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Intel gets Creative with latest acquisition

Over the past few years, Intel has been acquiring a series of technologies and patents that will, it hopes, position it better for 3-5 years down the road. Alongside operating system technology and – more famously – McAfee in the software/security area, Intel has now purchased Creative’s clever bits for $50m. Which brings it some cool mobile 3D stuff. KitGuru considers the implications of Intel developing graphics differently from Apple.

While AMD and nVidia continue to slug it out in the desktop graphics space, mobile giant Apple uses PowerVR technology from the old VideoLogic team (now Imagination Technologies) from Kings Langley in Hertfordshire. Intel draws on that same experience set – which will make it harder to show that Intel is different from Apple down the road (should it decide that separation is useful in the phone/pad/pod space).

While there’s no certainty that this acquisition will be Intel’s last, the chip giant must feel it’s close to a ‘full house’. Two years ago, Intel bought Infineon’s Wireless Business which could give Atom-based phone solutions access to the US markets in 2013. Now it has its own graphics technologies (derived from the old 3D Labs workstation thinking – which started in 1994).

Creative’s graphics drive (branded ZiiLabs) also has powerful ties to ARM – AMD’s new partner – so it will be interesting to see what (if anything) Intel draws from that pool of expertise.

In 1999, Intel paid 3DLabs $7.5m for use of its existing patents. The new deal appears to include $20m for all its patents and another $30m for the UK-based boffins. Creative itself bought 3DLabs in 2002 for $170m – so it’s not looking like the world’s best ever investment.

As Capo Otellini exits stage right, his legacy includes buying Intel into a whole heap of new technologies - with the final cherry on the cake being the Ziilabs' innovations. It's a different kind of thinking - acquisition - how will Otellini be remembered?

KitGuru says: As Intel and AMD position themselves for a future where demand for £1,000 desktop systems dries up considerably, both are making steps toward affordable, low power, ‘used everywhere’ systems that seem likely to produce the bulk of the world’s computing revenue in the future. A future which Intel may now be able to render a little nicer. In low-power-consumption 3D.

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