What is the future of the WinChip design that VIA Technologies Inc acquired when it bought IDT Inc’s Centaur x86 unit? VIA had said that it would lay out its strategy for WinChip, as well as the Cyrix MII design, however, there was no mention of WinChip in VIA’s announcement of a new low-cost CPU […]
What is the future of the WinChip design that VIA Technologies Inc acquired when it bought IDT Inc’s Centaur x86 unit? VIA had said that it would lay out its strategy for WinChip, as well as the Cyrix MII design, however, there was no mention of WinChip in VIA’s announcement of a new low-cost CPU from Cyrix (see separate story). It is possible that VIA bought Centaur simply to cover itself after Intel Corp – which has an impending lawsuit with the Taiwanese company over x86 patent licenses – said that VIA would not be able to use National Semiconductor Inc’s license as part of the Cyrix acquisition deal. However, VIA has always denied this, saying it wanted the well-respected WinChip design team.
One possibility is that VIA will use the WinChip as the basis of a new line of processors (for notebooks?), or try to incorporate the more advanced aspects of the WinChip design into the Cyrix range, although most industry watchers agree that the designs differ radically. Certainly, Peter Glaskowsky, an analyst at the Microprocessor Report, thinks that ditching the WinChip design would be tossing the baby out with the bath water. We have speculated that VIA would be better off pursuing the IDT WinChip 4 processor design rather than the Cyrix cores it has acquired, although Cyrix’s brand name and bus interface designs, among other Cyrix assets, are also valuable, he said, the WinChip 4 design uses large L1 caches (128K total) and no L2 caches, a strategy that sets it apart from Intel and Cyrix, which use smaller L1 caches (32K total) coupled with separate, larger L2 caches (256K) on their newest chip designs.
This design could help VIA in its aim to create a new price point for entry-level CPU. The WinChip people are very good at cache design, Glaskowsky explained, they believe their cache design reduces chip complexity (and therefore cost) and provides just enough cache memory for the most important mainstream applications. We would not be surprised to see the WinChip designers double the size of their L1 caches yet again to match the capacity of the competitors’ L2 caches. This approach could well allow future VIA/WinChip processors to be both faster and less expensive than chips from Intel and AMD, he said.