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By | Ashlee Vance 24th April 2008 18:14

Sun buys low-power x86 disaster Montalvo

Asymmetrical chip assets

Exclusive Sun Microsystems has bought chip start-up Montalvo Systems for an undisclosed sum.

A notice seen by The Register states that Sun "has acquired the technology assets" of the chip company, which has been working on a low-power x86 processor design. The Montalvo crew and IP will slot into Sun's Microelectronics business unit.

"We believe acquiring these assets will enhance the current and future products we are developing and expect them to contribute to future generations of Sun's microprocessor technology which will in turn drive additional differentiation for Sun's Systems products," Sun said in its statement.

Rumors of Sun's interest in Montalvo have swirled for a couple of weeks.

We struggle to believe that Sun wants Montalvo's x86 gear. Rather, we suspect that Sun is after Montalvo's expertise at asymmetrical cores. Sun can use such technology to run higher-power and lower-power cores on the same chip, letting each type of core handle specific types of software.

The fact that Sun is talking about buying Montalvo's "assets" signals to us that the start-up struggled to generate much interest at all in its technology. We've heard repeatedly that Montalvo failed to get a working trial product.

So this is a personnel and patent thing.

As we understand it, Sun paid a bit north of $5m for Montalvo, which has burned through about $100m in funding. Cough.®

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