Intel says no to Nvidia's Ion

December 26, 2008 | 09:48

Companies: #intel

Business comes first for Intel it seems as the season of goodwill is denied, because the word from Taiwan is that Intel insists it will only sell its Atom CPUs bundled with its limited 945-based chipset.

This effectively kills the Ion platform - Nvidia's plans to pair the infectiously popular Atom CPU with the superior GeForce 9400M integrated graphics chipset.

Intel told Digitimes that it has no plans to validate the Nvidia MCP79 chipset on Atom-based nettop or netbook platforms and also said it isn't looking to form a partnership with Nvidia to support nettop or netbook platforms based on the Intel Atom CPU.

Considering the almost unanimously positive feedback we have had from our community on Ion's potential following the announcement, this is a very sad situation for potential consumers, modders and PC enthusiasts. We did pose the question of selling the Atom CPUs on their own to Intel last week and, although we got a very kind "I'll check into it and get an answer," we still haven't heard back on the issue - the situation has been all but confirmed in Taiwan anyway.

In light of this, we suspect very few companies will buy the complete Atom bundles only to throw out the Intel chipsets and use the GeForce 9400M only if the premium can be made back. However, since the netbook/nettop phenomenon is predominantly cost sensitive we believe that many will avoid the Ion platform for that reason. A big shame, in our opinion.

Sadly though, the news doesn't really surprise us because Intel and Nvidia aren't exactly on the most co-operative terms at the moment, but this insistence by Intel could be deemed anti-competitive. On the flipside, Intel is arguably well within its rights to regulate its own platform (which the Atom was launched as) even despite the fact there are other cross-licensing agreements in place.

Admittedly, Intel would also be quite crazy to say 'yes' to MCP79-based netbooks on purely business terms because it would impact on its Celeron and other low end chipset/CPU sales - something that it would understandably want to avoid. But at the same time, preventing consumer choice and - more importantly - innovation, is not something we agree with either. We want to see the bar raised on these low-cost platforms and Ion looked to be a way for that dream to become reality.

Considering the significant industrial weight Intel Taiwan has on the manufacturing industry out there, our expectations are that the Atom platform will remain the status quo in 2009 and we'll see very few if any Ion-based designs, even despite Nvidia's lobbying activities. We've asked Nvidia for a comment, but it understandably hasn't come back to us given that it's Christmas - we'll let you know more as soon as we do.

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