News Intel picking up some Centaur engineers?!

NTMBK

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As part of their third quarter earnings release, VIA Technologies has announced this morning that the company is entering into an unusual agreement with Intel to offload parts of VIA’s x86 R&D subsidiary, Centaur Technology. Under the terms of the murky deal, Intel will be paying Centaur $125 million to pick up part of the engineering staff – or, as the announcement from VIA more peculiarly puts it “recruit some of Centaur's employees to join Intel,” Despite the hefty 9-digit price tag, the deal makes no mention of Centaur’s business, designs, or patents, nor has an expected closing date been announced.
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None the less, local media such as United Daily News is reporting that the Intel deal is indeed not a wholesale sale of Centaur’s team, and that VIA is retaining the Centaur business. So what Intel is getting out of this that’s worth $125 million is, for the moment, a mystery.

Centaur's website currently just says "Under construction..." And Intel have somehow bought the rights to try to hire the team? I don't get it, why couldn't Intel just recruit them anyway?

Certainly looks like VIA is getting out of x86. Shame, I wanted to see what their CHA core was like. @Kosusko , you keep up with VIA/Zhaoxin - any idea what this is all about?
 

uzzi38

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At $125m there no chance in hell it's just the engineers going. Far too much money for 100 employees.
 

NTMBK

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At $125m there no chance in hell it's just the engineers going. Far too much money for 100 employees.
That's what I thought! But according to the (Google Translated) news story that Anandtech linked:

However, VIA did not disclose the specific prerequisites, transaction content, timing and other details related to the case. Chen Baohui emphasized that "this transaction cannot be said to be selling the team." The employment of employees involves personal wishes, but does not include any fixed assets or intangible assets.
I guess $125m is worth it to eliminate a potential x86 rival?
 

DisEnchantment

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Mar 3, 2017
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I guess it is the end of the line for Zhaoxin. Same fate like Hygon.
Not even sure there is anything worth to aqcuire, maybe they have few hundred useful patents
This might have been triggered from somewhere else instead of just eleminating another x86 rival.
 

ThatBuzzkiller

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VIA was counting on Zhaoxin to materialize their designs so that they could sell something to the rest of the international markets but these hopes are gone now that they are barred from using TSMC. This move could not have happened at a better time ...

Regardless this news doesn't change much to Zhaoxin's overall grand scheme of achieving technological independence for the CCP so they'll likely move on to SMIC ...
 
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NostaSeronx

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They aren't barred from using TSMC, they are just barred from using sub-10nm nodes from TSMC. So, yeah Zhaoxin would need to use SMIC's N+1(low-cost) or N+2(high-performance) going forward.

Also, they do have an internal CPU design team. So, losing Centaur just means they just need more work to be done.

Currently Q3-2021;
SMIC's 14nm is at 15,000 wpm
HLMC's 14nm is at 0 wpm

So, if they do ZX-C(28nm TSMC) -> ZX-D(28nm HLMC, 1st full internal design) -> ZX-E(shrink to 16nm TSMC) with this next iteration:

ZX-F(Do to TSMC barring sub-10nm nodes and thus re-uses CHA/CNS IP 1:1) -> ZX-G(14nm SMIC or HLMC, internal redesign) -> ZX-H(shrink to SMIC sub-10nm nodes, no roadmap for sub-10nm at HLMC yet).

SMIC's 14nm is production proven with Huawei's/Hisilicon's Kirin 710A... However, HLMC's 14nm appears to be more advanced with more detailed patents and IEEE-like papers. So, even though it is late it will potentially be more dense and competitive.

Also:
FDZ0jviaAAAJUb0.jpg

Intel recruits a few Centaur Employees with rules set by VIA who owns Centaur 100% -> Centaur gets $125m which is 5x? the amount they get from VIA in a year. It is by the way really weird to use the word "covenants", so Intel is borrowing on the restrictive terms of VIA. So, this must be unique between Intel and Centaur, and in no way can be used to impact VIA's usage of Centaur product lines.

Maybe, we can expect CNS's successor, CNT sooner than later.

Maybe, this is a Centaur and Intel JV in getting x86 property into smartphones. Eden-N BGA still looks smaller than Spreadtrum 14nm Atom. VIA never allowed Centaur to do phones, even though Centaur could in theory have done them.
 
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Hitman928

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If that lets Intel fold Centaur's x86 license into themselves and (effectively) terminate it, then yes.
Maybe? Maybe with their new plan to offer x86 IP blocks through their foundry, they don't want anyone else with a license floating around to skirt around Intel's x86 IP in their foundry setup. It could also be that they are essentially buying a local presence in China as a possible play around trades regulations. If Intel can't export things to China, then setting up a local design team that could sell domestically to China could be an option. The problem is they still can't transfer any designs or IP to that team to use, so everything would still have to be home grown and their own efforts to this point have been underwhelming but this amount of money could be worth it to Intel just for this type of foothold. Just throwing stuff against the wall since they gave 0 details of what the plan here is.
 

DrMrLordX

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Maybe? Maybe with their new plan to offer x86 IP blocks through their foundry, they don't want anyone else with a license floating around to skirt around Intel's x86 IP in their foundry setup.
Makes sense.

It could also be that they are essentially buying a local presence in China as a possible play around trades regulations.
Hmm. Were that the case, it would have been easier (albeit more expensive) to just buy out Zhaoxin outright, or at least a significant chunk of it. Not sure how stripping Zhaoxin of the Centaur team will really help Intel skirt trade regulations. Unless, as you say, they can leverage the team's internal efforts to sell products domestically.

But are those really the products Intel would want to sell in China?
 

Hitman928

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But are those really the products Intel would want to sell in China?
No, but if there are trade regulations in place that prevent them from selling their own designs in China, they don't really have a choice if they want a market presence in the country.
 

DrMrLordX

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No, but if there are trade regulations in place that prevent them from selling their own designs in China, they don't really have a choice if they want a market presence in the country.
If that happens, I know of at least one forum user here that would be thrilled.
 

NostaSeronx

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What? I haven't heard anything like this.
Zhaoxin first goal was the domestic market in which they beat out every other domestic design with ZX-C. In 2018, they decided to increase their goals to the international market. Hence, QNAP's TVS-675 and Beelink's LZX being the first and second Global Market-geared Zhaoxin products.

VIA isn't actually counting on Zhaoxin since they only own like what 15%? If anything VIA is counting more on itself and Centaur since they own 100% of themselves and Centaur. Heck, VIA(Husband CEO) can fuse with HTC(Wife CEO) and combine Centaur(CPU) and S3(GPU) and VIA tech(Chipset) into an international Zhaoxin clone themselves.

Zhaoxin isn't barred from TSMC btw. They can only produce on a node larger than 10nm, because a major customer of theirs is the military.
 
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gdansk

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I'm sure there are good engineers at Centaur. It seems Intel wants all the out-of-the-box talent it can hire to regain its lead.
 

moinmoin

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Now it looks like Centaur will still exist and all of the $125 million actually go to Centaur and not to its parent company VIA. Not sure how to make sense of all this. In a twisted way Intel is actually investing in Centaur?
 

Hitman928

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Now it looks like Centaur will still exist and all of the $125 million actually go to Centaur and not to its parent company VIA. Not sure how to make sense of all this. In a twisted way Intel is actually investing in Centaur?
This actually supports the theory of Intel trying to get around U.S. trade regulations. Intel can't outright own the company and do this so they have to become more like an investor under some kind of agreement on how profits are shared.
 

ThatBuzzkiller

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What? I haven't heard anything like this.
Zhaoxin had the most resources with CCP support to continue making new x86 core designs but they don't have the necessary license to export x86 CPUs for developed international markets. VIA turned into an IP licensing firm by sharing their assets with Zhaoxin in the hopes that they'd share and realize new designs at little to no cost. Now that TSMC isn't a realistic option for Zhaoxin anymore and that the US government is actively working with Microsoft to sabotage compatibility with Windows (Windows 11 does not explicitly support Zhaoxin x86 CPUs), VIA realized that it was better to cash out immediately rather than never because the hopes of being able to sell Zhaoxin's designs in other international markets isn't worth it ...
 

NTMBK

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Now it looks like Centaur will still exist and all of the $125 million actually go to Centaur and not to its parent company VIA. Not sure how to make sense of all this. In a twisted way Intel is actually investing in Centaur?
Yeah, this is making even less sense! Really need Intel to explain what this deal is.
 

NostaSeronx

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Wait, what? that's dirty pool.
Microsoft also explicitly doesn't support Zhaoxin on Win7, Win8, Win 10. Zhaoxin is only certified on CMIT's Windows 10, and it just happens to have a driver that still works on Microsoft's 7, 8, 10, and even 11. Since, CMIT's Windows 10 is just an extra gutted Microsoft's Windows 10 Enterprise clone.

Zhaoxin's current official support list is:
-> UOS
-> Kylin
-> CMIT Windows
Yeah, this is making even less sense! Really need Intel to explain what this deal is.
Personally, I think it is Smartphone cores in a JV with Centaur. Intel does the chipset IP rather than VIA, and boom finally Intel gets a successful throw at x86 in KaiOS through Android. Where Centaur was never allowed to compete with VIA/HTC's then ARM PDA then Smartphone designs. Even though between Centaur and AMD/Intel, they had the closest x86 package to ARM designs at the time.

Jeff Rupley@Centaur:
Principal Architect for Bobcat, Chief Architect for Jaguar, CPU Block Lead for Mongoose, Principal Architect for M3, Lead Architect for M4 & M6 before joining Centaur.

Looking at other members that tend to go from Centaur to Intel to Centaur in a bi-yearly case, it is very likely scenario that this is a phone architecture push. While it was slight before, this recruitment seems to be more aggressive hiring than before. Centaur appears to have some untapped smartphone-orientated microprocessor prestige which isn't being used by VIA.
 
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ThatBuzzkiller

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Wait, what? that's dirty pool.
It's the truth, the US government is blocking Windows interop with Zhaoxin CPUs. The CCP started the Unity OS project as a response to these measures and the first hardware they got it working with were none other than Zhaoxin CPUs. By 2022, this is there expected replacement for Windows ...

Sooner or later the US government is going to block the sale of American designed x86 CPU to Chinese consumers so they'll have to confront these technological blackouts in the future ...
 

NTMBK

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It's the truth, the US government is blocking Windows interop with Zhaoxin CPUs. The CCP started the Unity OS project as a response to these measures and the first hardware they got it working with were none other than Zhaoxin CPUs. By 2022, this is there expected replacement for Windows ...

Sooner or later the US government is going to block the sale of American designed x86 CPU to Chinese consumers so they'll have to confront these technological blackouts in the future ...
Do you have any sources to back up these wild claims?
 

moinmoin

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Do you have any sources to back up these wild claims?
Unity OS is real, as is the push toward it. But it's not really a big deal. Just like Huawei's HarmonyOS turned out to be a fork of Android Opens Source Project, Unity OS turned out to be a fork of Deepin, which is a fork of Debian Linux.
 

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