Saturday, September 18, 2021

Intel Throws Down the Gauntlet

Intel , faced with continuing uncertainty in its
traditional bread-and-butter market — PC chips — has been pushing hard to
take share in a market where other semiconductor companies, like Texas
Instruments, Intersil and Motorola, rule the roost: communications chips.

At the same time, Intel does not plan to leave its core business
languishing. In fact, while it made a play for the communications space
with high-speed, low-cost chips Monday, it also unveiled 11 new mobile PC
processors, designed to help keep it on top of the PC market as computing
continues to move away from the desktop and onto the notebook.

Intel has already developed itself into a leader in the Flash memory
market, used in devices like cell phones. Flash memory is one of the few
areas where Intel has experienced growth lately. By expanding into the
communications chip market, the firm hopes to further diversify its revenue
streams, though the communications market has not been going through the
best of times, either. And Intel’s nascent communications business faces
stiff competition from entrenched competitors, unlike the PC space, which
it more or less owns, though AMD stands ready to capitalize on any
missteps.

But Intel Monday also asked its communications competitors to step up to
the plate
Monday, when the chip giant announced plans to use high-speed silicon
germanium transistors and “mixed-signal” circuitry to create a “new wave of
faster, more integrated, less-costly communications chips” which could be
used for single-chip hand-held devices like cell phones and wireless data
network devices.

Silicon germanium increases the speed and reduces the noise of transistors
for high-speed communications equipment like optical switches and wireless
base stations.

The plan calls for Intel to use silicon germanium to add communications
capabilities to its 90-nanometer manufacturing process, allowing the firm
to combine analog and digital functions on a single chip, thereby allowing
it to integrate critical analog components directly onto silicon and change
the way some functions are implemented. At the same time, the company will
manufacture the chip on its 300-mm wafers, reducing manufacturing costs.

The company said silicon germanium and CMOS transistor circuitry on its
90-nm process could cut the number of chips and processes used to create an
optical subsystem in half, or allow connection of wireless components
directly to antennae without intervening circuitry that consumes space and
power.

“This integration of computing and communications technologies will enable
us to create microchips that are twice as fast, contain 2.5 times more
transistors, and are substantially less expensive than anything that exists
today,” said Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president and general
manager of the Intel Communications Group. “The combination of
mixed-signal, silicon germanium, and our most advanced CMOS manufacturing
process will bring the benefits of Moore’s Law to communications silicon
and help keep Intel at least a generation ahead of the competition.”

Moore’s Law, named for Intel founder Gordon Moore, states that the number
of transistors on a chip doubles about every two years.

Intel expects to have its new chips ready to ship in early 2004.

Meanwhile, on the traditional PC chip front, Intel unleashed 11 new mobile
PC processors (6 Pentiums and 5 Celerons), including the Mobile Intel
Pentium 4 Processor — M (400 MHz PSB), which boasts 2.2 GHz (1.2 GHz in
battery mode), while still averaging a draw of less than 2.2 watts in
battery mode. For the really battery conscious, Intel released two chips at
the other end of the scale, the Ultra Low Voltage Mobile Intel Pentium III
Processor — M (133 MHz PSB and 100 MHz PSB, respectively), which feature
866 MHz/400 MHz in battery mode and 850 MHz/400 MHz in battery mode, while
drawing less than 0.5 Watt.

The other three mobile Pentium chips fall between the mobile Pentium 4 and
the Ultra Low Voltage Mobile Pentium IIIs in horsepower and power
consumption.

The Celeron additions range from 1.80 MHz to 700 MHz.

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