According to a former Exponential employee who would prefer to remain
anonymous, the company has finally auctioned off the patents to its x704
PowerPC chip, originally designed for the Mac, but plagued by lateness and
performance significantly below what was promised, were eventually killed
by an Apple decision not to use the chip in its products in favor of the
Mach 5 604e and the G3-series chips.
The patents were sold for a meager $5.1 million, significantly less than
Exponential had hoped for, and not enough to cover the company's $9.7
million dollar debt, but hopefully will be enough to soften the blow,
according to the former Exponential employee. The most interesting part of
the situation is that the buyer's name was not released; while popular
suspicion suggests that it was Intel Corp., the Exponential source suggests
otherwise. "We haven't been told anything outright, but from what I have
heard, a lot of hints and such, I've got a creeping suspicion that it
wasn't Intel," he said in a late-night phone conversation yesterday.
The Exponential patents include a way to integrate both PowerPC RISC and
the older CISC instruction sets on a single chip, making it extremely
attractive to Intel -- who is developing a similar chip, code-named Merced,
but was beaten by Exponential in the patent race -- as well as to its
competitors such as Advanced Micro Devices, who are looking to get ahead of
Intel at almost any price (there have also been faint rumors of AMD's
interest in the PowerPC market....). The undisclosed nature of the buyer
suggests that the company has something to lose by having its name
published; beyond that, little is known for certain.
... at least you can drive something fast, arm your-
self with powerful tools, and look good doing it.
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