Intelvidia Inside

Famously, Intel was one of the first to do the "branded component" - though I think Nutrasweet was actually the first to do it. Anyway, Intel has managed to fend off a lot of attacks over the years, sometimes through some rather shady business practices.

A few days ago at CES, Nvidia said that it would start building CPUs based on the ARM architecture. While all computers these days run x86 processors that IBM started and that Intel dominates, all of your smartphones (other than iPhones) run ARM processors, made mostly by Broadcom and a few others. The big deal is that these little devices are quickly becoming big devices (tablets etc), and Microsoft has announced that Windows 8 will run on ARM or x86 - a really big step. The most important aspect of these devices is not how fast they run in terms of processing speed (any of you running major analytics on your iPad? I think not) - but how well they process graphics and video, especially the HD video which takes a lot of graphical power.

The history between Nvidia and Intel is... well... hilariously antagonistic. They have had all kinds of public showdowns, calling outs, threats, lawsuits and epic CEO vs. CEO mudwrestling challenges in the last few years. But today, they have announced that they are going to be all buddy buddy, and Intel is going to license all of Nvidia's patents for $1.5 billion, while they both drop all lawsuits.

WTF happened?

Well, AMD bought ATI (the other big graphics card company with Nvidia) a while back, and Intel realized it was in deep shit, because Intel integrated graphics have been about as good as using a pencil sharpener as a lawnmower. Intel has been trying to build its own chips and... they still suck. AMD announces a big new fusion chip which does CPU, GPU, XPU, NPU and WTFPU all at the same time, Intel and Nvidia get scared, and all of a sudden you have some strange bedfellows.

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