Intel Pays VIA $125M For Centaur Technology’s x86 Design Team

by Steve

Intel will reportedly pay VIA $125 million for some unspecified assets related to Centaur Technology. It’s been implied that the payment may be for the right to recruit Centaur Technology engineers to join Intel. Details are murky at best right now.

Intel and AMD dominate the headlines today and have for many years, but there was a third x86 player, once upon a time. While VIA and its subsidiary, Centaur, never held more than a single-digit share of the overall CPU market, there was a time when the company’s small, power-efficient cores commanded market share in the ultra-efficient, ultra-silent PC market.

The company’s closest recent brush with consumer relevance came in the late aughts, when its Via Nano platform briefly looked like it might be an Atom competitor. Ultimately, the Nano didn’t win the market share it needed to be successful in the long term, and Via generally faded out of the consumer market. The company has continued to make x86 chips and to iterate on its designs, but it pivoted to serving a mostly industrial and commercial client base.

The odd thing about this announcement is its lack of specificity. As Anandtech notes, there are no particular details on what Intel has bought. The implication of the announcement is that Intel paid for the right to recruit the Centaur engineering team. That seems an odd thing to purchase, but Intel has no official comment on the topic and neither does Via.

One report from THG suggests that Intel has paid for the Austin engineering team but not its intellectual property or brands.

“Intel will recruit some of Centaur’s employees to join Intel with certain covenants from the Company for Intel’s recruitment,” a statement by Via Technologies with TWSE reads, according to Tom’s Hardware. “As consideration, Intel will pay Centaur $125 million. […] Closing of the transaction is contingent on certain conditions in the agreement to be satisfied. Payment will be made in full upon closing.”

Intel has been aggressively recruiting from around the industry and building up its teams as it tackles its own rejuvenation and plans to bring new facilities online. Recent launches like Alder Lake we’re already well in the pipeline before Pat Gelsinger came aboard earlier this year, but Intel’s aggressive capacity expansion plans are very much his work.

VIA will reportedly retain the right to build and manufacture future x86 CPUs, but the Centaur website is down as of this writing. If Via is still in the x86 business it evidently doesn’t feel it needs a consumer-facing portal any longer. It is not clear if this deal will have any impact on the company’s Zhaoxin joint development venture.

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