On Monday, Intel filed a lawsuit against Nvidia, which apparently stated that the chipset license agreement the two companies signed four years ago does not extend to Intel’s future generation CPUs with integrated memory controllers.
The original deal allowed Nvidia to produce chipsets for Intel CPUs without integrated memory controllers. At the time however, Intel did not have any integrated memory controllers in its plans and so no stipulation was in place to forbid Nvidia from making chipsets for CPUs with memory controllers.
Today, Nvidia responded to the court filing with a press release stating that “we are confident that our license, as negotiated, applies," and that "Nvidia has been attempting to resolve the disagreement with Intel in a fair and reasonable manner for over a year."
Although currently shipping Nvidia chipsets are not affected by this dispute, future chipsets from Nvidia designed for Intel's Core i7 or future Atom processors are at risk. Nvidia's upcoming Ion platform for use with future Intel Atom processors is one such a product that may be affected by the court filing, as future Intel Atom processor are expected to feature an integrated memory controller. Judging from Nvidia's response, it seems Nvidia believes Intel is trying to inhibit Nvidia from releasing innovative products such as the Ion platform.
"When combined with a CPU, Ion enables a two-chip PC architecture for Intel processors two years ahead of Intel’s own solution. In addition, the Ion platform offers 10x the performance of Intel’s current three chip design." Nvidia continues to state, "given the broad and growing adoption of Nvidia’s platform innovations, it is not surprising that Intel is now initiating a dispute over a contract signed four years ago. Innovations like Ion, SLI, Hybrid power, and CUDA threaten Intel’s ability to control the PC platform."
The Nvidia Ion platform was recently put to the test and the results showed that the Ion platform was indeed a winner, offering excellent power savings and excellent graphical performance. Although the Intel Atom processor had been designed for use in inexpensive netbooks and nettops, Nvidia was able to show with its Ion platform that GPU performance does not need to be sacrificed to achieve a low cost Intel Atom-based system. With future Intel Atom processors expected to also feature integrated graphics solutions though, there may even more pressure on the long-term viability of the Ion platform.
Although the Nvidia Ion platform will likely appear first in inexpensive desktop systems, if rumors hold true it may be Lenovo that is first to release notebooks featuring the Nvidia Ion platform. According to a Commerical Times report, an 11-inch, a 12-inch and possibly a 13-inch Ion-based notebook will be released by Lenovo in the second quarter of 2009.