Past Nano History
One could argue that VIA jumped on the low power bandwagon before it was really cool. Way back in the late 90s VIA snatched up processor firms Cyrix and Centaur, and started to merge those design teams to create low powered x86 CPUs. Over the next several years VIA was still flying high on the chipset side, but due to circumstances started to retreat from that business. On the Intel side it was primarily due to the legal issues that stemmed from the front side bus license that VIA had, and how it apparently did not apply to the Pentium 4. On the AMD side it was more about the increased competition from NVIDIA and ATI/AMD, plus the lack of revenue from that smaller CPU market. Other areas have kept VIA afloat through the years, such as audio codecs, very popular Firewire controllers, and the latest USB 3.0 components that are starting to show up.
Considering all of the above, VIA thought its best way to survive was to get into the CPU business and explore a niche in the x86 market that had been widely ignored except for a handful of products from guys like Nat Semi (who had originally bought up Cyrix). In the late 90s and early 00s there just was not much of a call for low power x86 products, and furthermore the industry was still at a point where even mundane productivity software would max out the top end x86 processors at the time. This was a time where 1GHz was still not common, and all processors were single core. Fast forward to 2011 and we have four and six core processors running in excess of 3 GHz. We have also seen a dramatic shift in the x86 realm to specialized, lower power processors.
Read on for more details!