Tuesday, January 16, 2007

HP announces potential advance in FPGA through modeling

Hewlett-Packard announced on Jan. 16 research that may lead to an "improvement" in chips. This research MAY result in the creation of chips that are as much as eight times denser than those being produced now, while requiring less energy, using nanotechnology. The Business Wire release noted: "The expense of fabricating chips is increasing dramatically with the demands of increasing manufacturing tolerances," Greg Snider, senior architect at Quantum Science Research, HP Labs. The concept relates to a shift to a crossbar structure that would essentially change the shrinkage formula.

There is a patent angle here. HP has largely exited the chip business, and it has put more emphasis on gaining revenue from licensing its inventions. If the crossbar concept were to take off, HP could obtain millions of dollars in licensing fees. If Hewlett-Packard does not make chips embodying the crossbar concept, does that make HP a patent troll? If (purely hypothetically) NTP announced both the advance and an intent to license it, would NTP be a patent troll?

Also from the Business Wire: The research, by Greg Snider and Stan Williams of HP Labs, is a featured paper in the Jan. 24, 2007 issue of Nanotechnology, a publication of the British Institute of Physics ("Nano/CMOS Architectures Using Field-Programmable Nanowire Interconnect," www.iop.org/journals/nano). The research was conducted using classic modeling and simulation techniques, but Williams said HP is working on producing an actual chip using the approach, and could have a laboratory prototype completed within the year.

IPBiz notes that it is interesting that the work is presented in a non-US journal, and also that it is not in Science or Nature.


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