National Semiconductor agreed last week to sell its MII x86 processor business to Taiwanese chipset maker VIA Technologies.
As previously reported in PC Week (11 May), NatSemi is not planning to sell the entire Cyrix business, but will retain the MediaGX line of integrated processors. VIA will get the x86 processor business, including R&D facilities in Texas. Hermann Stehlik, director at NatSemi in Germany, said the move completes the first part of NatSemi's divestiture of the MII processor.
"The second part of the deal is selling a major share of the fab(rication plant) in South Portland, which has to be completed by November," he said.
He could not confirm whether VIA would also be buying the fab. "VIA will be developing further what Cyrix has been doing so far," said Stehlik.
Industry observers are interested to find out what will happen to the cross-licensing patent deals NatSemi has with Intel, as Intel has recently sued VIA for patent infringement, claiming that its PC133 chipset uses Intel technology. VIA claims that because the chip is made by NatSemi in its fabs, it comes under the patent agreement.
The result of this litigation will determine whether VIA can gain access to Intel's P6 bus technology, and other Intel intellectual property, if it gets NatSemi to continue to manufacture the MII processor at its fabs.
VIA has traditionally been a "fabless" chip company, designing chips but outsourcing production to other companies.
Observers agreed that the deal should revive the flagging MII line. "NatSemi has not shown the ability to turn things around quickly," said Joe D'Elia, senior analyst at Gartner Group Dataquest. "The MII has not had a new product for 15 to 18 months. VIA can turn out complex designs quickly to keep up with Intel."
Sukh Rayat, managing director of Flashpoint, the largest Cyrix distributor in northern Europe, said: "VIA is accustomed to the dynamics of the PC market, and bring things out faster. The growth in the chip market is definitely at the bottom end. It's definitely an advantage for Cyrix to be in the VIA camp. VIA can now ship a whole package, and offer a more integrated and compatible product with a faster time to market."
An Intel spokesman said that the current legal action is not affected by the VIA/Cyrix merger, and insisted that VIA would not get access to cross-licensed Intel intellectual property because of the deal.
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