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Intel Businesses Hardware

Intel Opens Doors To Rivals, Maybe 59

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the one-foundry-to-rule-them-all dept.
Rambo Tribble writes "In what appears to be a major reversal of policy, Intel's new president, Renee James, has indicated that Intel will be open to manufacturing chips based on rivals' designs. While the language is a bit tentative, this appears to open an opportunity for such as ARM to benefit from Intel's manufacturing expertise and technology." From the article: "James said Intel will evaluate prospective foundry clients on a 'deal by deal basis, not on an architecture by architecture basis.' That applies, James said, 'even in areas where there may be some competition with businesses that we’re in.'" Intel is already manufacturing FPGAs for Altera that include 64-bit ARM cores.
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Intel Opens Doors To Rivals, Maybe

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  • Will be among their first clients...

    • Re:Probably Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday November 23, 2013 @02:30PM (#45502403) Journal

      I would hope so. Friends in the chip design world have told me that Apple could save about 20% of the power draw on their A-series CPUs if they had access to intel's fab process.

      -jcr

      • Re:Probably Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rockoon (1252108) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @02:50PM (#45502571)
        There is no chance that Intel would rent out its best fabs.

        The reality is that Intel has a growing number of out-dated fabs that are not utilizing full capacity, and it wants to sell time on those.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Apple could buy Intel, at least in theory. They have cash reserves of $147 Billion - Intel's market cap is only $118 Billion.

          • Computing would enter the dark ages.

          • by Kjella (173770)

            Apple could buy Intel, at least in theory. They have cash reserves of $147 Billion - Intel's market cap is only $118 Billion.

            They could, but it'd be pointless for the same reason nobody wants to gobble up AMD for 2-3 billion. All those cross licensing deals would become invalid (like for example x86-64 that AMD invented) and they'd have a nightmare trying to relicense it.

          • Apple could buy Intel, at least in theory. They have cash reserves of $147 Billion - Intel's market cap is only $118 Billion.

            That's a sad commentary on the state of the "tech" world. Designing cell phones and the like is not trivial, but it's much less sophisticated than designing and building the components that almost all cell phone manufacturers buy. I believe Apple designs some of their digital chips, but are they redesigning every detail of the ARM for higher performance like Qualcomm does w/ Snapdragon? By far and away the most sophisticated and difficult to design chips in a cell phone (smart or dumb) are the mixed-signal/

            • by willy_me (212994)

              but are they redesigning every detail of the ARM for higher performance like Qualcomm does w/ Snapdragon?

              yes. Apple has purchased several companies that specialize in ASIC design and the latest A6 CPU is the fruit of their labor. It is very different from other ARM processors on the market so this should not be much of a surprise.

              an iPhone is basically just a systems integration job, with the sophisticated core tech bought from elsewhere

              To a certain point, yes. But using that same logic, all other cell phone manufacturers are even worse. And there is nothing wrong with contracting out design when a company requires a unique part. There are times you want to do it in-house and times when contracting out is the

              • by Guy Harris (3803)

                but are they redesigning every detail of the ARM for higher performance like Qualcomm does w/ Snapdragon?

                yes. Apple has purchased several companies that specialize in ASIC design and the latest A6 CPU is the fruit of their labor. It is very different from other ARM processors on the market so this should not be much of a surprise.

                The latest CPU is the A7, which is also different from other ARM processors on the market (for one thing, by implementing the ARMv8-A 64-bit architecture; I think it's the only currently-shipping 64-bit ARM processor).

                • by tlhIngan (30335)

                  The latest CPU is the A7, which is also different from other ARM processors on the market (for one thing, by implementing the ARMv8-A 64-bit architecture; I think it's the only currently-shipping 64-bit ARM processor).

                  It is, actually - every other 64-bit solution aims to ship in 2014, and Android I think is only scheduled to get 64-bit support in late 2014 as well.

                  And you want to know why the A7 is so fast? The ARMv8 architecture changes up how ARMs work so they're much more efficient - and faster. The A7 o

                  • by Ottibus (753944)

                    Android I think is only scheduled to get 64-bit support in late 2014 as well.

                    I suspect that Android will get 64-bit support when there is a phone that needs it, but it feels like that will be closer to the middle of 2014 rather than the end.

                    I'm sure Intel's worried - the latest Bay Trail Atoms are basically even with the A7 in performance.

                    And Bay Trail is on a newer 22nm process compared to A7's 28nm. I don't know the mind of Intel, but they have to be concerned that their "process advantage" is still not delivering concrete benefits.

              • using that same logic, all other cell phone manufacturers are even worse

                I mentioned Apple in particular only because somebody pointed out their cash hoard is bigger than Intel's market cap.

                there is nothing wrong with contracting out design when a company requires a unique part

                Of course not - where did so much as suggest there was? Though in many cases they're looking for a customization of otherwise OTS stuff, which is stretching the implication of the word "unique".

                Apple performs more in-house design then any other cell phone manufacturer.

                My point was that that's not saying much.

                Only Samsung comes close - but their displays are developed a separate division and sold to everyone so it really doesn't count.

                How does that not count? It's Samsung. They design and build OLED displays. Actually having serious tech means they make more money selling the stuff on the ope

          • by Luckyo (1726890)

            Intel likely has a poison pill and its stock price would explode the moment anyone big would try for such a move.

            Not to even begin talking about trying to clear such a deal with monopoly watchdogs. Good luck with that.

          • by shentino (1139071)

            would the DOJ allow it on antitrust grounds?

          • by MysteriousPreacher (702266) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @08:32PM (#45504575) Journal

            Apple could buy Intel, at least in theory. They have cash reserves of $147 Billion - Intel's market cap is only $118 Billion.

            That's exactly how it works.

            Scene 1: The stockbroker's office

            Tim Cook enters the office of his stockbroker, carrying a briefcase and looking determined.

            Cook: Good morrow, old chap.
            Stockbroker: Ah, Mr. Cook. Do please take a seat and explain how I may be of service?
            Cook: I'd like to buy Intel shares.
            Stockbroker: Excellent choice, sir. What quantity did you have in mind?
            Cook: All of them
            Stockbroker: Right away, Mr. Cook. Cash or credit?

            Cook opens a suitcase to reveal $118 billion in billion dollar notes.

            Cook: Cash, of course. Jeeves, ready my stealth jet.
            Jeeves: Very good, sir. Where to?
            Cook: Santa Clara.
            Jeeves: Yes, sir.

            Scene 2: The Intel boardroom

            Tim Cook strides in to the boardroom, smoking a cigar and eyeing the decor.

            Krzanich: Cook, you can't come barging in here!
            Cook: I think not, old friend. For I just bought Intel!
            Krzanich: How?
            Cook: I read an informative post on Slashdot in which it was explained how it was as easy as having money equal to the market cap. I'll need to ask you to leave.
            Krzanich: Damn it! I didn't think anyone knew this!
            Jeeves: Shall I begin construction of your Tony Stark-like secret labs under the building, where you may commence work on powered armour or something similar, sir?
            Cook: Yes, Jeeves. That would be awesome - Awesome to the max!

        • by kjc197 (235890)

          There is no chance that Intel would rent out its best fabs.

          The reality is that Intel has a growing number of out-dated fabs that are not utilizing full capacity, and it wants to sell time on those.

          Not really... The Altera announcment was on 14nm Tri-Gate, which is not exactly out-dated, more cutting edge.

        • Re:Probably Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

          by whistlingtony (691548) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @06:03PM (#45503819)
          Intel has a "copy exactly" policy. Every fab is Intel's "best fab", mainly because maintaining different processes across sites would be a logistical nightmare. Also, I'm sitting in Intel's "best fab", and we run this stuff. So. Nope.
          • This is simply not true. Intel has copy-exactly but that does not mean every fab manufacturers products on every process. It means P1272 is the same everywhere, not that every fab has P1274 or whatever the latest is.
        • by jcr (53032)

          There is no chance that Intel would rent out its best fabs.

          What's your next guess?

          Apple is a very important customer to Intel.

          -jcr

          • Rubbish. The margins on manufacturing Apple's chips would be less than manufacturing their own. Apple would be lucky to get 22nm.
        • There were a whole series of stories in the EE Times about 18 months ago when Intel started selling capacity on their then leading-edge fab line. The reality at the time was that Intel couldn't sell enough parts to keep the line full, and were going to eventually have to take big write-downs unless they found a way for the line to generate more revenue. That continues to be true. The really interesting event over the last 18 months has been the announcements by a number of Far East foundry companies that
  • If you are going to run a silicon foundry business then telling your customers what not to invent is not a strong position.
    • by SpzToid (869795)

      True. But only when/if Intel chooses not to be in the simple foundry business. When they choose to be market leaders, they've also chosen to give themselves enough wiggle-room to opt out of less-desirable deals. Intel wants to do both engineering of, *and* commodity production of, silicon.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Well, what they're doing historically is running a vertically integrated silicon foundry / chip-design business, not simply doing those two things independently. So they usually make sure neither side does anything to jeopardize the other, and if anything actively works to maximize the success of the other half. That can, in some contexts, be more profitable than running them as independent businesses that treat third-party customers neutrally. It's also usually legal unless you have a monopoly. If Intel ha

  • considering ARM is a fabless IC designer, i dont think they are going to jump on this offer.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not ARM directly, but for many of the fabless ARM-licensees.

      For example: Apple.

      Which already has a huge partnership with Apple. So if Intel has excess manufacturing capacity, why not lease it out to partners?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ARM is a fabless IC designer

      I think you meant to say, Arm is FABULOUS!!! sweetums!

  • IF intel would allow nvidia to print its chips @ intel (and I say if, because they now are kind of competitors with the xeon phi and co. ).
  • AMD may benefit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Forever Wondering (2506940) on Saturday November 23, 2013 @04:23PM (#45503193)

    This forces Global Foundries to be more competitive with Intel, which benefits AMD.

    GF, TMSC, etc. have been riding the [profitable] curve of being a generation back. That is, Intel is always a generation [or two] ahead, but also incurs significant R&D costs to do so. The competitors could wait and get the same results for far less investment in R&D. They could do this because Intel wasn't competing with them [by producing ASIC's, FPGA's, etc.]

    This forces the non-Intel foundries to produce cutting edge stuff sooner. AMD was a big chagrined after spinning off GF and seeing it fall back into the TMSC model [making AMD less competitive against Intel].

    The benefit for Intel is trifold:
    - More ROI for their expensive fabs. Previously, costs were always recovered because the PC market was always expanding. With this now shrinking, a nextgen Intel fab may need to do piece work to stay profitable.
    - Forcing the competition to compete head on [with the increased costs of being first generation], weakening them in the process [pun intended].
    - A toe-in-the-water with ARM and mobile space [Atom notwithstanding] as a hedge against x86 arch going the way of the dinosaurs [without the stigma to x86 of a full fledged announcement of direct ARM support].

    • by gtall (79522)

      Intel cannot make money on ARM. My own opinion is that this is an attempt to knacker ARM development. No company should take Intel up on this.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        ARM is starting to encroach on x86 in the server space:
        - lower data center power requirements
        - they're coming out with a 64 bit version
        - ARM has a much smaller die footprint.
        Intel must do ARM to stay in that game.

        ARM would not be Intel's first foray into alternate architectures for x86 [8080, 8085, 8086, 80186, 80286, 80386, 486, 586, 686]. Remember Itanium [;-)] but also the 432. The Itanium and 432 didn't pan out because [the market for] x86 was so strong, but this indicates that while Intel is wedded t

        • by mikael (484)

          Intel could always do as they do and move to higher performance systems.

          Could this be a way of Intel to learn about ARM's technology and go one better? There are so many ways of optimizing CPU's now - more pipeline stages, lookahead stages, more registers, more cache, custom logic units, custom track layout, internal instruction sets. Intel themselves have said that their CPU's actually convert legacy x86 code into internal RISC instruction set code. So in theory, they could do the same with ARM code.

        • Long term, Intel must become a foundry because it will lose its process generation edge

          Maybe. It sure looks like they're running into some pretty serious problems. EUV doesn't seem to be working out. Someday Moore's law has to end, but I've heard it predicted so many times that I take a wait and see attitude.

          Intel's bleeding edge graphene? Who knows.

          • You're right. Graphene is probably the future. I think so too. If the [zero] bandgap problem can be solved. There was an article on /. recently indicating that somebody had made a breakthrough here. As an interim, graphene might be useful in replacing the copper/aluminum intrachip interconnect.

            A graphene processor running at 100GHz would [probably] outperform a 32 core x86. Initially, a graphene chip would probably have far fewer gates. Thus, a true RISC ISA [like ARM] would be the logical choice. I

        • Every benchmark ive seen suggests that noone comes remotely close to the performance or power-per-performance of a bog standard Xeon.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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