2010-01-15

Intel buys MIPS

The title of this post is intentionally provocatory, and should be read as "Will Intel acquire MIPS? If I was Intel, I would".
But if I was at Intel, I would definitively try to enter again the embedded (and mobile) RISC market, where Intel was already years ago with the ARM-based XScale line of products that was then sold to Marvell in 2006.
That move stopped the flow of royalties from Intel to ARM, but the ARM architecture and microarchitecture still have a huge base of licensees due to the advantage of a minimal power consumption required by mobile devices, against with x86 cannot (still) compete.
Just to provide some numbers: the power consumption of a generic ARM core is around 300 mW, while the lowest power Atom is around ten times that.
And the market shows that a lot of microprocessors for mobile phones will be sold over the next few years.
Then, could Intel buy ARM now? The market capitalization of ARM Holdings is around 4 billions, and that's still a huge amount of money even for Intel.
Why don't buy MIPS instead? Their shares declined from a maximum (in year 2000) of 80$ to just 4$, so the market capitalization of MIPS Technologies is just around 200 millions, and this would be a very cheap purchase for the Intel giant.
And finally consider that currently MIPS lacks a CEO; and it wouldn't ever need one if it becomes a group inside Intel Corp.