Via gets distribution for Pentium chipset

The high-speed chipset will make its way onto store shelves through a batch of agreements with big-name distributors, but PC makers remain out of reach

Via Technologies claims it has won international distribution deals for its controversial Pentium 4 chipset, despite an ongoing intellectual property dispute with Intel.

The Taiwanese company, which is the world's second-largest chipset maker after Intel, has reached agreements with Ingram Micro, Eprom, Leadman Electronics, Leadertech Systems of Chicago, Eastern Data, Agaman and Daiwa to distribute motherboards based on Via's P4X266 chipsets for the US market, Via marketing director Frank Jeng said in published reports.

He said European distributors have also signed on, but did not give names. He also said distributors in China are about to buy Via-based P4 motherboards. Via's European office said no deals have yet been officially announced, but that several agreements were in the works.

The distribution deals mean that Via's Pentium 4 chipsets will reach end-users on retail store shelves in the form of unbranded motherboards, but are unlikely to be used by manufacturers building new PCs. The idea behind using unbranded motherboards is to protect the motherboard makers from Intel legal action, but it is not known whether such a strategy will prove effective.

Following Via's introduction of the chipset, Intel filed suit against Via in several countries, and Via has responded with lawsuits of its own. Most top-tier motherboard manufacturers have stayed away from the P4X266 because of the legal entanglements.

To get around the legal blockade, Via recently launched its own motherboard unit, which subcontracts all manufacturing to third parties.

Via is relying on the chipset for a significant proportion of its revenues. The company said its revenues for October were flat on the same month last year, largely because of the legal dispute with Intel.

The P4X266 is desirable in part because of its lower price and because it is compatible with double-data rate (DDR) memory, a low-cost, high-speed memory. Intel's Pentium 4 chipset only uses standard SDRAM memory or more expensive Rambus DRAM.

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