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Originating publication
April 12, 1999, Issue: 1056
Section: News
STM buys out Metaflow; founder Popescu leaves
Peter Clarke

La Jolla, Calif. - STMicroelectronics (STM) has bought out Metaflow Technologies Inc., a developer of microprocessors based here, and Val Popescu, Metaflow's founder and formerly its president, no longer works for the company.

Piero Martinotti, general manager of STM's New Ventures Group, said Metaflow would remain a separate subsidiary of STM but now wholly owned, and that Metaflow's design work for STM on microprocessors featuring speculative, "out-of-order" instruction execution would continue.

STM originally acquired a majority stake in Metaflow in May 1997. The stake stood at 68 percent in the middle of 1998 and STM's participation was increased to full ownership in December 1998.

"Some people in Metaflow were not in agreement with us and three or four people left the company," Martinotti said. He declined to disclose the price paid for the remaining Metaflow stock.

Since the acquisition Metaflow has begun emphasizing its ability to provide intellectual-property cores and VLSI design services to groups outside STM. The IP core offerings include an X86 processor core and its own design of synthesizable floating-point unit. The X86 core is a 486 unit STM acquired when it was providing foundry services to Cyrix Corp.

"Metaflow is free to offer design services to other companies," Martinotti said. "But 98 percent of their work is on a project for STM. In the meantime if they can offer design services to others, that's good. If over time it builds to 20 percent, that's also good," he said.

The first example of Metaflow's general-purpose microprocessor design program was due to surface in 1998 but failed to do so. It is believed to be aimed at the X86 space. Martinotti declined to say when processor cores from the program might be available for STM. "We prefer to present things when they are done," Martinotti explained.

Metaflow, founded by Popescu in 1985, worked on innovative implementations of the Sparc microprocessor for LSI Logic before being bought by Hyundai in 1994. STM bought its majority stake from Hyundai in 1997 and set Metaflow to work on a number of microprocessor designs.

At the time of the acquisition of a majority stake by STM in 1997, Popescu said the leading project was a general-purpose, mainstream microprocessor that would make use of out-of-order, speculative instruction execution. "It's a major microprocessor for release next year," he said in 1997, but the microprocessor failed to appear in 1998.

Metaflow also contributed to STMicro's implementation of the Mpact graphics processor-a graphics chip architecture licensed from Chromatic Research Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.). However, Chromatic halted development of Mpact in July 1998 and was then acquired by ATI Technologies Inc. (Thornhill, Ontario) in November 1998.

Copyright 1999 CMP Media Inc.