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The first visit of Richard Brown, Vice President of Marketing, VIA Technologies Inc. to Moscow: PC-1 Initiative, Plans on Chipsets and Graphics Solutions

September 30, 2005




On September 5, 2005 VIA Technologies, Inc organized a press event in the restaurant "Peking Duck". Vice President of Marketing Richard Brown, who has arrived in Moscow for the first time in three years, presented several key issues. First of all, Mr. Brown talked about the PC-1 initiative, aimed at increasing the numbers of Internet users to one billion. Then he announced the company plans on the market of chipsets and graphics solutions for the nearest future.




The presentation started with a brief introduction, when the lecturer said a few words about moving from the traditional PC industry to developing a digital life style — Digital Home, Digital Business, and Digital Mobility. It means moving to a new value system. It's primarily a move from the GHz race strategy and the price/performance approach to the functionality/Watt approach, which importance was also backed up by Intel at the recent IDF. Besides, the new value system implies moving from separate components (to be bought separately) to platforms (that is customers will value ready-to-use devices), from Pure Performance to so called User Experience, etc.

Mobile values start to prevail even now. They include: low power consumption, high degree of component integration, performance distribution (between the platform components), proper security level.




In this respect, VIA currently sticks to the so called Digital Brilliance concept, including nearly all of the above mentioned. They are:

  • Full x86 compatibility (conditioned by a great deal of software for this very architecture)
  • Tight integration of the components
  • Distributed performance (in this case it means that VIA chipsets take up part of functions, e.g. processing MPEG stream)
  • Low power consumption (about 20 W at 2 GHz)
  • Flexible form factors
  • High security level (e.g. hardware support for various encoding algorithms by C7 processor)

After a brief introduction Mr. Brown proceeded to the PC-1 initiative proper. What's the main idea? The total number of PC users all over the world is just about 670 million people, even with the current level of technology. That is it does not exceed 10% of population of the Earth. There is a task before VIA to increase this number at least to one billion. The main focus is on the developing markets — India, China, Brazil, and... Russia. If we look at the general market development tendency, the entry level segment is the fastest growing one. That's where the VIA solutions within the PC-1 initiative belong. The segment growth is favoured by the promotion of broadband Internet connections and the necessity of developing countries to compete on the world market in particular.

So, here is the vision of the PC-1 initiative: Deliver affordable, accessible Internet computing & connectivity for the next 1 billion ‘digital have-nots’ by developing a reliable and highly-scalable system architecture that opens up innovative features for the broadband connection and computational scenarios both for individuals as well as for society. It does not mean that VIA is going to sell computers at $100 each. It means creating a scalable platform, which can serve as a base for a cheap PC as well as for various other devices that extend the notion of PC.

VIA creates a full range of solutions — on the level of platforms (motherboards pc1000 and pc1500) as well as ready systems (for example, VIA Terra reference-design). With this purpose in mind, the company mobilized the support of global players — motherboard manufacturers and system integrators. In order to bring products fast to the market and facilitate the life of partners :), VIA designs systems on its own — that's what its competitors cannot afford in this sector. Besides, it plans aggressive marketing policy to promote the product.




The official press release of the pc1000/1500 platforms will be the next week. So far we know that they consist of VIA pc1000/pc1500 processors and well-known CLE266 chipset. They are optimized specially for the developing countries — in particular, they offer a life time of 5 years (proceeding from Indian and Chinese requirements), provide sufficient performance at low power consumption, as well as stable operation under unstable power conditions.

The key advantages of the pc1000/1500 platforms:

  • Accessibility
    • Optimized price policy for the entry-level market ($300 for a ready system with a monitor, it's even lower in India — about $250)
    • Low cost of ownership

  • Low power consumption
    • Increased reliability and life time due to minimal requirements to a cooling system
    • Minimal requirements to the quality of the energy infrastructure in developing countries

  • Rich functionality and performance
    • x86 compatibility, equivalent to 1.0- 1.5 GHz CPU
    • Advanced multimedia capabilities: hardware 3D acceleration, MPEG-2
    • 10/100 Mbit network, USB 2.0

  • Security functions (VIA PadLock co-processor, only in pc1500)

Thus, VIA does not sacrifice platform functionality to low costs.

Nevertheless, designing a platform is only the first step of the company. In order to expand the business and adaptation by the masses, it's necessary to go up to the level of ready solutions. For this purpose, VIA offers the so called reference design of Terra PC. The company designs the components on its own (motherboards and chassis in particular) and thoroughly tests ready products, the logo-program (all PCs have the VIA logo irregardless of the manufacturer). Terra PC is available in various modifications (a ready system or a barebone-kit) via partners, Taiwanese iDOT in the first place. The exterior of a product depends on a given market, taxes, import duties, etc.

The price to consumer for a PC on the pc1000 platform is below $250. The largest system integrator in India delivers them for a lower price — $225. The advanced pc1500 is offered at the price below $300. Both solutions are sterling PCs, equipped with a hard drive — still an important component from the user's point (flash memory prospects are estimated now, but its capacities are still too low at a relatively high price). The bundle includes a CRT monitor. There is a TV-Out to make the prices even lower (though a TV-set is far from an optimal display for a PC). What concerns OS — we are offered Windows XP, including the Microsoft initiative — Windows XP Starter Edition, as well as various Linux distributions (for example, a localized Indian version).

According to VIA, such PCs can be used at home (for work as well as for entertainment), in office, in educational institutions and various Internet cafes and kiosks.




Anyway, a mass PC is not the only objective of the company. It would have been strange to launch only one system for $250-300, so the company offers other modifications as well — ready reference-design Terra CE for consumer electronics (DVD-player with full PC functionality), as well as a high-performance compact office PC Terra GC (Green Client), based on the 2 GHz C7 processor.

The company tightly cooperates with various organizations to promote the PC-1 initiative. In India, the first country to promote the initiative, they are institutes in Mumbai (Bombay). Objective of this cooperation is to find out what exactly people need from personal computers. Further plans of the company include using this approach in Russia, most likely in a modified form. Like many other manufacturers, VIA takes it upon itself to increase the number of PC users. The company has serious plans for this market segment (Low End), finds a good response among the partners. The objective of Richard Brown's visit to Russia is not only to give the above said details, but also to obtain market information, to find partners to promote the initiative. According to the company representatives, the response from Moscow partners is rather optimistic.

After the main subject the lecturer gave a brief account of VIA innovations in the area of chipsets and graphics solutions.

It's no secret that the last 2-3 years in this sector have been severe to VIA. It has to do with the previous situation on the market: there used to be only Intel, VIA, and SiS competing on the chipsets market. And now NVIDIA and ATI are pressing on. Besides, there have occurred global changes on the chipsets market for the last years. While discrete solutions (that is without integrated video) used to make up over 70% of the market share, the present situation is exactly the opposite — over 65% of sold chipsets are integrated solutions (IGP). VIA actually sees no wonders in this situation, there are several factors here: growing number of PC users in developing countries, recent Intel's withdrawal from the low-end IGP market, as well as growing shipments of mobile PCs.




VIA has been working in the IGP area for a long time already. According to the company, its integrated solutions are characterized by high 2D quality, multimedia acceleration, low power consumption and price.

Among its recent achievements, VIA notes the long-awaited release of the VT8251 south bridge, we can expect ready solutions from the partners in the next quarter. Mr. Brown admitted that, unfortunately, VIA lags behind its competitors in this aspect.

What concerns chipsets for Pentium 4, he noted the successful launch of the new PT894Pro. The lecturer noted that the success may have to do with the deficit of corresponding solutions from Intel. In the area of AMD solutions, we can expect a new KT890Pro chipset, while the existing K8T800/Pro and K8T890 are still delivered in sufficient quantities, despite the strong competition from NVIDIA.

VIA mentions that the chipsets market has been significantly defragmented of late. For example, NVIDIA offers its SLI solutions for nForce chipsets. ATI also presented CrossFire video cards for their Xpress chipsets. Besides, VIA itself works on similar solutions with two video cards for its chipsets. Nevertheless, this situation is evidently undesirable to end users. The company is convinced that the market must come to a unified standard.

In conclusion of his speech, Mr. Brown presented brief preliminary information on the new line of S3 graphics solutions — codenamed Chrome20 (its NDA term has expired today :)). Its main idea is to return the S3 to the graphics market. It will be one of the first companies to manufacture graphics chips by the 90nm process technology. What are its key advantages? They are the super low power dissipation and voltage, good performance/Watt parameter (its importance has been touched upon in the very beginning) — over 50% as high as in the previous GammaChrome XM18 core. Chrome20 is claimed to have higher GPU frequencies compared to all the existing solutions. A full range of solutions will be launched — both for desktop as well as mobile PCs. And finally, the graphics cards will be manufactured by the ROHS standard without lead — unfortunately, this is of no concern in Russia, but very important for the European market.

The Chrome20 series will be equipped with new programmable video core Chromotion that provides good video acceleration at the extremely low power consumption as well as HDTV support.




Detailed specifications and the naming agreement will be presented at the official launch, which will take place before the end of this year together with shipments of ready solutions, planned before Christmas sales.



Dmitri Besedin (dmitri_b@ixbt.com)
September 30, 2005.



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