Intel Denies Squeezing nVidia Out From Atom

Taiwan tech publication DigiTimes tried to leave a lump of coal in Intel’s stocking today, but Intel threw it right back. The chip giant is denying accusations it is squeezing out nVidia’s new graphics processor from the Atom platform.

DigiTimes claimed that PC manufacturers in Taiwan have told hardware makers the Atom CPUs for netbooks and nettops are only available bundled with its 945GSE and 945GC chipsets, effectively locking nVidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) and other potential competitors out as alternative suppliers. Another site, Electronista, carried a similar accusation last week.

nVidia earlier this month announced its GeForce 9400mGPU, dubbed “Ion,” currently available in Apple’s new generation of MacBook notebooks, would be available for Atom-based netbooks. The company said the chips would offer considerably better performance for netbooks than Intel’s 945 chipset.

The report claimed “Intel will only sell Atom CPUs and corresponding chipsets in a bundle, but if hardware vendors are unable to buy just the Atom CPU, the Ion platform becomes too expensive for most applications.”

Intel has been the subject of several anti-trust investigations already, and the above-described deal would smack of Microsoft’s old habit of making OEMs pay a Windows royalty on every PC they shipped, whether it had Windows pre-loaded or not. The result was OEMs declined to ship PCs with competitive operating systems.

But an Intel spokesman said there is no exclusionary bundling in play.

“There is nothing preventing vendors from using the Ion platform. We sell Atom as a stand-alone processor, or as package with chipset,” said Bill Calder, an Intel spokesman, in an e-mail sent to

Sensitive to litigation issues

Analyst Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research, follows the graphics market and doesn’t believe Intel would be so foolish. “Intel is extremely sensitive to potential litigation and wouldn’t knowingly or willfully do anything that would put the company, its suppliers or its shareholders at risk of a lawsuit,” he told

However, the statement from Calder was news to him. “No one has gotten Intel to say that they would sell the Atom separately or bundled. It’s been unclear and indeterminate as to whether Intel would unbundle the processor from the chipset,” he said.

No one from nVidia was available for comment.

Intel and nVidia have been increasingly on a collision course, with Intel moving into nVidia’s territory in the graphics market with its upcoming Larrabee video processor, and nVidia making moves into high performance computing, where Intel dominates.

The two are already competitors in several areas. nVidia has the Tegra chip for ultraportable devices that competes with the Atom, and it sells desktop chipsets as well.

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