Time for another trip...
Most FiringSquad readers are probably aware of the big conferences we regularly attend such as Gamestock and Comdex, but every few months there are many smaller seminars that sometimes offer some pretty interesting info. We decided to take a brief stop by one such forum - Platform Conference - last Tuesday afternoon while we were in the San Jose area.
While it may not have the bright lights and flash of E3 in Los Angeles, or the sheer volume of products and announcements as Comdex, there were a few interesting demonstrations nonetheless. The following is a quick recap of our experience there followed by a roadmap update we were given by the company everyone loves to hate - Rambus.
VIA's C3 CPU
On display at VIA's booth were a wide variety system chipsets, an energy-efficient server system, and a mobile system based on VIA's C3 processor. If you aren't familiar with C3, we'll provide a quick recap.
Tiny C3 core!
With C3, VIA's aiming headstrong at the value market. In fact, to be more specific, C3 is intended for the ultra low-cost segment. While it isn't quite equipped to go head-to-head with Duron, C3 offers a compelling alternative to Intel's Celeron.
For instance, with its 128KB L1 and 64KB L2 caches, C3 offers more cache on die than Celeron (32KB and 128KB respectively). C3 also boasts a bus speed advantage - while Celeron is limited to just 66MHz and 100MHz, C3 supports bus speeds of 100MHz and 133MHz.
The key selling point of C3 however is its low cost and power consumption. With its 0.15-micron or 0.13-micron (in the case of the 800MHz processor) manufacturing process, the C3 die is only 55mm2. VIA plans to continue to scale to higher clock speeds, although C3 will remain one step behind Duron and Celeron in the low end of the value segment for now.
If you're wondering why you've heard little about the C3, it's because the processor is targeted mainly for the Asian market. VIA hasn't pushed the C3 in many other markets and for good cause: we Westerners in particular tend to be very brand aware. There's a reason Toyota re-badges its high-end automobiles Lexus and Nissan Infinity.
Here in America, the Intel brand is well known amongst the high-end crowd as well as the mainstream consumer. From VIA's perspective they feel its better for them to spend their time and resources on a market that's less sensitive to brand and more concentrated on features, price, and performance. In addition, VIA's reach in the Asian market is greater than it is here. Intel already has solid contracts with all of the top American PC OEMs, and AMD has developed a solid second place footing. It would take a considerable amount of work to compete here, we've all seen what happened to Cyrix, and the recent setbacks suffered by Transmeta.