SAN JOSE, Calif. You would think an x86 core would be a pretty hot item for a system-on-chip design. So why is no one biting on Intel Corp.'s offer last March
to sell rights to an Atom core for SoCs made at TSMC?
Here's some armchair speculation. Most of it comes down to one thing—this new SoC model might have some inside Intel a little scared.
1) Intel is charging high royalties
Intel did not make terms of its Atom SoC business publically available when it launched the deal. It's a new business model for Intel and maybe the processor giant is being a little too greedy—aka fearful—about releasing the crown jewels of its processor designs.
2) Intel has some other nasty business terms
Atom royalties could be in line. After all, the prices ARM charges are probably widely known, so Intel should have a model on which to base its prices.
But I would not be surprised if Intel has a real fear about losing control of its intellectual property. Unlike ARM, Intel has spent years and millions litigating against rivals such as AMD, Cyrix and others who cloned the x86. The processor giant can't afford to let China Inc. get hold of any proprietary details about its designs.
Thus I suspect there could be some onerous business or legal handcuffs that come with being an Atom licensee. If so, Intel could be scaring off customers.
3) Intel is not providing adequate visibility into its core
Again, fear of having one of its novel x86 designs cloned by rivals may have motivated Intel to keep a tight rein on how much technical detail it discloses about the core. SoC designers won't want to trust their chip design to a core that isn't well documented—especially not when there are plenty of alternative cores from ARM, MIPS and others that provide plenty of technical details about their internal plumbing.