By Michael Kanellos
If you lived through the computing and chip wars in the 80s, 90s and first seven years of this decade, your first inclination is to disbelieve. Dell has historically been one of the more conservative PC makers when it comes to selecting new vendors. One reason: adding different models to its lineup increases its inventory and other costs, and Dell's whole business is based around simplifying operations as much as possible. Via has also always been a very distant third behind Intel (INTC) and AMD, holding less than two percent of market share. Via's chips are good--they just didn't sell in large numbers. If Intel is the gorilla and AMD the chimp, Via is the golden marmoset. Typically, Via's customers have been smaller PC makers based in India and China.
But give Via credit for surviving in one of the toughest markets in the world. There are a whole host of competitors--Transmeta, Rise, Montalvo Systems--that have tried to make x86 style Intel chips and nearly all have failed in spectacular fashion. A sales exec at a former would-be Intel competitor told me once how he cut a deal for a few hundred motherboards. The next day, Intel sales reps were trying to reverse the deal.
Energy efficiency and the need for lower prices, however, seems to be having an effect. Via has largely concentrated on price and power. Its chips run at around 1.3 gigahertz, not barnburning speeds, but they only chew up a few watts. If anything, Dell will score points for novelty.
Dell will manage to fit 12 servers into a 3.5 inch high case. Each server will only consume 15 to 30 watts of power, or far less than a normal server. They also only cost $400.