Nvidia Corp. has reportedly begun hiring engineers from Transmeta, a failed developer of microprocessors that features compatibility with x86 using code-morphing software, in order to develop its own x86 central processing unit (CPU) in a bid to continue its chipset business, according to an analyst.
“We believe Nvidia could enter the x86 CPU business. Nvidia could become a supplier of x86 CPUs by necessity to preserve both GPU and chipset revenue. […] 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,” said analyst Doug Freedman of Broadpoint AmTech, reports EETimes web-site.
Graphics processing units (GPUs) and central processing units (CPUs) used to have almost nothing in common a decade ago, but huge advances in the graphics chip design as well as the evolution of CPUs have greatly moved both towards each other: GPUs are now much more programmable than back in the days, whereas microprocessors now feature many cores, built-in memory controllers and will soon even gain graphics engines.
Nvidia completely understands that CPUs and GPUs are getting closer to each other and has already made a number of steps towards its own microprocessor:
- Firstly, Nvidia joined HyperTransport Consortium at the time when the technology was called Lighting Data Transport and was primarily known as a universal bus for next-generation CPUs by Advanced Micro Devices.
- Secondly, Nvidia entered Silicon-on-Insulator process technology consortium.
- Thirdly, back in January ’09 Nvidia replaced its chief scientist David Kirk with William Dally, who is known for his expertise in parallel computing technologies as well as work on Cell/Larrabee-like microprocessors.
- Fourthly, some claim that Nvidia has been hiring microprocessor specialists from Stexar for several years now. Moreover, Nvidia is now claimed to be interested in Transmeta engineers.
In fact, some even expressed belief that Nvidia planned to acquire Via Technologies, however, since x86 licenses are non-transferrable, it hardly made sense for the company to acquire the struggling developer of chipsets and microprocessors.
“We believe internally developed x86 solutions are more likely than external acquisitions (i.e. Via Technologies),” said Mr. Freedman.
Nvidia itself has always denied any plans to develop its own microprocessor and claimed that the CPUs are no longer important, the company acquired a non-exclusive license to Transmeta’s Long Run and LongRun2 technologies and other intellectual property, which includes computing technologies, for use in connection with Nvidia products back in mid-2008.