, once Intel starts churning out discrete graphics processors next year, Nvidia should become the only major GPU vendor without the ability to offer processor, chipset, and GPU bundles.

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