Business, Hardware, Interviews

INTERVIEW: The Future of VIA Revealed with Richard Brown

Richard Brown, Marketing VP, VIA TechnologiesOn a Sunny morning in San Francisco, CA, BSN* met with Richard Brown, CPU Platform Sales and Marketing, VP of Marketing, at VIA Technologies, to discuss their newly announced multi-core processors.

BSN*: What does VIA see on its marketing horizon?

Richard Brown: Digital signage is one of the up-and-coming areas for our product development/marketing focus. For example, we have a nine-screen display server for digital signage. At ESC Silicon Valley in San Jose, VIA showed a four screen digital signage solution.

VIA has moved from a traditionally fabless CPU engineering firm and moved in the direction of a solutions provider. We now look at a market in terms of how we can provide the distributors, VARs, and end-users with an integrated solution.

VIA demonstrated EPIA-M900 Platform featuring their first Quad-Core processor
VIA demonstrated EPIA-M900 Platform featuring their first Quad-Core processor

The Nano dual-core and quad-core are going to show up in the entry-level, office/home PC business and low-end laptop/tablet market places. The quad core will allow multiple windows to be open at the same time speeding up the user input and enhancing the graphics experience. There is proven productivity enhancement with two displays in an office environment for user because of being able to have multiple windows fully open.

In an office environment people are seeing their data represented in multiple formats. Nearly everybody is taking their spreadsheet or database numbers and displaying them in various kinds of graphical representations. Smartphones and tablets complement the desktop PC, they do not replace it. One of their major limitations for those form factors are their limited content creation capabilities. Nobody has claimed to have written the latest Great American novel on their tablet or smart phone. Smartphones are great for texting short messages. Most tablets are much like a smartphone with a larger screen display.

BSN*: What makes VIA’s multi-core different than the competition?

Brown: Via’s latest multi-core processors are manufactured using 40nm process and have a die size of only 66mm2 (11mm x 6mm). They are the lowest power quad-cores in the marketplace. Plus these new quad-core processors are fully pin compatible with the existing VIA Eden, VIA 7, VIA Nano E-series, and VIA Eden X2 dual-core processors. That will save OEM manufacturers a considerable amount of engineering time and manufacturing cost to upgrade their existing platforms and ship new production models sooner.

BSN*: When will we see quad core platforms?

Brown: There will be multiple dual-core and quad-core platforms for Computex Taipei 2011 exhibition in Taiwan at the end of this month. Because VIA invented the Mini-ITX and the Pico-ITX form factors, we know how to create alternative motherboard designs for the OEMs. At Computex, we will show low-power, multi-core solutions in the traditional low-end PC and traditional laptops, along with some exciting new small-platform ideas including tablets. We will show design wins to go along with the prototypes VIA has developed for OEM evaluation.

BSN*: Give our North American readers an insight into your ARM products mainly sold in Asia.

Brown: VIA has been in the ARM-processor and solutions business for a long time. We have a significant footprint in China and India with our low-cost ARM netbook and ARM tablet solutions. Your North American and European readers will find a large number of design wins for small display tablets using the lower power VIA ARM-based processors. This puts VIA in an advantageous situation with the newly announced Microsoft Windows version that will run on both the x86 architecture and the ARM architecture.

BSN*: Do you think there will be a significant cost saving with ARM-based Windows machines?

Brown: When an OEM/System assembler looks at their BOM (bill of materials) for comparably equipped platforms, there is not a huge spread between the cost of the VIA low-power x86 platform and comparable ARM-based platform. They both require a CPU, system memory, data storage, and graphics capabilities, while display costs are nearly a mirror image of each other. It always depends on whether you are comparing like capability components in your BOM.

Next comes the hypothetical question of what will Microsoft charge the OEM/System assembler for the ARM-based Windows operating system. It would seem reasonable that the recently announced ARM-based version of Windows will end up being competitively priced with the next generation x86 version of Windows. But, we really won’t know their pricing until the next generation of Windows is actually shipping to the OEM/System assembler and end-users.

VIA Embedded products feature embedded GPUs i.e. eGPUs as well
VIA Embedded products feature embedded GPUs i.e. eGPUs as well

We should have an answer to these questions by the time CES 2012 in Las Vegas rolls around.

BSN*: Do  you have an opinion about Nvidia buying a communications chipset vendor?

Brown: VIA
telecom has been a leader in the CDMA communications marketplace for a long time. China is mostly CDMA based mobile communications. Therefore, we have been able to have a lot of design wins with our CDMA implementation.

BSN*: Are you ready to make any announcements to our readers?

Brown: Within the past week we’ve announced a dual-core processor as well as a quad-core processor, both on 40nm fab. We plan to show Computex attendees that VIA is serious about the low-power, multi-core processor solution business.

Thank you for spending time with us today. We look forward to providing BSN* with multi-core evaluation equipment in the near future.

BSN* appreciates the assistance of Pat Meier-Johnson in coordinating the time and location of this exclusive interview.