Intel pays VIA $125m to acquire its x86 design talent

Centaur's brains will be transplanted to make hybrid AI tech for Chipzilla


Taiwanese manufacturer VIA has traded employees from its CPU design subsidiary Centaur Technology to Intel.

"Intel will recruit some of Centaur's employees … with certain covenants from the Company … As consideration, Intel will pay Centaur US$125m," read VIA's Taiwan Stock Exchange (TWSE) announcement.

VIA purchased Centaur in 1999 and gave it the job of developing x86-compatible processors that were cheaper and more efficient than Intel's, with the intent of breaking into the embedded systems market.

That plan didn't work, and VIA never won more than one or two per cent of the x86 market. These days it's more excited about its dashcam and forklift safety systems than microprocessors.

But Centaur kept operating – not that you can tell from its website, which presently indicates it's under construction.

A spot of Wayback Machine action reveals that as recently as July 2021 Centaur was working on "the industry's first high-performance deep-learning coprocessor integrated into server-class x86 processor." The old website claimed the kit provided 20 tera-operations per second through eight high-performance cores, targeting edge analytics servers running x86 software and DL Inference on multiple data streams.

It's not hard to see why Intel is interested in that. Chipzilla is all-in on AI and is working on the multi-tile Ponte Vecchio chip that will blend many types of cores – some from manufacturers other than Intel. The company is also keen on blended chips, as demonstrated by the recent release of Alder Lake silicon that borrows from the big.LITTLE approach used by Arm licensees.

Intel is also keen on edge, and doubtless aware that it's a fine location at which to run some AI to prevent pointless data being sent to the core data centre or cloud. A blended AI/x86 chip could help in such scenarios.

And, as The Register has pointed out many times, good silicon designers are hard to find. Centaur clearly had some that Intel wanted and VIA was willing to offload – perhaps making this transaction a no-brainer, even though it's all about buying brains. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Ex-Qualcomm Snapdragon chief turns CEO at AI chip startup MemryX

    Meet the new boss

    A former executive leading Qualcomm's Snapdragon computing platforms has departed the company to become CEO at an AI chip startup.

    Keith Kressin will lead product commercialization for MemryX, which was founded in 2019 and makes memory-intensive AI chiplets.

    The company is now out of stealth mode and will soon commercially ship its AI chips to non-tech customers. The company was testing early generations of its chips with industries including auto and robotics.

    Continue reading
  • Aircraft can't land safely due to interference with upcoming 5G C-band broadband service

    Expect flight delays and diversions, US Federal Aviation Administation warns

    The new 5G C-band wireless broadband service expected to rollout on 5 January 2022 in the US will disrupt local radio signals and make it difficult for airplanes to land safely in harsh weather conditions, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

    Pilots rely on radio altimeter readings to figure out when and where an aircraft should carry out a series of operations to prepare for touchdown. But the upcoming 5G C-band service beaming from cell towers threatens to interfere with these signals, the FAA warned in two reports.

    Flights may have to be delayed or restricted at certain airports as the new broadband service comes into effect next year. The change could affect some 6,834 airplanes and 1,828 helicopters. The cost to operators is expected to be $580,890.

    Continue reading
  • Canadian charged with running ransomware attack on US state of Alaska

    Cross-border op nabbed our man, boast cops and prosecutors

    A Canadian man is accused of masterminding ransomware attacks that caused "damage" to systems belonging to the US state of Alaska.

    A federal indictment against Matthew Philbert, 31, of Ottawa, was unsealed yesterday, and he was also concurrently charged by the Canadian authorities with a number of other criminal offences at the same time. US prosecutors [PDF] claimed he carried out "cyber related offences" – including a specific 2018 attack on a computer in Alaska.

    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Philbert was charged after a 23 month investigation "that also involved the [Royal Canadian Mounted Police, federal enforcers], the FBI and Europol."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021