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Who’s dating whom?

Posted: 06.18.07

amdBefore AMD acquired ATI it was enjoying a profitable and robust partnership with Nvidia, while ATI was nurturing their multi-decade relationship with Intel. Then AMD’s big checkbook came out and Intel let the jewel of ATI slip out of their fingers. Why they didn’t outbid AMD we’ll never understand; pride’s an expensive housemate.

But the reactions were predictable and laughable. Intel tossed ATI off the stage of their Core2Duo press announcement and scrambled to get -Nvidia in place, with limited success. ATI/AMD predicted the end of their Intel-based chipset biz, and everyone asked if Intel would acquire Nvidia, everyone except Intel and Nvidia, that is; they knew the answer.

That was six months ago.

thanksSince then we’ve seen several AMD presentations where Nvidia is touted as a partner, and the company makes love-you-love-you statements. AMD, to some people’s surprise, announces a new chipset for Intel processors, and despite the rumor mills and web predictions does not license Intel to use SLI.

Then at the bearish Bearlake rollout in flooded Taipei Intel shows off their new chipset, which runs Crossfire and not SLI—go figure.

It’s something between a Chinese opera and a French mime show—who the hell is who here, anyway, or is this a Russian classic and I need to write down the names of the players to keep track of them?

Well, it’s messy, yes, and insidious and incestuous but not so weird as it may seem in this highly competitive market where the customer truly is (and rightfully so) King. Some are calling it coopetition when deadly and life-long enemies put aside their distrust and hatred long enough to get an OEM design win or two, applying the age-old tenet, Money talks and everything else walks.

Makes the player seem insincere and cynical, doesn’t it? But if you talk to them they speak with such sincere logic and genuine respect for each other you’re almost convinced that it’s technology first and marketing wars second.

The reality of it really is nothing more than common sense. It’s one thing to play the chest-beating game of an opposing soccer team where the only acceptable results are to have the other team humiliated and lying bloody on the field waiting for the stretchers and medics. And where that rabble-raising locker room rhetoric may be useful in building -esprit de corps and motivation to get the engineers and marketing kids to work overtime without pay (but free caffeine drinks), it has no place in the hard-core reality of Doing Business.

So “business” makes strange bed-fellows, or does it? Maybe these team concepts and artificial loyalties are just a big waste of ink, web bits, and bar talk. At least that’s what we think up on our little mountain. gray