Bullish Intel clears chip hurdle

Bullish Intel clears chip hurdle
Tom Foremski A jubilant Intel said that it will forge ahead with the StrongARM microprocessor now that the patent settlement with Digital Equipment has been approved. Intel now gains Digital’s Hudson fab and the rights to manufacture its Alpha and StrongARM microprocessors. The only condition stipulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is that Intel does “not have exclusive control over Alpha production”. Digital is required to pursue separate foundry agreements with third parties such as Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Samsung. “This clears a major hurdle for us,” said a senior Intel spokesperson. “We weren’t able to do much regarding StrongARM in the past, but you’ll see us pushing ahead with StrongARM in embedded applications and we are putting together a design team.” Intel says it had been reluctant to promote StrongARM because of uncertainty over the FTC decision. The company has recently been promoting its low end Celeron Pentium II microprocessor in embedded applications such as set-top TV boxes, a market suited to StrongARM. Digital praised the FTC decision and said it would be good for Alpha and Alpha-based systems. “By eliminating any questions surrounding the future of the Alpha technology and its long term availability, system makers looking to provide industry leading, high performance computing solutions can now embrace Alpha without hesitation,” said Digital Chairman Robert Palmer. There were concerns that the FTC would block the deal because of Intel’s dominance in the microprocessor market. Giving it control over Alpha production would have strengthened Intel’s position still further. But the FTC still has a much larger investigation of Intel in progress, addressing its overall business practices and also its entry into the 3D graphics chip business.


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