iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Interview with VIA

<Q>: Graphics, sound, communications… What's the next to be integrated into the future chipsets? Bluetooth or anything else? Or maybe it's enough for today?

<A>: VIA believes that the future computers will be smaller, more integrated and therefore cheaper. This is the single way of increasing PC market penetration. That's why we will spend efforts of integrating all of the most popular technologies that appear on the market. There is the condition however, that the technology must gain acceptance first as the stand-alone product, to be integrated afterwards and extend its reach to the segment of popular, integrated solutions.

To answer the question straight: we will try to integrate all of the popular technologies.

<Q>: VIA produces its own series of IEEE 1394 controllers - VIAFire. Maybe it would be better to integrate this bus into the South bridge – what do you think of it?

<A>: We don't force the market to accept new technologies, but we listen to what market chooses. VIA Fire found the market niche in hubs, routers and network solutions. During VIA Technology Forum (VTF) we presented the whole set of devices based on IEEE 1394. We still believe that the time for this bus will come.

<Q>: USB 2.0 specification is ready and USB 2.0 devices will probably appear on the market by Christmas. The first samples of VIA VT8235 South bridge with USB 2.0 support will be available only in Q2'2001 and the situation is the same with chipsets from other companies. Why do we have such a long time gap?

<A>: Some time must pass until the mature USB 2.0 devices are developed. Next Christmas will be the time for USB 2.0.

<Q>: The new South bridge developing by nVIDIA has very good audio core - Dolby Digital, 64 hardware audio streams, etc. At the same time the latest VIA's VT8233 South bridge has simple AC'97 sound with 8 hardware DirectSound3D stream. Do you think it's enough?

<A>: The answer is very simple – nVIDIA chipsets are aimed at the totally different market. There are still open questions like the price. And also – when the customer needs powerful sound, would they turn for integrated solution or rather buy a high-performance, stand-alone sound card… Anyway, VIA will also work on improving the sound subsystem – a few days ago we acquired IC Ensemble, an American IC design house that specializes in multimedia technologies.

<Q>: AMR standard didn't get a success at retail market. Was it targeted to OEM segment at the beginning or it just happened? What about ACR – will we see ACR cards in volumes or will we see only the slot on mainboards?

<A>: I believe that ACR is aimed mainly at the OEM market and found popularity there.

<Q>: Will S3 Graphics develop stand-alone graphics chips?

<A>: Yes, VIA-S3 Joint Venture will develop both stand-alone and integrated graphics chips.

<Q>: After AMD announced its Q1'00 results the company's officials also said that they had to reduce Duron prices because of a lack of integrated chipsets for this CPU? Why did you have a delay?

<A>: No one really expected that AMD Duron would be so popular. So VIA, preparing the roadmap decided to release the integrated chip for AMD Duron a few months later than for Intel and VIA Cyrix processor. Answering your very similar question two months ago I answered: "VIA decided to deliver solution for the larger market first". Now we can start thinking, which market is going to be larger. But the "bandwidth" of our design teams is also limited, so sometimes we have to make choices…

<Q>: Apollo Pro266 and KT266 will be launched at the same time but there will be almost one-quarter time gap between PM266 and KM266 release. Are there any problems with integrating S3 graphics core into the chipset with EV6 support? Or maybe chipsets for Intel CPUs are the first priority for VIA?

<A>: There are no technical difficulties in delivering this solution. Apart from the reason which I mentioned answering the previous question, there is also another one. Taking into account that we are unable to design both chipsets at once, VIA decided to release the chipset supporting our own processor – VIA Cyrix III – first.

<Q>: AGP 8X. Even in PX266 scheduled to H2'2001 we'll see only AGP 4X. So, when can we expect AGP 8X support from VIA?

<A>: I don't know. It is still too early to answer this question. But the speed that the new technologies are being developed, will make us to review our roadmap.

<Q>: Could you please tell us something about the Paramount graphics core integrated into the KM266 chipset? Is it an overclocked Savage4 or can we expect a really adequate reply for nVIDIA Crush or ATI ArtX2 (they both will have HW T&L support)? Even SiS and ALi will have HW T&L and DirectX 7.0 support in their integrated chipsets scheduled to Q1-Q2'2001. Don't you think that VIA, today's leader in integrated graphics, will loose its positions in a half of a year.

<A>: I can only answer that you should await better from VIA than you suppose in your question. I can't comment on that however, as far as no products have not been officially announced.

<Q>: Does VIA think about ATI and nVIDIA as new players at the chipset market when talking about your optimistic plans to increase your market share?

<A>: VIA is certainly looking closely at the nVidia and ATI as the possible competitors. These companies are respected players for graphics. But can they gain acceptance in chipsets? Probably yes - in some niche, the segment of the graphics-oriented users. But it will take years to be the major player in this market.

<Q>: Pentium4 vs P3 vs Athlon – approximate market shares in 2001?

<A>: You didn't mention VIA Cyrix! It is the mistake, as we do believe that the new processor will have significant impact on the low-end segment of the market! We hope to get 7-10% of the whole CPU market by the end of 2001.

It would be too risky for me to give the numbers – everything is changing so fast in this business. I believe that Intel and AMD will share half-by-half the mainstream market segment. Pentium 4 will become the solution for high-end and PC server market. In my opinion it has no chance on consumer market next year.

<Q>: Do you think Pentium 4 can help Intel to make RDRAM more popular?

<A>: No! In my opinion, both P4 and Rambus will find the niche at the high-priced, high-performance PC servers. We will not see Rambus in mainstream solutions!

<Q>: What to you think about Rambus chances in the lawsuits against Micron/Hyundai/Infineon? Will Rambus make these companies pay?

<A>: I don't know and it is not an interesting question for us. The business model "if you can't sell – you can sue" is somewhere very, very far from what VIA believes.

<Q>: When can we expect the transition to the faster DDR SDRAM? What speed will PC2600 and PC3200 have?

<A>: Hopefully DDR II will be announced at the beginning of 2002. So we will see the first DDR II systems during the second half of 2002. The year 2003 will be the year of DDR II.

The specification for this standard has not been finalized yet. JEDEC, memory vendors and the whole industry are still reviewing the specification. It is too early to talk about details.

<Q>: What bus speed will use Tualatin (i.e. Apollo Pro 266T)?

<A>: If the chipset initially gets to the market, the bus should be 133 MHz.

<Q>: What do you think about Micron ideas to integrate faster memory into the chipset (a kind of L3 cache)? What do you think about placing several North bridges on a one board for MP systems?

<A>: As far as the additional memory integrated into chipset is concerned – it all depends on the price. At this point it would extremely expensive to do so and I doubt whether it would find justification in raise of overall system performance to do so.

As to the integration of several chipsets in one motherboard it is a possibility that is right now in the stage of engineering work.

<Q>: Will eBIOS solution appear on mainboards or is it targeted only to set-top-boxes?

<A>: eBIOS is the solution for every PC, or rather for every Information PC. What differs Information PC from the set-top-box? First of all - upgradeability. You can turn eBIOS-only Informatin PC into the standard system very easily: just add the hard drive and load operating system. So you can't treat this kind of device as set-top-box. This is the PC, just made simple and cheap.

<Q>: Some manufacturers have already announced their plans to use AMD761 + 686B combination at their mainboards. What does VIA think of it?

<A>: This requires talks between all of the companies involved, as there are certain legal matters that are at stake here. If is a real interest from the market in such a combination and if our motherboard partners make such a suggestion, we will begin to take a closer look in this business. Currently VIA has no plans of doing so.

<Q>: Lets move to 2010… OK, to 2005… No problem, to 2002. ;-) What do you think of market shares of traditional PCs, Internet appliances and Web-Pads? Do you expect traditional home PC to be replaced by X-Box + WebPad?

<A>: Hm… Let's move into 2005. That would be safer. :-) I think that there are two factors for the further development of IT industry. One is the availability, reliability and ubiquity of the Net. Second is the price of the access device. I believe that the problems with the Net access are going to be solved by this time.

The only thing, which would keep the industry from further development, will be the price of the access device. We achieved the status, when every household has the PC, as long as they can afford it. The aim of the whole industry should be to further increase the market penetration. As the example: 50% of the US household s do not have the PC, because they can't afford it. So we need to lower down the price to make PCs more accessible. VIA can help this process through integration. This is the future for the IT industry and this is the direction we are going to follow.

<Q>: Thank you for your answers!

<A>: Thank you

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