Two of the most important parts of a computer are the CPU and the GPU. For a long time the, CPU was the brains of the computer where the complex calculations required by software were performed. At the same time, the GPU was where the calculations required for graphics were performed. Today the lines between those two products are becoming blurred.
Intel and NVIDIA both say that their products are the future of the computer. Intel is the largest chipmaker in the world and manufactures a line of integrated GPUs -- its future processors will even have graphics cores built-in. NVIDIA is the largest discrete GPU maker and is running software on its GPUs that traditionally ran only on the CPU, and the GPU often does it with more performance. NVIDIA has also said it is eyeing entry into the x86 CPU market as well.
NVIDIA and Intel are currently fighting in court over a suit that Intel filed alleging that a license agreement in place between the two firms does not allow NVIDIA to build chipsets that are compatible with the new integrated memory controller processors like Nehalem.
NVIDIA maintains that the license agreement allows it to make chipsets for the integrated memory controller processors and Intel is merely trying to prevent it from being competitive by trying to cast doubt on NVIDIA products in the minds of consumers.
NVIDIA has filed its own suit against Intel reports Reuters and is seeking to terminate Intel's license agreement to NVIDIA patents relating to graphics processing and 3D computing. NVIDIA says that without the license agreement it believes that Intel's line of integrated graphics processors violates NVIDIA patents.
NVIDIA says in its countersuit that Intel has manufactured the license dispute as part of a strategy to eliminate NVIDIA as a competitive threat. Intel says that the license agreement in place only allows NVIDIA to build chipsets for processors that lack an integrated memory controller.
Intel's Chuck Mulloy told Reuters, "There is a substantial disagreement between Intel and NVIDIA about their licensing rights under the agreement. We've been trying multiple times, multiple ways to find a way to settle the argument. The suit simply asks the court to interpret the agreement."
The battle between the world's largest chipmaker and the largest GPU maker is likely to heat up. Both firms believe that their products are the future of computing and that future computer systems may not need both a GPU and a CPU. NVIDIA claims that by officially denying the validity of its license agreement with Intel that Intel has breached the contract the two firms have in place.
NVIDIA said, "Having breached the contract and irreparably injured NVIDIA, Intel has lost the right to continue to enjoy the considerable benefit of its license to NVIDIA 's patent portfolio."
Prior to the suit being filed by Intel, NVIDIA had granted Intel the right to license SLI on its X58 chipset, allowing motherboards using the chipset to support both Crossfire from ATI and SLI from NVIDIA.