Move over, Intel
So far, Marvell hasn't been known for chips that can power an entire laptop, desktop, or server system. The company's specialty lies in designing single-chip solutions for consumer electronics, mobile gadgets, and other not-quite-a-computer devices. That may be about to change, though.
Marvell is introducing some real plug-and-play systems right now. The Sheeva processor is an ultracompact implementation of ARM processor technology from ARM Holdings
Looking at the Sheeva, you might mistake it for a simple power brick. Marvell claims that one of these minuscule systems will draw one-tenth the power of a traditional server like the one humming along in my closet, despite rather impressive specifications. Consumer-friendly vendors like Seagate Technology
I wouldn't be surprised to see this platform giving birth to a proliferation of simple media servers, remote storage systems with advanced content management software, and simple turnkey Web servers for private use. And I'm sure I left out several juicy niche markets.
If Marvell is stealing any sales from the usual processor suspects here, it'd be at the very low end of Atom processors and minicube systems. It's more likely that Marvell is creating a new market here, which could encourage consumers everywhere to install little servers they never knew they needed.
As such, the whole platform was born at an awkward time, because regular Joes and Jills with spare cash are hard to come by. The Sheeva project may make a lot of money for Marvell, but it will take some time growing into its breeches. It's an investable product, but only if you're planning to buy and hold for the long term.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in AMD, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.