NVIDIA silently developing x86 CPU?
At the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference in San Francisco yesterday, the company revealed that it had plans to enter the x86 processor market by building a x86 compatible system-on-chip in the next two to three years.
According to Michael Hara, NVIDIA's senior vice president of investor relations and communications, the company is considering making a x86 processor in the next two or three years:
The heart of this issue is that the CPU has run its course and the soul of the PC is shifting quickly to the GPU.
If that's true, Jen-Hsun, then why bother developing an x86 CPU? The answer, of course, is that Jen-Hsun knows his comments are little more than BS. Granted, there's little indication that graphics processing will migrate back to CPU, in spite of a seeming plateau in mainstream applications' polygon and pixel demands. GPUs also fill an important role in handling video processing in a speedy and power-thrifty manner. And there's some possibility, though by no means a guarantee, that over time GPUs will take over additional functions amenable to their massively parallel processing nature, by virtue of coming-soon APIs such as OpenCL and DirectX 11. But for anyone who thinks that the GPU will obsolete the CPU or even tangibly retard its advancements in the future, I have seven words for you:
I'd like some of whatever you're smoking.
Assuming my between-the-lines reading of Hara's teasing is on track, where will Nvidia's x86 capabilities come from? While I was pulling an April Fool's joke when I 'announced' last year that Nvidia was buying AMD, the idea of Nvidia acquiring Via has been bantered about in the press for quite some time. There's a problem with that prognosis, however, and it's a biggie: Via's x86 license isn't capable of being adopted by an acquiring entity. Nvidia could try to do a straight-up x86 design, but (barring FTC pressure, which is perhaps what Nvidia's gambling on), I can't imagine a scenario in which Intel would grant its competitor a license. Emulation is also a possibility, but the track record here is spotty at best; Montalvo Systems flamed out before it ever produced its first chip, and Transmeta did little better, at least in the marketplace (in the courts, on the other hand, it fared somewhat better).
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