Via sells own motherboards to boost P4X266 chip set

Via Technologies Inc. will begin volume shipments of its own line of motherboards -- to be sold under the Via brand -- this month, according to Wenchi Chen, the company's chief executive officer (CEO) and president. The move is meant to spur adoption of the company's P4X266 chip set.

All nine motherboard models on offer from Via's newly created Via Platform Solutions Division (VPSD) are based on the P4X266, which was the first Pentium 4 chip set to provide support for DDR SDRAM (Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic RAM). Intel currently offers two chip sets for the Pentium 4 -- the 850, which supports the more expensive RDRAM (Rambus DRAM), and the 845, which supports the much slower SDRAM.

Despite beating its competitors to the market with a DDR chip set for the Pentium 4, Via has faced an uphill battle to convince major motherboard makers to adopt the chip set in the face of legal action by Intel, which has alleged in a U.S. lawsuit that the chip set violates five of its processor-related patents.

Analysts have said Intel's lawsuit is meant to slow adoption of the P4X266 while the company readies its own chip set that supports DDR memory. The tactic has so far proved successful.

"Did it slow us down? Yes, it did," Chen said.

Of the four largest motherboard makers only one, Elitegroup Computer Systems Co. Ltd. (ECS) is shipping motherboards based on Via's P4X266 chip set. The others, Asustek Computer Inc., Gigabyte Technology Inc. and Micro-Star International Co. Ltd., have held off, instead opting to wait for Intel's DDR chip set -- a DDR version of the 845 -- which is expected to begin shipping in November. Motherboards based on that chip set are expected to begin shipping to end users in January 2002.

By jumping into the market with its own P4X266-based motherboards, Via is hoping to make up some of the ground that has been lost. "It will provide a very good defense against what Intel has tried to do," Chen said.

With Via focused on giving the P4X266 a boost, VPSD does not presently offer motherboards for either Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s Athlon processor or Via's own C3 processor. Via does plan to broaden the range of platforms supported by VPSD products in the future, Chen said. That may take some time, however, as the company has yet to determine who will head VPSD or how many staff will be part of the new division.

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