Competition is so tough in the semiconductor market at the moment, particularly in the newly fashionable area of so-called media processors that companies now have no compulsion over suing even their closest partners in order to protect their rights. The latest is graphics chip maker 3Dlabs Inc, which is taking its partner Texas Instruments Inc […]
Competition is so tough in the semiconductor market at the moment, particularly in the newly fashionable area of so-called media processors that companies now have no compulsion over suing even their closest partners in order to protect their rights. The latest is graphics chip maker 3Dlabs Inc, which is taking its partner Texas Instruments Inc to the courts, charging breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. Specifically, it says that TI posted confidential and proprietary information belonging to Hamilton, Bermuda-based 3Dlabs onto the World Wide Web, and made and distributed thousands of printed copies of the information. We have a responsibility to our shareholders to ensure that we protect our intellectual property, said Osman Kent, president and chief executive officer of 3Dlabs. While TI is a valued business partner, we reluctantly had to take this step to protect our rights. TI manufactures, licenses and co-markets the 3Dlabs Permedia 2 graphics processor. Was it a coincidence that, simultaneously with the announcement of the suit, 3Dlabs also announced a strategic supply partnership with SGS-Thomson Microelectronics NV, which will act as an alternative fab for Permedia 2? The two first decided to collaborate last summer, started sampling in December, and now expect to be into full production by next month. SGS-Thomson will manufacture a pin-compatible version of Permedia 2 for 3Dlabs to sell, and 3Dlabs maintains it intends to supply Permedia 2 parts manufactured by both SGS-Thomson and Texas Instruments in the marketplace, according to customer needs. It says that, having shipped over a million Permedia 2 parts into the PC marketplace since volume shipments began in September 1997, it needs SGS-Thomson to provide extra capacity. 3Dlabs also announced fourth quarter profits of $3m, up 40% from last year, and revenues up 159% to $22.3m. Profits for the year were $16.1m, up 511% from last year, on revenues up 251% to $69.1m. S/390s that Hitachi Ltd has been selling like hot cakes. Previously Amdahl had offered around 532 MIPS – and IBM 486 MIPS – compared with Hitachi’s 63 MIPS uniprocessor Skyline and 500-odd MIPS ECL multiprocessor. Amdahl is also offering a 700 series frame with the system board from its mid-range Millennium 500 S/390 which can be upgraded to the 700 series board as required. The same Millennium 700 cabinet and components will house the 800 series CMOS processor Fujitsu will offer next year performing up to 100 MIPS. A 150 MIPs chip is due in 2000. Amdahl reckons IBM won’t be able to ship a higher-performing version of its CMOS processors doing 80-85 MIPS until September.