Trident Microsystems Inc. is integrating its graphics ICs into chipsets built by a Taiwan-based chipset manufacturer -- but in a coy move has declined to name its new design partner.
According to sources, the deal was struck with Acer Laboratories Inc., which will integrate Trident's CyberBlade graphics core into its Aladdin series of chipsets. The agreement would represent a stepping out for Trident, which under an earlier pact with Acer Labs' rival Via Technologies Inc. integrated its CyberBlade core with Via's MVP4 chipset. A second Trident-based chipset, the ProMedia, was disclosed today by Via executives and will ship in the third quarter.
Representatives from Trident, Mountain View, Calif., and Taipei-based Acer Labs were unavailable for comment.
Save for San Jose's 3Dfx Interactive Inc., every other mainstream PC graphics company has signed a deal to integrate their cores into a third-party core-logic chipset. Although Nvidia Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., has so far not publicly disclosed its own integration plans, the company hired Kenneth Ma away from Trident to become senior director of its integrated business. In an interview today, Ma called the integration of graphics and core-logic "inevitable."
As the second largest chipset house behind Intel Corp., Via has led the field in terms of disclosing and following through on its integration plans. In a roadmap disclosed today at the Platform '99 show in San Jose, Via said the Trident-based ProMedia chipset would be replaced in the fourth quarter with the higher-performance ProMedia-II, based upon the Savage4 graphics chip from S3 Inc.
Like its competitors, Via is positioning its integrated parts in the sub-$1,200 segment of the low-cost PC market. Integrating the graphics chip into the core logic theoretically eliminates the possibility to replace it with a faster version. Via's ProMedia-II includes a separate AGP 4X slot, allowing an OEM or end user to add a newer graphics chip at a later time, although they would be required to turn off the ProMedia-II's graphics functions.
"It's kind of overkill in a way," said Dean Hays, director of marketing for Via's U.S. operations in Fremont, Calif. "But at least you can plug something new next to it and get a longer lifespan from the product."
Hays declined to add more details to the company's ongoing patent dispute with Intel. While Intel has argued that its technology license with Via prohibits Via from manufacturing parts using a 133-MHz front side bus or 4X AGP connection, Via is using National Semiconductor Corp. as a foundry to evade the restrictions. National has a separate licensing agreement with Intel under which Via says it is entitled to make its chipsets. Intel has filed suit against Via in a San Jose federal court challenging this assertion.
Undaunted, Hays said Via's Apollo Pro+ 133, which is sampling now, will be followed by a 4X AGP version near the beginning of the third quarter. That chip will be tweaked once in the third quarter and once in the fourth quarter to support the K7 microprocessor from Advanced Micro Devices Inc., and PC266 double-data-rate SDRAM, respectively.