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Intel Corp. does not prohibit Nvidia Corp. to develop x86-compatible microprocessors, but as soon as the latter launches its product, the chip giant will definitely discuss whether such a chip infringes its patents and whether Nvidia has rights to sell it.

“We’re not going to react to anything until there’s a real product. [Nvidia has] a cross-license from us. It has certain exclusions in it. It has a certain period in terms of when it runs, when it’s valid. When and if they have a real product, we’ll have a discussion of whether it violates it or not. That’s a TBD situation,” said Paul Otellini, chief executive officer of Intel Corp., during a meeting with employees.

For a while Nvidia has been claiming that performance and capabilities of central processing units (CPUs) are losing their importance for end-users, whereas the significance of graphics processing units (GPUs) is on the rise. However, Nvidia fully understands that without microprocessors actual devices will not be able to run operating systems and productivity applications and recently the company went on saying that in several years time it may release an system-on-chip (SoC) featuring x86 processing core.

Nvidia has already developed its Tegra SoC that combines its DirectX 9-class graphics core as well as ARM8 microprocessor. The product has chances to become rather popular among handset and multimedia devices manufacturers thanks to rich feature-set as well as minimal power consumption, however, it lacks performance to become competitive on the market of mobile personal computers, where performance matters a lot. But Nvidia believes that in several years time it will be possible and will make sense to integrate x86 architecture-based microprocessor into SoCs like Tegra.

Early on March Intel signed a pact with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) under which the latter would be able to build SoCs featuring Intel Atom processors for its clients. Theoretically, Nvidia could work with Intel and TSMC to create an SoC featuring its GeForce 9400M core-logic with built-in graphics core and Intel Atom processing engine. Obviously, such SoC will be able to target only very cost-efficient applications these days, but it will not violate any of Intel’s patents.

Tags: Intel, Nvidia, x86

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