Nvidia Stops Chip Set Development as Intel Dispute Continues

Nvidia is no longer developing chip sets for next-generation Intel processors as the two companies continue their legal dispute. While Nvidia is still manufacturing chip sets for older Intel processors and using the Intel Atom chip for its Ion platform, the graphics maker does not intend to develop chip sets for Intel processors that use a new type of communications bus.

The ongoing legal dispute between Intel and Nvidia is heating up again, with Nvidia claiming that it will no longer develop chip sets for next-generation Intel processors until a court settles a dispute between the two companies.

On Oct. 7, Nvidia released a statement that said the graphics maker has now decided to end the development of chip sets for upcoming Intel processors that use a new type of communications bus called Direct Media Interface (DMI).

However, Nvidia does plan to continue manufacturing chip sets for older Intel processors that use independent front-side bus (FSB) architecture. The newer Intel CPUs, starting with those based on Nehalem, have the FSB integrated onto the silicon itself. In the lawsuit, Intel claims Nvidia does not have the right to make chip sets that work with the DMI communications bus found on newer Intel chips.

Nvidia claims it does have the right to create chip sets that work with newer Intel processors.

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"We will continue to innovate integrated solutions for Intel's FSB architecture," Nvidia said in the statement. "We firmly believe that this market has a long healthy life ahead. But because of Intel's improper claims to customers and the market that we aren't licensed to the new DMI bus and its unfair business tactics, it is effectively impossible for us to market chip sets for future CPUs. So, until we resolve this matter in court next year, we'll postpone further chip set investments for Intel DMI CPUs."

The Website PC Perspective was the first to report about Nvidia's decision.

In February, the dispute between Intel and Nvidia came to light.

At the time, Intel filed a lawsuit in Delaware state court and asked a judge to determine whether Nvidia had the right to develop chip sets for Intel processors that are based on Nehalem and offer features such as an integrated memory controller. Intel and Nvidia had signed an agreement in 2004 that allowed Nvidia to make compatible chips sets for Intel processors.

Intel claimed the 2004 agreement does not cover processors based on Nehalem or future generations of processors based on different microarchitecture designs. Nvidia countered that the agreement with Intel does allow it to continue to make chip sets for these future generation of CPUs.

"As a reminder, Nvidia and Intel have an ongoing dispute over terms of a 2004 license agreement," Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK. "After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the dispute for more than year we filed suit in February of this year seeking a declaratory judgment. The issue is whether or not Nvidia is licensed to create a chipset compatible with Intel microprocessors that don't have a front-side bus."

The lawsuit between Intel and Nvidia has been filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery. No specific hearing date has been set.

Even with the dispute, Intel and Nvidia still have a working relationship. Nvidia still makes chip sets for older Intel processors, and Nvidia uses Intel Atom chips for Ion platform. At the same time, Nvidia still makes its own discrete GPUs (graphics processing units).

Earlier this month, Nvidia introduced its next-generation GPU architecture called Fermi, which is geared toward high-performance computing and scientific applications. HPC is an area that has been dominated by CPU architecture, but Nvidia has been trying to make inroads with its GPUs as an alternative.

In the meantime, Intel is looking to combine the CPU and graphics onto the same piece of silicon. In 2010, Intel plans to release "Arrandale," which combines the two technologies.