AMD's acquisition of ATI in 2006 eventually spelled the end of third-party chipset designs. Now, according to industry sources quoted by DigiTimes, things may be about to change.
This time, the lucky outsourcee would be ASMedia—one of the subsidiaries of Asustek, Asus' parent company. Word got around last month that AMD might partner up with ASMedia on SATA Express controller design, potentially through a licensing agreement. Earlier this week, however, DigiTimes said its "sources from the upstream supply chain" revealed that the partnership "may advance further with an outsourcing of the whole chipset R&D."
When asked to chime in, AMD told DigiTimes that it "does not comment on market speculation." I'd probably take this rumor with a healthy helping of salt, all things considered.
Outsourcing chipset R&D might make business sense for AMD, which remains in a somewhat precarious situation financially. The stakes in terms of overall system performance and stability could be relatively low this time, as well, since modern chipsets are little more than glorified I/O hubs. There's no chance of a wonky third-party memory controller crippling a new CPU.
Still, as Geoff pointed out last month, ASMedia's USB and SATA controllers typically have lower performance than those built into Intel chipsets. I suppose we'll have to wait and see—if DigiTimes' sources are right—how competitive ASMedia controllers can be when connected directly to the processor.