Ghosts of Cyrix, PowerPC, Transmeta haunt x86-bound Nvidia

For Nvidia to crack the Intel-AMD duopoly, it must avoid four past mistakes, say experts

Analysts offer these four suggestions:

Don't build a CPU from scratch

Nvidia may claim to have the smartest graphics engineers on the planet, and it may claim that GPUs are morphing into CPUs. But it would have to "commit hundreds of millions of dollars in R&D and lots of time" to build its own CPU from scratch, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64. "[And] while you're busy doing that, the market would have moved on," Brookwood said.

Nvidia wouldn't just be starting far behind Intel and AMD -- it would be running straight into a "minefield of potential engineering problems," said Brookwood. For most of its 30-year existence, the x86 processor "evolved without a rigorous architectural definition. As a result, engineers creating a newer version had to ensure that it was compatible with all of the weirdnesses and bugs of the older one."

Both Intel and AMD have a strong handle on x86's quirks due to the "historical memory" of the thousands of engineers they employ, as well as the many systems they have for testing and development, said Brookwood.

These were key factors that hurt Cyrix when it unsuccessfully tried to challenge Intel in the mid-1990s, he said.

A reasonably successful maker of low-cost knockoffs to Intel's 386 and 486 chips, Cyrix's problems started when it touted its M1 processor as faster than Intel's Pentium.

Brookwood said that advantage, whether real or not, quickly vanished as early M1s proved buggy. Meanwhile, Intel churned out newer Pentiums that quickly topped Cyrix's chip.

Nvidia has hinted that if it built CPUs, it would focus on lower-end mobile processors such as those used in netbooks. Brookwood said such a move would let it sidestep some of Cyrix's problems -- but not enough of them.

License or acquire a CPU from an existing maker

Brookwood suggests that Nvidia buy Centaur, the semi-autonomous US division of Via that designs its C7 mobile processor. The C7 was used in Hewlett-Packard's first-generation 2133 netbook. Enderle said that Via's C7 successor, the Nano, "is competitive with Intel's Atom though not as low-powered."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags x86 server marketCyrixtransmetaAMDPowerPCnvidiaintel

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Lai

Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?