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Intel buys Creative's GPU, SoC know-how

Intel buys Creative's GPU, SoC know-how

Creative Technology has licensed its GPU technology to Intel, while selling a bunch of its ZiiLabs engineering resources at the same time.

Creative Technology, best known for its audio-related products, has announced the sale of a chunk of its ZiiLabs subsidiary to Intel - bringing the latter company's decision to abandon its partnership with Imagination Technology and its PowerVR GPUs into sharp focus.

Creative Technology isn't a name that springs to most peoples' minds when it comes to 3D graphics hardware, with the company's Sound Blaster products far closer to the fore. A long time ago, however, Creative competed with the likes of Matrox and Diamond Multimedia with its 3D Blaster accelerator boards. For a while, Creative continued its 3D Blaster lines with dedicated graphics cards based on Nvidia's GeForce GPUs, but it gave the market up in 2006 in order to concentrate on its audio-related products.

Well, almost: when the company ceased the production of its 3D Blaster product lines, it still had a use for the 3DLabs subsidiary it acquired in 2002. Following the demise of the 3D Blaster product line, the company renamed itself to ZiiLabs and its primary product was the StemCell system-on-chip (SoC) family - not to be confused with the Cell processor - which combined ARM architecture processing cores with in-house media processing hardware. The company's top-end design, the ZMS-40, packed four Cortex-A9 processing cores with a 96-core StemCell array, and formed a central part of the company's JAGUAR reference platform for Android 3.2 tablets.

The ZiiLabs processors did not, however, take off in the market. While the StemCell array provided surprising power, it proved awkward to harness and as rivals started to improve the processing power and multimedia capabilities of their own SoC designs sales for the ZMS family stagnated.

It is no surprise, therefore, to find that Creative Technologies is selling off a chunk of the ZiiLabs division - but the surprise comes when you learn that the buyer is Intel. According to an announcement made by the company today, Intel is shelling out $50 million in order to acquire 'certain engineering resources' of ZiiLabs along with the entirety of Creative's GPU technology. The deal isn't a buyout, however: Creative will still maintain full ownership of ZiiLabs, and has announced it will continue the development of its StemCell product line.

The deal is split across the two product areas: the UK engineering resources of ZiiLabs are being purchased for $30 million, while Creative's GPU technology is being licensed - not purchased - for $20 million.

With leaked slides indicating that Intel's future Atom system-on-chip designs will go for in-house graphics technology, rather than continuing the trend of licensing PowerVR IP from Imagination, it's not difficult to see Intel's plan: the $50 million is a push in getting more powerful integrated graphics processing technology, to better take on the likes of Nvidia, Samsung and Qualcomm in the low-power SoC market. Thus far, however, Intel has not formally commented on the deal, nor on its plans to use Creative's GPU technology in future products.

9 Comments

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Griffter 21st November 2012, 12:38 Quote
"Creative Technology, best known for its audio-realted..."

audio-related perhaps?
Gareth Halfacree 21st November 2012, 12:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Griffter
"Creative Technology, best known for its audio-realted..." audio-related perhaps?
Quite - fixed, ta!
greigaitken 21st November 2012, 12:49 Quote
they should use the passing of otellini as a springboard for swallowing their pride and putting a deal on the table to putting some NV cores in their cpu - they just have to make up for NV not selling as many GPUS. Dabbling in all the little guys tech will not get them the real mccoy and their cpu tech will always be lifting up a lame duck. I'm not NV fanboy but AMD is the only other ready to roll alternative.
It wouldnt be good for us though as intel would completely dominate in every way instead of just almost every way.
theshadow2001 21st November 2012, 13:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by greigaitken
they should use the passing of otellini as a springboard for swallowing their pride and putting a deal on the table to putting some NV cores in their cpu.

perhaps, but with nvidia selling their own system on a chip they might have little incentive to sell anything to Intel.
SazBard 21st November 2012, 22:31 Quote
Graphics blaster extreme with Permedia 2 chip set and 4mb ram (I think) was the first graphics card I ever bought. I remember playing Tomb Raider and was mesmerized at how everything looked, ahhh the good ol' days :-D
Snips 21st November 2012, 22:40 Quote
You old bast@rd SazBard ;)

(I remember playing that as well on an equally bad card, that's bad as in good!)
yougotkicked 22nd November 2012, 00:37 Quote
I'd been wondering what became of the Zii architecture. Creative's announcement of it a few years back made it look really promising, but here we are...

Should be interesting to see if some fresh blood helps intel's gpu design; Creative may not be a big player in the field, but Intel's designs aren't much to brag about either, this merging of tech may just end up with something greater than the sum of it's parts.
LordPyrinc 22nd November 2012, 04:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
You old bast@rd SazBard ;)

(I remember playing that as well on an equally bad card, that's bad as in good!)

I can definitely relate. My first PC was a speedy 133mhz Pentium with a 2 GB hardrive and a Number 9 Graphics card. If i remember correctly, it had 16 MB of RAM which I later upgraded to 24 MB of RAM.

The PC + all the peripherals at the time cost about $3500, roughly $500 less than the used car I was driving at the time. BTW, I got many more years out of the car than the PC. Even after I was done with the car I passed it on to relatives who got many more years/miles out of it.

I can't say the same for the PC. The 2GB hardrive went bad just after the 1yr warranty expired and I ended up spending another $400 on a 4GB replacement. By the time I gave my car to family members, the PC was so obsolete that it had already been junked.
sandys 22nd November 2012, 09:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by yougotkicked
Should be interesting to see if some fresh blood helps intel's gpu design; Creative may not be a big player in the field, but Intel's designs aren't much to brag about either, this merging of tech may just end up with something greater than the sum of it's parts.

Doubt there will be any new blood, sounds like a patent play from Intel, they don't want the staff.
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