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Technology

Nvidia to Buy ULI Electronics 95

Steve from Hexus writes "In a move that has taken the technology market by surprise, graphics card and chipset manufacturer Nvidia has announced its intention to buy ULI Electronics, Taiwanese chipset designer and maker: 'NVIDIA openly recognizes that a large proportion of chipset innovation happens in the Far East where ULi is based and that is one of the things that makes ULi an attractive proposition. The move is seen by many as good sense on NVIDIA's part as its own in-house chipset makers are based solely in the USA. ULi, in contrast, has relationships with chipset makers in Taiwan and China, as well as in San Jose.'"
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Nvidia to Buy ULI Electronics

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  • in house (Score:1, Redundant)

    by calib0r ( 546092 )
    Guess this closes the gap even more for nvidia, brining more of their processes in house.
    • Well, this seems designed to give nVidia lower production costs, yes.

      However, it seems to me that graphics cards are WAY more expensive than they used to be. Normally, when new technologies become mainstream, they are introduced at a similar price to the old tech. and competition's tech., in an effort to compete. This is by design in capitalism, of course -- companies are supposed to compete to bring technology to the people at an ever cheaper price.

      nVidia seemed to sidestep all of that good social de

      • How many people are actually buying those bleeding-edge cards? The only people I know who are being "suckered" into paying these prices are the ones whose life revolves around gaming, and they will make use of the capabilities of the card, if not today then when the next big game comes out.

        The cards that are actually being sold to the mainstream consumer seem quite reasonably priced to me, and are certainly supported by current software.

    • Yeah, that seems a little strange to me. I thought Nvidia was trying to be an IP company? Maybe this is an indication of the future prospects of such an entity. I've always questioned the wisdom of a company letting all the expertise on how to actually produce their core product go out the door.

      Anyway, would the person who moderated the parent "Redundant" care to explain how a First Post can possibly be redundant?

  • New Tech! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Renraku ( 518261 )
    The next technology is to have two GPUs on one card! What they don't tell you is, that the second GPU is wasting all of its time its not in a game running a botnet to factor NSA passwords..
  • I wonder if some of the companies industry relationsips serve as icing on the cake...?

    http://www.transmeta.com/efficeon/partner_tech/uli .html [transmeta.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @08:16PM (#14260648)

    oh wait....

  • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @08:18PM (#14260659) Homepage
    and it's pretty cool - has both AGP and PCI-Xpress sockets so that I can continue to use my ATI X800 AGP video card, and then upgrade to a PCI-Xpress when it becomes too old. It also comes with two SATA ports, and an SATA2 port.

    The motherboard is built by Asus (their value line, called ASRock), and it's been a great performer. It's the first motherboard that I've gotten dual-channel memory working.

    The chipsets are innovative, but are they so innovative that nVidia wouldn't want to copy them? Maybe the lead-time, and wanting to keep their chipset line small was the reason.
    • I have one also and think its great. This is a big move for nVidia. I wonder if they can SLI their factories?
    • Seems somewhat similar, perhaps, to nVidia 's current product. An nForce3 board I just bought (an MSI) supports something called "AGR" or "Advanced Graphics Riser." It's really just an AGP slot that only supports certain compatible AGP cards. However, its main graphics system is, of course, a PCI-e x16 lane.

      It's really great for people making the transition from AGP to PCI-e. Of course, that's not an issue for me, because with this board I purchased an XFX 7800GTX.
      • The ASRock ULi-based board described by the grandparent is the first PCI-e/AGP board that offers true AGP performance. It's the best balance of price and features of any motherboard on the market today. Those hacked AGP work-alike slots are crap. See the following link: [anandtech.com]
        MSI makes the Neo3-F that has PCIe and the AGP-like AGR slot, but performance and compatibility of the AGR slot is not as good as what we would like. If you have a high-end AGP card, it will be a definite bottleneck, and if you have a low-e
    • The motherboard you speak of is the ASRock 939Dual-SATA2 (which uses the ULi M1695/M1567 chipset) - there's a review of it here [anandtech.com].
    • You should be careful with your terminology: PCI-X is not PCI Express (or PCI-E, or PCIe), so referring to PCI-Xpress is wrong and confusing. Architecturally, PCIe is radicially different than PCI (and by extension, PCI-X.)
  • ATI? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frenchy_2001 ( 659163 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @08:19PM (#14260663)
    the fun part is that lots of MB using ATI chipset use ULI southbridge as ATI still has a way to go for SATA, usb ans sound.

    The real story is that it gives nVidia a good office in Taiwan and will strengthen their ties with taiwanese and chinese design house, mostly for MB and especially for laptops.
    • When asked to comment on the acquisition and its impact on ATi's chipset sales, nVidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang was quoted as saying "hahaha PWNED".
  • Sucks for ATI (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PAPPP ( 546666 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @08:22PM (#14260679) Homepage
    ULi also appears to be the only company other than ATI making chipsets that support CrossFire (ATI's multi-GPU solution, competing with Nvidia's SLI, for the one person who doesnt know but cares) in the form of the ULi M1575. I cant imagine Nvidia will let that continue.
    • "I cant imagine Nvidia will let that continue."

      Why wouldn't you want to make a little profit and reduce the revenue of your competitor every time they sold a product? You could track and use those profits to fix why you lost the original sale.
    • My impression is that chipsets just need to have multiple PCIe slots to support SLI and CrossFire; the rest of the "support" is a certification scam where the driver locks out "unsupported" chipsets (i.e. who haven't paid the fee).
    • Doesn't Ford have a similar situation with Cummins, the makers of the diesel engines that go in Dodge trucks?

      Heck, if nVidia can control and make a profit off many of the ATi products sold, then how can they lose by continuing to product ATi chips? If ATi switches manufacturers, then that will just be a large profile client nVidia has lost and one of ULi's competitors will be getting the money instead.
      • "Doesn't Ford have a similar situation with Cummins, the makers of the diesel engines that go in Dodge trucks?"

        Not that I know of. Ford works with International/Navistar on the Powerstroke engine which has been the standard in Ford's diesel trucks for quite a long time. They use either Powerstroke or Cat motors in their big trucks, and Powerstroke alone in the smaller ones.

        Cummins is also by no means limited to Dodge. They also make larger motors for RVs, heavy trucks, and machinery.

        To round out the bunc
    • ULi also appears to be the only company other than ATI making chipsets that support CrossFire (ATI's multi-GPU solution, competing with Nvidia's SLI, for the one person who doesnt know but cares) in the form of the ULi M1575. I cant imagine Nvidia will let that continue.

      That's terrible! Now ATI will have to rapidly start producing their own products to replace the ULi chipsets.

      If ATI aren't careful, they might end up rushing out an unstable product with inadequate driver support. I know it sounds unbelievab
  • Well, ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by c0l0 ( 826165 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @08:30PM (#14260709) Homepage
    I really, really hope this has positive impacts on the quality of nVIDIA's chipsets. They've been ridden with bugs times and times again, whilst ULi seemed to get along without major hickups like the totally b0rked SATA-implementation on the nForce3 150, for example.
    And I hope they'll continue to provide the Linux Kernel Hackers with specs of their chipsets, just in the fashion ULi used to do. It can only get better for nVIDIA by embracing ULi's practises in more than a few fields of operation, in my opinion.
    • Nvidia should just acquire a company that makes FANs. This is the biggest problem facing all the graphics companies as nobody knows how to make an efficient cooling devices that last.

      • Re:Well, ... (Score:3, Informative)

        I just thought I should remind you that Nvidia doesnt manufacture video cards. They make chips and then sell them to other companies that in turn manufacture the video cards and motherboards that you buy in the retail or OEM channel.

        Its those companies (MSI, ASUS, XFX, Gigabyte, etc.) you should be complaining to.
    • That is, the chipsets seem okay (currently using an nForce 4 SLi).

      It's their drivers that are bad. Installing their IDE drivers breaks most DVD writers. Installing their active armor firewall not only corrupted my HTTP downloads, but also installs TWO copies of apached on your machine because their configuration tools for it are HTML-based.

      But hey, right now, I am using 4 DIMMs in a dual-channel config at 200MHz (full speed, a bit tough to do) and AMD Cool n' Quiet. And it works very well and very reliably.
  • by dgkulzer ( 909004 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @08:32PM (#14260718)
    I recently purchased a Asrock 939DualSataII with a ULI chipset. This board came with AGP and PCI Express graphics slots, another slot for a future M2 upgrade board, no whiny fans on the northbridge and is very stable. I am not a overclocker but people were having great luck OC'ing this board. Although most board companies were using the ULI chipsets in their budget boards, this was starting to change. The current ULI chipset competed very well with the Nvidia chipset, in some cases its actually faster and I think if ULI was a seperate company it would be giving Nvidia some great competition in a few years. If you don't want Nvidia what else is there? Via chipsets are not what they used to be and the ATI southbridge has horrible USB 2.0 performance - this is supposed to be fixed in the next southbridge they release. I bought a NF4 based motherboard and had alot of problems with it. I found out through forums that the IDE drivers are buggy so I didnt install them, the 'activearmor' is buggy so I didnt install that and active armor was one of the selling points for me when I bought the motherboard. I never did get all of my driver problems worked out. I hate to say this but my next computer will probably be Intel motherboard with a Intel chipset. I havent used a Intel processor since 1998 but unless ATI or Via releases a much better chipset I don't see myself as having any choice. Nvidia makes great graphics cards so don't take this as a anti-Nvidia comment, I just don't like their chipsets. I suppose its easier for a company like Nvidia to buy ULI than it is to fix their own product, something we have all seen over and over again.
    • I've never had a problem with my nForce 4 based motherboard and I use both the SATA and IDE channels. I think the chipset is pretty solid as long as you don't use the software raid, but nobody should need to be told that :) I don't use any of the bundled software so I can't speak of its quality, although I did use the integrated audio just to see how it worked and it sounded just as good from cursory inspection. I haven't had the chance to use any other chipsets for socket 939 chips so I can't speak as
    • I've found modern VIA chipsets to be fine. Great linux support, does everything I need it to. What're your problems with them?
      • My main issues with VIA surround a bus timing issue that b0rked my Audigy 2 and firewire iPod compatibility.
      • What're your problems with them?

        He has the same problem every other PC hardware cluebie has. They read some ancient forum posts about problems with Via chipsets circa 3-4 years ago and have regurgitated that opinion through to the present day. I only wish there was more than one damn ULi M1695-based on the market. Something's strange when Asus' cheapo arm makes the best 939 motherboard on the market.
      • I've found modern VIA chipsets to be fine. Great linux support, does everything I need it to. What're your problems with them?

        You must not have tried very many of them...

        They do commonly have poor support for Linux, particularly IDE without DMA, or something like that. In the past few years, their northbridges have been getting hotter and hotter very very quickly, and yet motherboard makers rarely put a fan on them. Besides serious power consumption problems, that leads to real instability unless your sys

        • You must not have tried very many of them...

          Two or three, just my own home system.

          They do commonly have poor support for Linux,

          Not my experience at all. They actually ship linux drivers on the CDs which is more than most will do, and AFAICS are pretty helpful with specs.

          particularly IDE without DMA, or something like that.

          170mb PIO-only drive worked fine in the two of my systems I tried it in.

          In the past few years, their northbridges have been getting hotter and hotter very very quickly, and yet mothe

      • Sub-par PCI implementation - many high end video editing cards simply don't work, and any bandwith hungry device chuckles.
        Not to mention bugs from time to time. Oh yes, they're not over, for example quite current Via southbridge with SATA refusez to work with SATA2 drives.
    • If you don't want Nvidia what else is there? Via chipsets are not what they used to be and the ATI southbridge has horrible USB 2.0 performance...

      Its a good point - NVidia has pretty much cornered the market for AMD MB's already. ULi was providing an alternative on the "budget" boards, and could have launched some kind of challenge in the performance/hobbyist niche as well. Competition is a *good* thing. My NF4 board is OK, but one of the LAN ports has already failed, and the it runs way too hot. Unle

      • "My NF4 board is OK, but one of the LAN ports has already failed"
        Just out of curiousity, what level of failure are we talking about here?

        I had major problems with large downloads on my nForce4 GigE port (A8N-SLI Deluxe) forcing me to use the Marvell GigE port instead, and a friend with the same board shared these problems. It turned out it was the nVidia "ActiveArmor" firewall screwing things up. I just didn't install it after a format and I haven't had problems since. I had my friend uninstall it from h
        • "My NF4 board is OK, but one of the LAN ports has already failed" Just out of curiousity, what level of failure are we talking about here? I had major problems with large downloads on my nForce4 GigE port (A8N-SLI Deluxe) forcing me to use the Marvell GigE port instead, and a friend with the same board shared these problems. It turned out it was the nVidia "ActiveArmor" firewall screwing things up. I just didn't install it after a format and I haven't had problems since. I had my friend uninstall it from h

          • Have you tried to force the speed? I had problems with a Netgear router and some network cards.

            If you force the speed to 100Mb rather than Autodetect, it will often work.

            But I agree that NVidia chipsets have some dodgy integrated peripherals - I used to get stuttering sound from the A7N8X onboard sound, so I disabled it and plugged in a cheapo Creative generic card. The firewire is pretty much unusable after SP2 - it's a 50/50 thing whether it will recognise my firewire/USB external disk, so I use USB inste
            • Have you tried to force the speed? I had problems with a Netgear router and some network cards. If you force the speed to 100Mb rather than Autodetect, it will often work.

              I have a Netgear router and a Netgear card in one of the PC's - hmmmm....

              But I agree that NVidia chipsets have some dodgy integrated peripherals - I used to get stuttering sound from the A7N8X onboard sound, so I disabled it and plugged in a cheapo Creative generic card. The firewire is pretty much unusable after SP2 - it's a 50/50 t

              • Problem with Crucial is that you can go into a random PC shop in Europe, they'll have generic Ram and a bunch of brands you've never heard of but no Crucial. And I guess some of them were a bit optimistic about labelling it as DDR333. It was a while ago though, when 333Mhz front speed buses were bleeding edge.

                But still, if Nvidia and Asus had tested properly, the Bios would have a blacklist of DRAM chips, and run them with slower timings.
    • Via chipsets are not what they used to be

      Say that to my new Via Asus board that support dual channel, dual core, and is 100% Linux compatible out of the box.

      Nvidia is not the only choice.

    • Via chipsets are not what they used to be

      Oh Via is Everything it used to be, and that's the problem, the law of averages suggests that a company that's trying to produce as many chipsets as cheaply as possible are going to wind up with a few that manage to exceed the typical quality level churned out..

      if you're considering a via, you seriously need to go with a fully researched configuration, not just what the marketing department claims the board can run. now i'm typing this from a rock solid Via based so
    • Damn, half the posters in this thread has this mobo--including me. Great value! Only negative things I can say are that the IDE connectors are way too far down to connect most of my 5.25" drives, and that the SATA2 connector doesn't have a Linux driver. Otherwise it's great, and that's upgrading from an ASUS that was pretty expensive in 2001 (A7V266-E).
  • Excuse me while I jump to conclusions...

    Most chip design firms, Nvidia farms out production to various fabs, mostly overseas. With the ULI purchase, it's only a matter of time before all of the design goes overseas as well. Meaning that the value the US operations add will amount to warehousing and paper shuffling. If their order fulfillment is anything like Apple with the iPod, they won't even have warehousing to deal with.

    So, regarding the economic theory of "constructive destruction", at what point does

  • Whew... (Score:5, Funny)

    by creimer ( 824291 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @08:52PM (#14260799) Homepage
    For a moment I thought they were going to a pull 3Dfx by making their own cards and killing their market.

    I had a job interview for a QA position at 3Dfx about six months before it went under. I was shocked that the marketing department was calling the shots instead of the engineers. After that Dilbert experience, I didn't want to work there. Of course, asking the marketing hack why I should be interviewed by him when I was applying for a technical position probably didn't help.
    • Been there, done that.

      Not with 3Dfx and QA, but with a consulting firm and a dev job. First thing I noticed when I walked into my prospective boss's office was that there was no whiteboard. So I asked my interviewer why I was being interviewed by a non-dev. He asked what made me think that, I tell him about the lack of whiteboard. It was the only interview I've ever done where the interviewer didn't have one. Well, he got quite defensive replying, "you never know, I might be a techie." Through the c

  • Look out ATI (Score:2, Interesting)

    by defro ( 857858 )
    As someone mentioned above, ATI's southbridge offerings are, to say the least, lacking. I know on their (ATI's) new crossfire platform, most if not all motherboards use the ULI southbridge. That chip has some great features - SATA300, PCI Express link, and RAID0/1/0+1/5. What will ATI do now? I can't see nVidia making this integration any easier for ATI, so will ATI go looking for its' own chipset company? VIA, SiS, etc. will soon be saying, show me the money!
  • by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) * on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @09:16PM (#14260907) Homepage Journal
    "NVIDIA openly recognises that a large proportion of chipset innovation happens in the Far East where ULi is based - and that is one of the things that made ULi an attractive proposition."

    • There is a great deal of chipset innovation in the "Far East".
    • Uli is in the "Far East".
    • Nvidia wants chipset innovation.
    • Therefore... Nvidia buys Uli?

    Someone needs a refresher in logic.

    Come to think of it, a large proportion of desktop operating systems are developed in the United States where ChaosDiscordOS is based - and that is one of the things that made ChaosDiscordOS an attractive proposition. Anyone want to buy full rights to my operating system, ChaosDiscordOS*? I figure $10,000,000 is a reasonable price, since it's so attractive.

    * Warning: Operating system may consist of nothing more than an ugly logo thrown together in the GIMP and a main.c file that contains, "/* TODO: Write operating system */"

  • Does this mean Nvidia will support SLI on existing ULi chipsets? I would be wise if they wanted to bring existing ULi customers "into the fold" and give everyone a nice warm fuzzy feeling about Nvidia. Or they could just leave them out in the cold and tell them to buy an official Nvidia SLI chipset.
  • Monopoly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Thursday December 15, 2005 @12:25AM (#14262114)
    How long before governments look to stop nVidia from buying out the entire chipset market? They're starting to verge on monopoly here. Just when another chipset maker starts to get established, they buy them up.
    • How on Earth did you reach this conclusion? They're still in fierce competition with ATi on the performance front and Intel in the embedded front. According to The Register [theregister.co.uk], nVidia had the smallest market share of those three contenders in Q305 with Intel up by about 15% in graphics alone. And speaking of Intel, if virtually nothing has been done to them what makes you think that nVidia will catch anyone's attention?
      • Huh? ATi giving fierce competition? Obviously you haven't been following their tentative first steps into the chipset market. To date, their chipsets have more or less been failures. nVidia is totally dominating the AMD chipset marketplace, and is making excellent inroads in the Intel chipset marketplace.

        You did realize that I'm talking about motherboard chipsets, right? Because the article is about nVidia purchasing a chipset manufacturer. So surely you RTFAd.

        As an interesting comment, ATI's southbridge fo
        • And according to this article [xbitlabs.com] (Consider the source carefully), nVidia, ATI, VIA, and SIS are pretty close, just barely past the double digits in percentage. Intel still sells more mainboard chipsets than all others combined. This is for Intel chipsets, and it's because of Intel's own shortcomings that the four main competitors have experienced any growth. I have no doubt that nVidia is strong in AMD chipset sales. However, the number of AMD systems out there, while growing, is still puny compared to Intel s
  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Thursday December 15, 2005 @12:28AM (#14262132)
    The move was merely to swallow up a competitor and likely use ULi's current line as a low end chipset.

    nVidia has been making a lot of inroads in the chipset market, but not ATI is joining the fray... Eliminating ULi as competition, and acquiring it's current portfolio doesn't really provide a big bang for the buck, but marginally improves market share for nVidia in the chipset market.

    It doesn't hurt that ULi came up with it's own configurable PCI-E setup (ala SLI, though not supported by video card makers, yet). That's probably the key piece, and there may be some parts of the IP portfolio nVidia can leverage toreduce their own licensing costs - which means cheaper chipsets.

    Additionally, they gain a group of driver and firmware developers, probably more accustomed to rapid technology changes than nVidia's own group (allowing their original people to concentrate on video)

    Overall, it's a "Decent" move, probably having more to do with opportunity, rather than as some large-scale strategic move. ULi simply doesn't command the market share nVidia does, and there are plenty of Asian motherboard makers using nForce chipsets already - this move has NOTHING to do with building those relationships.

    I liken it more to buying that 300GB SATA drive on Black Friday because it's a decent deal, not because I suddenly need all that extra capacity, or even that I'll need it in the future... however, it does give me more options.
  • I bought a Chaintech S1689 mobo with ULi chipset recently, and haven't been able to get it fully functioning under Linux. The redhat installer wouldn't even boot. I got the Suse installer to boot with some jiggling. I have to pass acpi=off and agp=off to the kernel to get it to boot, and if I have any USB support enabled in the BIOS, or even have a PCI USB card plugged in, it freezes at the "Probing for PCI Hardware" stage. I guess this is as much of a Linux problem as a ULi problem (it all works fine u
  • Yesterday, I read two news articles end to end. The first was Anandtech's preview of the upcoming ULi single-chip chipset solution U1697 http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx? i=2641 [anandtech.com]. I most particularily noted that although the chipset is competent and very full-featured, aside from 10/100 mbit networking, it would most likely not be able to support dual-videocard solutions - i.e. Nvidia SLI or ATI CrossFire - because both ATI and Nvidia like to keep such support for themselves and their licens

  • This is the first step towards offshoring their design and manufacturing operations. All of those USA jobs at nVidia are now in jeopardy as once the corporation owns an Asia entity, they can a) transfer design tasks overseas, b) import cheap labor on L-1 visas to avoid paying prevailing wage, c) exert downward pressure on US payroll, d) reduce benefits, e) freeze US hiring.

    I have seen too many companies do this to believe their goal is anything other than to nix American jobs in favor of cheap foreign labor

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