NVIDIA snaps up ULi

Written by Wil Harris

December 14, 2005 | 11:20

Tags: #chipset #crossfire #nforce #southbridge #uli

Companies: #ati #nvidia

Graphics giant NVIDIA has snapped up chipset firm ULi for a paltry $52m.

Apparently scooped by the Inquirer, the CEO of ULi will join NVIDIA as a senior executive in its Asian division.

ULi designs core logic solutions, and as bit-tech readers will know its southbridge solutions have been popular with motherboard makers designing ATI CrossFire motherboards. Many motherboard makers don't like the ATI's SB450 southbridge because of its iffy I/O performance and have been using the pin-compatible ULi M1573 chip instead.

However, that arrangement is now going to come to an end, we suspect, since we can't imagine NVIDIA supplying ATI partners with chips. We are currently trying to work out just what effect this is going to have on the market.

CrossFire motherboards are already in fairly short supply, with DFI being one of the only people shipping boards. If NVIDIA decide that it's going to stop supplying ULi M1573 southbridges to ATI partners, that means that CrossFire boards are going to become even scarcer in the short term. Since we suspect that many CrossFire motherboard designs and products have been specced up for a post-Christmas release, the total non-availability of ULi chips could possibly throw these plans into chaos. There may also be a rush on ATI southbridges which could lead to a shortage there.

Of course, NVIDIA could choose to still sell the ULi southbridge to whoever wants it, but hold partners over a barrell when it comes to pricing. This would let ATI mainboards into the marketplace, but price them out of competition.

However, internal sources unofficially suggested to us that ULi chips are going to continue to be available to its existing customers for at least another couple of months, suggesting that things might not be as bad as we might have thought after all.

Indeed, ATI told us that "We don't think this will have any affect on our business - we continue to have strong platform products and a strong roadmap going forward." So perhaps we're over-exaggerating the potential problems CrossFire board makers face.

What do you make of the acquisition? Could this create more room for VIA in the market? Drop your thoughts in the News Discussion forum.
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