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What Did Google Just Buy & What For?

Nobody knows what Agnilux is doing

Google, which has got more secrets than the CIA, has just bought that mystery outfit Agnilux that the PA Semi guys who didn't fit into Apple - or picked up their winnings from Apple's $278 million 2008 acquisition of PA and moved on to the next crap game- are supposed to have started.

Nobody knows what Agnilux is doing.

A couple of months ago the New York Times was told by an ex-PA person that Agnilux was working on a server and repeated scuttlebutt that it had a partnership in place with Cisco.

Well, Google does love to build its own servers. But since PA Semi apparently provided the A4 ARM chip for the iPad, maybe it's reinventing that wheel for Google. Or maybe it's working on something brand new!!!

Nah. After poking around a little and sending out a few e-mails we heard from the brotherhood that Amarjit Gil, co-founder and VP of sales at PA Semi, who mostly helped close the fab deal with TI based on old personal connections, and Mark Hayter, who ran PA's board group, something like system architect and senior director of platform hardware, although mostly he just wrote some documentation, left Apple together and started the company to do a tablet.

Fancy that.

It's assumed they self-funded the beginnings based on proceeds from their past participation in SiByte and PA.

Reports online indicate Olaf Johannson, reputed to be a darn good Linux internals guy and Todd Broch, an all-around software guy, also piled in.

The source said he didn't know who else was involved, but "I do know that those four couldn't design a chip to save their lives." They could however, he felt, "cobble together an interesting platform demo from off-the-shelf components and open source software."

Ah-ha, well, Agnilux, which is supposed to mean "Firelight," but could just as easily mean "lamb's light" if they stuck to just one language, has reportedly included ex-PA chief Dan Dobberpuhl, father of the Alpha and the StrongARM chips, since late last year.

That suggests that Google's buying Dobberpuhl. What's good enough for Apple....

The motley crew is also supposed to include some ex-Cisco engineers and a TiVo software architect.

The Times eventually abandoned its server story and, saying things were "coming into sharper focus," reported hearing that Google bought Agnilux for "help with porting Google platforms like its Chrome and Android operating systems onto other devices - like tablets, or possibly even television set-top boxes."

"‘These are systems guys focusing on hardware-software integration,'" it was told by a source. "‘It's not chip design. It's getting software platforms to wok on different kinds of hardware with lots of obscure back-end technologies.'"

Another source told it Agnilux had a lot of power efficiency expertise - presumably derived from the PA adventure - that could help Google get its software on tablets without draining the battery.

Meanwhile, Apple recently bought Texas-based Intrinsity, which specializes in power-efficient ARMs et al, purportedly to fill in its PA losses.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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