Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Mar 2009 17:19 UTC, submitted by poundsmack
Hardware, Embedded Systems NVIDIA's aspirations to enter the general purpose processor market may never have been clearly spelled out by the company before, but it was getting more and more obvious as each week passed by. Now, it's pretty much official: NVIDIA says it's not a question of "if", but "when".
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License to produce x86?
by christian on Wed 4th Mar 2009 20:05 UTC
Member since:

Exactly what license is required? How much of the x86 instruction set is covered by patents? And how does any of the instruction set become patentable?

For SoC, no CPU bus interface license would be required other than memory bus interface, so there should be no problems there. And I'm sure they already have any licenses to produce PCIe interface through their existing chipset arm.

Reply Score: 1

RE: License to produce x86?
by poundsmack on Wed 4th Mar 2009 21:26 in reply to "License to produce x86?"
poundsmack Member since:

they have to licence a LOT of stuff from Intel, but i would assume tehy would go with the hyper tranport protocal (which has minimal or no licence fees and is an open standard) instead of intels quick path.

their focus would be on very power efficient CPU's while offloading the bulk of their work to their gpu unit (integrated or not) using custom extensions on the processor level for OpenCL and their CUDA technology. They are licencing some stuff from VIA currently too for the on proc encryption. I can't say any more i am afraid and as is this is still just all on paper, it will be at least another year before anything remotely tangible shows up.

well one more piece of info i guess couldn't hurt. Nvidia intends to use TSMC's or UMC's 28nm process after the perfect the 40nm process for their GPU's they are working on now. as for the rest, my lips are sealed.

more of a good read here:

Edited 2009-03-04 21:41 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: License to produce x86?
by Downix on Thu 5th Mar 2009 01:47 in reply to "RE: License to produce x86?"
Downix Member since:

Actually, you are incorrect because they already have licensed the necessary components... from transmeta.

Transmeta worked around the key Intel patents by being a firmware-based compatibility system, which can adapt to new CPU cores with relative ease... imagine, if you would, the transmeta x86 translation system paired up to, oh, say a CUDA engine...

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: License to produce x86?
by javiercero1 on Thu 5th Mar 2009 02:20 in reply to "License to produce x86?"
javiercero1 Member since:

Most people are unaware that instruction sets can be copyrighted.

That would be the principal hurdle for nvidia. I am sure they may have figured a way around it.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: License to produce x86?
by gustl on Thu 5th Mar 2009 15:43 in reply to "RE: License to produce x86?"
gustl Member since:

Copyright for instruction sets do not exist.

It is no more copyrightable than the "copy protection" code in printer cartridges.

Don't ask me for details, or where to find this, but as far as I remember, the story goes like this:

There was as copyright lawsuit of a printer manufacturer against a cartridge manufacturer. The original printer cartridges had a piece of code, which was necessary for the printer to work. Whenever the cartridge was changed, the printer zeroed this piece of code, and when a "valid" cartridge was inserted, the code was loaded from the cartridge which "unbricked" the printer.
The independent cartridge maker made bit-by-bit copies of this code, and put it into their own cartridges.
The original manufacturer then sued for copyright infringement, because it was HIS code which was copied.
It court it turned out to have been fair use, the argument of the judge why was like this:
- it is necessary to copy the code if a working replacement is to be made.
- the original manufacturer put the code into the cartridge to prevent competition, that is not what copyright is there fore.
- The code is not an intellectually outstanding piece of art, it's ONLY function at it's location is, to prevent competition.

The same goes for the instruction set. It is just a list of numbers, with a description what each one does if loaded into the processor.
The list as given by INTEL might be under copyright, but nothing prevents me from looking at that list and writing my own documentation.
Necessarily those EXACTLY SAME numbers would occur, and LOTS of the description wording would be similar or same.
That list is a documentation of FACTS, and the facts themselves are not copyrightable.
Some implementations of these codes in hardware for sure are patented, but that is hardware.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: License to produce x86?
by Jett on Thu 5th Mar 2009 18:15 in reply to "License to produce x86?"
Jett Member since:

Nvidia might not need to have a license -

From the big book of lies

Unlike AMD, Cyrix had never manufactured or sold Intel designs under a negotiated license. Cyrix's designs were the result of meticulous in-house reverse engineering. Thus, while AMD's 386s and even 486s had some Intel-written microcode software, Cyrix's designs were completely independent. Focused on removing potential competitors, Intel spent many years in legal battles with Cyrix, claiming that the Cyrix 486 violated Intel's patents.

By and large, Intel lost the Cyrix case. But the final settlement was out of court: Intel agreed that Cyrix had the right to produce their own x86 designs in any foundry that happened to already hold an Intel license

They might have some wiggle room.

Edited 2009-03-05 18:19 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2