by Anton Shilov
08/16/2010 | 04:20 PM
Nvidia Corp is reportedly working on a chip that relies on code-morphing software originally developed by Transmeta Corp. to compete against Intel Corp.'s Atom microprocessor on the market of tablets and other small form-factor mobile devices.
Although Nvidia released its Tegra-series system-on-chip (SoC) devices about two years ago, the project still does not seem to be very successful: there are several design wins, but competitors like Texas Instruments, Qualcomm and others continue to be the biggest providers of ARM-based SoCs for cell phones, tablets, set-top-boxes and other low-power products. Nvidia continues to improve its Tegra lineup of products since the family does have potential. But some unofficial sources claim that the Santa Clara, California-based company is also developing a chip, which will compete against Intel Corp.'s Atom-based SoCs head-to-head in the x86 space.
The information from unofficial sources cited by Bloomberg news-agency claims that Nvidia is working on a project that "relies on a technology pioneered by Transmeta that uses software to replicate the way Intel chips work". Since Nvidia owns patents from Transmeta, this may be an early indicator that the company plans to give code-morphing software - which allows non-x86 chips to perform x86 code - a second try after Transmeta failed to popularize its Crusoe and Efficeon microprocessors. The SoC is reportedly designed for tablets.
Considering the amount of potential operating system for tablets, including Google Android, Nokia/Intel MeeGo and others, slates do not heavily require Microsoft Windows operating system (unlike desktops and notebooks). As a result, slates do not need x86 as badly as traditional personal computers. Hence, it is rather surprising that Nvidia is actually trying to marry code-morphing, Windows and slates.
It is not completely clear whether Nvidia has computing architectures to emulate x86. ARM architecture-based processors generally offer lower performance compared to x86 chips from AMD or Intel, even if it is possible to emulate x86 on latest ARM designs, final performance should be dreadful. Emulating x86 on Nvidia's scalar GeForce graphics processors also does not seem to be a good idea. Still, the sources claims that the project is experimental.
It should be noted that besides code-morphing software Transmeta had very sophisticated technologies for power consumption reduction and their usage is completely logical not only for Nvidia Tegra, but also for other products from the company, including GeForce, Quadro, Tesla and so on.
Nvidia did not comment on the news-story.