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Intel To Buy Smartphone Chipmaker Infineon For $2B 95

Posted by timothy
from the whatta-boggin dept.
sylverboss writes "Intel Corp., the world's largest chipmaker, is close to an agreement to buy Infineon Technologies AG's wireless business, three people with direct knowledge of the discussions said. When it comes to desktop, laptop and server chips, Intel's pretty much got a lock on the market but everyone can see the writing on the wall: mobile chips and architectures are the future of computing thanks to the popularity of smartphones, but Intel doesn't have anything to offer in that regard. Don't know Infineon? You should: they are the guys who have supplied Apple with their iPhone baseband chips since 2007."
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Intel To Buy Smartphone Chipmaker Infineon For $2B

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  • What about RAMBUS? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ELCouz (1338259) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @05:05PM (#33410664)
    Buying the Infineon RAM chipmaker will directly place Intel in competition with it's once best friend RAMBUS...
  • Atom? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @05:06PM (#33410668) Homepage Journal

    Intel's Atom chips are low power. They're not good for putting into smartphones?

    Are there some Infineon chips now used for only smartphones that will show up in netbooks? Do they run Linux? Do they run x86 instructions? And if not, will Intel sustain a product line that splits its main CPU culture away from x86?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 29, 2010 @05:47PM (#33410872)

    I'd be surprised if Apple didn't have the key IP in Third-party escrow, so if they
    go belly-up or get bought by Microsoft Apple can still get the chips they need.

  • Re:Infineon? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shoehornjob (1632387) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @06:02PM (#33410936)
    They don't have to be important..just big enough to attract the right kind of attention (it appears they have.)
  • by perlchild (582235) on Sunday August 29, 2010 @07:05PM (#33411232)

    The IP likely belongs to Apple, and wouldn't need third party escrow. On the other hand, even with the IP, a lack of supply is what killed the power pc in the first place. The same, but affecting the now higher profile iphone would be a disaster for Apple.

  • Re:Atom? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 29, 2010 @08:43PM (#33411622)

    Here in Toulouse* Intel has just hired back most of Freescale's cellphone/embedded R&D team (which was recently closed by Freescale along with the rest of its local fab) as well as test equipment, in order to work on system integration of ultra-mobile platforms. Since they definitely are targeting this market in the near future, I can see some logic in the buying of a baseband processor maker.

    (*: that's in France, for you yankees)

  • Re:Infineon? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mjwx (966435) on Monday August 30, 2010 @02:26AM (#33412786)

    Does that really mean they're important, though?

    What makes them important (to Intel) is that they are one of the worlds largest suppliers of Trusted Platform Modules (TPM). Which is also why I distrust any radio made by them, who better then a Trusted (treacherous) computing company to build a back door in for the manufacturer.

  • by mjwx (966435) on Monday August 30, 2010 @02:31AM (#33412802)

    I'd be surprised if Apple

    Why is everyone so obsessed with Apple?

    Infineon's Trusted Platform Module would be of far more interest to Intel as Infineon supplies TPM's to a lot of OEM's who shift more units per quarter then Apple has in the last 3 years. Not to mention the interest Intel's had in pushing Trusted Computing. I'd say expect TPM on die in future. Possibly an Atom based SOC but even Intel has already figured out how unlikely that is to take off compared to ARM SOC's.

  • Re:Infineon? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @05:36AM (#33413286)

    Yes and no. It is a major win for a few people on Intel's management team, but I doubt if this even pays to keep the lights on, let alone keep investors happy. These chips are usually the domain of Korean companies like Hynix, and a few other small-fry Japanese semis. Intel is DESPERATE to be something other than a high-volume, low-profit-margin CPU company. So, these chips cut the mustard on THAT score, sure enough; so I guess you could say 'Yes' to the small business win, but a really big NO to it making a difference in Intel's bottom-line. We are talking pennies per unit here -- this is not a big deal.

    Intel laid-off their entire wireless division back in 2003-2004 because a few of the big players in the cellphone market simply (and wisely) wouldn't allow Intel to get a foot-hold on their turf. Nothing has changed on this score, and Intel simply doesn't have a wireless future. They have no capabilities in this area; and the billions they spent on trying to build that capability the first time around ended up in the toilet. Also, as a fabbed-semiconductor company, Intel always needs to salt-away their billions every quarter to pay for foundry upgrades. And as a publically-traded company, they need the Jethro (cash) to pay dividends to their share-holders.

    So, in summary: 1) This chip deal is not meaningful in terms of Intel's bottom-line. 2) Intel is hurting; and their recent moves (McAffee, Infineon) are increasingly desperate efforts at finding new revenue streams. 3) The entire semiconductor industry has been undergoing consolidation for some time now (spinoffs are another form of consolidation -- they allow the parent company to consolidate their resources). Intel can be expected to do something along these lines soon; as their ever-increasing layoffs are starting to bite into their numbers and growth prospects.

    Lastly -- and in my mind, this is the biggee -- the entire semiconductor industry is getting pretty old these days, and so are their technologies. Planar CMOS (or planar BiCMOS, or planar sapphire substrate, or planar-anything-else) is starting to sound like DSP, or RADAR. This stuff is OLD, folks. Semiconductors are now VERY mature technologies. Their science is old, and there really isn't anything new in this field left to talk about, let alone do research on anymore. It's a dead field. And Intel is on the wrong side of that field. They have all of their 'chips' in the wrong basket. IBM, for the most part, got out of this business a long time ago. Intel should have followed suit. But they didn't, and in another 12-24 months or so, that company is going to be gone. Intel's fate as a company was sealed ten years ago when their management made critical mistakes about their corporate direction.

    Ever hear of Westinghouse? I didn't think so. Guess what -- your kids won't know what 'Intel Corporation' is, either.

  • Re:Different makret (Score:5, Interesting)

    by asliarun (636603) on Monday August 30, 2010 @06:14AM (#33413382)

    The intersect is going to start happening later this year when Intel releases Moorestown. Moorestown is a ground-up redesigned architecture that will still run x86, and will idle at 23mW and play video at 1.1W [anandtech.com]. It will also give about 2X performance increase over current ARM designs, although the 1.1W power consumption will probably mean that it will only end up in tablets, MIDs, and PMPs. For naysayers who keep bashing how wasteful x86 is (which it is) and how it will never compete with ARM, note the power consumption in idle.

    The real intersect will happen when Intel releases Medfield [anandtech.com], the next generation of Moorestown, probably in Q4 of 2011.

    One caveat to this is the fact that by the time Intel releases Moorestown and Medfield, ARM performance would have also increased to an extent that Moorestown's performance edge may only be a small one (although ARM's power consumption also seems to be increasing). On the other hand, x86 (and Linux) support may be a strong reason for companies to migrate to this platform.

    I disagree with your views on Intel/Windows. Firstly, your notion is quite outdated - in the mobile space, Intel is actually pushing Linux very strongly in the form of Moblin, and is really not trying to shove Windows down everyone's throat.

    Secondly, and more interestingly, MS itself recognizes how unsuitable Windows is in mobile devices. Take a look at the extent to which MS has redesigned Windows Mobile 7 - I strongly suspect that it will be a viable challenger to Android and Apple in the near future.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:01AM (#33414012) Journal

    It's not like you can just email some zipped-up files off to a fab and get chips back in a few weeks

    Actually, you can, for lots as small as a few hundred. It's very expensive doing it that way, but there are quite a few companies that offer precisely that service. If you talk to ARM, they have agreements in place with a few fab companies that let you license a core from ARM, add your own on-die peripherals to the design, and get the whole SoC produced by one of ARM's partners.

    A lot of Intel's advantage comes from the fact that they invest heavily in research related to manufacturing techniques, so they tend to be at least half a generation ahead of their competitors in terms of fabrication processes. Switching to producing a new design in one of their fabs is surprisingly quick these days, and it's something they've been focussing on since the mid '90s when they found they had incorrectly estimated demand for several of their products.

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