Sources close to National Semiconductor told VNU Newswire today that the company has two potential buyers for its Cyrix and x86 fab business.
One of them is likely to be AMD, according to the source, who said that IBM was definitely not in the frame.
NatSemi wants to conclude a sale within the month, the source said.
Joe D'Elia, senior semiconductor analyst at Dataquest Europe, pointed out that AMD has a lot on its plate at the moment.
"They've got to maintain K6-2, the K6-III and get the K7 out, plus they're doing mobile versions. Buying Cyrix, however, would give them a proven design technology. They'd buy a name and a design team with an innovative set of products, which is what they did with NexGen," he said.
He speculated that ST Microelectronics might also be interested, following rumours that it has fallen out with the x86 core company Metaware it was wooing last year.
"They could do with that design team," he said.
Samsung could also be a contender, D'Elia thought: "They might just realise that Alpha won't be a 10 million a year product," he said.
One European Cyrix distributor said: "AMD could buy the business."
A smaller European distributor, who also wished to remain unnamed, said: "AMD arguably doesn't have the rights to the x86 platform and the K7 is a big risk."
However, he added that all non Intel distributors were doing well.
"Flashpoint is selling between 30,000 and 35,000 parts a month, nearly all into the UK market." There are only a few, so far, non Intel distributors in Europe.
Although market shares in the dealer and distributor business are hard to state with any degree of accuracy, official distribution probably accounts for around 60,000 AMD units a month in the UK only, on top of 20,000 grey market chips.
"The question is whether people will move the same way on the K7 in the future," said the distributor.
"Up until now, when Intel's seen a little fire, it's put a little water on it to put it out. With the K7, Intel will have to call the fire brigade," the distributor said.
He said that AMD was targeting Intel's mid range market with the K7 and the chip giant would have to dig deep into its pockets to use the same strategy it has on the low end.
The distributor said that if a buyer was not found, it was likely the chips would disappear.
"It does beg the question of whether the FTC should investigate Intel again," he said.
Intel's pricing strategy had effectively driven down the Cyrix ability to make profits on x86 parts.
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