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Intel tries to diversify as smartphones and tablets have no need for its processors

Posted in Industry updates, Sensor networks and devices by Manas Ganguly on January 8, 2014

Declassifying Inte’s future plans from the CEO’s CES key note address

Intel Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich will take the stage at the International Consumer Electronics Show with the message that the chipmaker will do what it takes to remain relevant as consumers switch to mobile devices for computing tasks.

Krzanich, who will make a keynote presentation at the trade show in Las Vegas, is set to feature a first public showing of some of the mobile and wearable technology from Intel’s New Devices division, led by former Apple executive Mike Bell. Krzanich could also emphasise how Intel has accelerated the pace at which it brings new products to market.

The world’s largest chipmaker, which dominates the market for semiconductors that run traditional computers, is seeking to branch out as consumers increasingly use smartphones and tablets that don’t contain Intel processors. With the personal-computer market forecast to decline for a third consecutive year and Intel failing to win significant market share in phones, Krzanich is working to ensure that the company doesn’t miss new opportunities such as wearable devices and other personal technology.

“PCs are slowing so you have to offset that with something else,” said Patrick Wang, an analyst at Evercore Partners in New York.

Intel Insular

The Santa Clara, California-based company, which Krzanich took over in May, remains heavily dependent on servers and PCs. Intel has more than 80% of the market for PC processors and more than 95% share in server chips, according to researcher IDC. In November, the company forecast that sales will be about the same as the $52.6 billion it will report for 2013, below the $53.7 billion analysts were projecting.

Since becoming CEO, Krzanich, a former semiconductor factory manager, has taken steps to diversify Intel’s business. He has said Intel will focus on providing what the market wants in chips rather than following the company’s traditional method of designing and producing products aimed at determining the direction of technology. In addition, the company’s plants, which Intel says are the industry’s most advanced, may produce chips for rivals, he said.

“However the market moves, wherever the compute need is, we want our products to do it best,” Krzanich said at a meeting at the company’s headquarters. “We’d become insular. We’d become focused on what was our best product rather than where the market was moving.”

Listen to the Market

The 53-year-old also has said he’s speeding up the time it takes from design to production of new chips and concentrating efforts on lower-power products. Intel has a new processor called Quark, which it’s trying to get into everything from household appliances to industrial equipment.

Krzanich’s openness to producing chips for other companies and to listening to what his customers want is a departure from predecessor Paul Otellini, who had said smartphones and tablets wouldn’t replace PC, says Stacy Rasgon, an analyst at Sanford C Bernstein & Co. “They had their head in the sand,” said Rasgon. “Their push now is to make sure they don’t get blindsided again.”

The CEO, who like his five predecessors was an internal appointment, may need to go further to make what Intel produces central again. While wearable devices could become the next billion-unit market, according to Rasgon, Intel isn’t fast enough at rolling out new products.

Wang said Intel’s factories might be its best bet for getting into new markets. The company will spend $11 billion this year on plants and equipment to maintain its lead in transistor technology. Intel said it is more than a year ahead of competitors in the manufacturing of the fundamental component of all semiconductors.

To participate in the market for smartwatches, glasses and the internet of things, where Intel has no track record in designing chips that are better than alternatives, the company should open its factories to rivals such as Qualcomm, which are more likely to win, said Wang. But that’s a step further than Krzanich may be ready to take.

Reported from Economic Times Article under the topic: CEP Chips in with Intel everywhere

Why Intel doesnot inspire any much confidence any more?

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Computing, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on August 7, 2013


As tablets continue to pound on Laptop and Netbook segments – and the Laptop/Netbook segment is at best projected to be stagnant if not decreasing in terms of y-o-y shipments it is difficult to harbor any significant optimism about Intel. Intel has been trying to migrate its business to the Handhelds given the impending fall of the Wintel Franchise. It is clearly trying to move away from the Wintel Monogamy to separate alliances with Android, Samsung (Tizen) apart from the Windows Phone platform. However, creating a platform with meaningful revenue stream to replace its Wintel franchise is a long shot – something it has not been able to do for a very long time.

Highlights of Intel’s Performance
Full-Year 2012 Key Financial Information and Business Unit Trends
Full-year revenue of $53.3 billion for FY2012
PC Client Group had revenue of $34.3 billion, down 3 percent from 2011.
Data Center Group had revenue of $10.7 billion, up 6 percent from 2011.
Other Intel architecture group had revenue of $4.4 billion, down 13 percent from 2011.
Gross margin of 58% not broken down by group.

I am listing out a few thoughts on the Intel prospects going forward-

1. Intel Versus Qualcomm: Qualcomm with its leadership of the mobile space is possibly Intel’s biggest competitor in the mobile space. What works for Qualcomm is its economies of scale – hence allowing it to price itself very suitably. Intel chips in its current state would be 5X costlier than Qualcomm.
2. Intel’s specialty was the Windows platform and its complete monopoly. I don’t think they can repeat the same success with Google’s Android because the spots are already taken.
3. The low end growth in volumes will be typically driven in low price markets such as India, SE Asia. In this segment, there are pretty strong guerillas such as MTK, Allwinner and even Qualcomm has a spot of bother targeting these segments
• The problem with these markets is that none of them seems to offer the kind of margins that Intel has become accustomed to–even *if* Intel is successful in those markets
4. Either in terms of competing with Qualcomm or finding new markets, If Intel was to beat the market by considerably pricing itself lower (assuming very high volumes) – it would impact its profit margins dearly.
5. Intel has been innovating at the high end of the market. Thus, the cleverness that has gone into Intel’s current generation of high-end processors is simply stunning, but the market that benefits from that cleverness, and the margin that goes with it, is disappearing.
6. The only saving grace to this equation could be Microsoft – but the platform had its share of problems with Windows 8 and I am not sure if Windows Blue can reverse the tide.
7. Intel’s share of the server markets is also under threat with the ARM architecture and Atom like low margin chips being purported to be lopping off a big chunk of the server markets in near future. The driver is the cost of electricity and of cooling data centers. (Low power rules)
8. The third of Intel’s strengths – high-reliability enterprise computing and high-end analytics for business or national security applications is also moving the IBM way. IBM doesnot make any profits on its processors – its makes it dough from the services.

Finally, from cumulative experience of high end technology industry – any incumbent Goliath who missed one technology cycle – cannot by any means play catch up unless it re-invents the whole industry yet again. Intel doesnot have to look too far – beyond Microsoft – to learn missing out a technology cycle and losing the plot.

The 2012 Intel Results

Qualcomm adds more teeth to its Snapdragon smartphone processors

Posted in Mobile Computing by Manas Ganguly on November 16, 2011

Follow up to an earlier post on Qualcomm microprocessors. reproduced from an article Qualcomm unveils new Snapdragon smartphone processors

Qualcomm unveiled a new class of its Snapdragon mobile processors today in an effort to maintain leadership in chips for smartphones and tablets.

The company announced its Snapdragon S4 class of mobile processors and enhanced its Snapdragon S1 chips for entry-level platforms. The S4 processors are aimed at lowering design, engineering and inventory costs while bringing the latest performance in 3G and 4G connection speeds to mobile data users. The company made the announcement at its analyst meeting in New York.

San Diego-based Qualcomm is trying to address the whole mobile market, from basic smartphones to high-end smartphones and tablets. The S4 chips are optimized for software that includes multimedia, connectivity, camera, display, security, power management, browsing, and natural user interface features. The S4 is a quad-core (four computing brains on one chip) chip built with a 28 nanometer manufacturing process.

Snapdragon chips are already in 300 smartphones and are in about 350 more that are under development. The heart of the new chips is the Krait central processing unit (CPU), which is built from the ground up for mobile performance and power management.

The new S4 chips include the MSM8660A, MSM8260A, MSM8630, MSM8230, MSM8627, MSM8227, APQ8060A and APQ8030. Devices based on the S4 processors will appear in early 2012. The new models of the low-end S1 chip are the MSM7225A, MSM7625A, MSM7227A and MSM7627A. Those chips are aimed at 2G and 3G phones. Rivals include Texas Instruments, Marvell, Broadcom and Nvidia.

Snapdragon has more than 225 design wins with 30 different Android smartphone manufacturers.

Smartphones are expected to sell 4 billion units between 2011 and 2015, according to estimates from Gartner, Strategy Analytics and IDC. Emerging regions are expected to be 50 percent of sales by 2015.

Qualcomm shipped more than 483 million MSMs, or modem chips, during its fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

Quad Core processing: NVIDIA Kal-El

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on September 8, 2011

A few months back, I had written about NVIDIA’s product roadmap of multi core microprocessors doing as much more as ever and yet as less energy as never seen. With such high processing speeds as upto 1.5Gig, the reason behind the claimed long battery life could be the manner in which the processors are made. If the ARM Cortex-A15 or the Cortex-A9 are produced with the <40nm method, they might be able to sustain an elongated battery life. This is probably the only way powerful quad-core chipsets can save such a significant amount of power.NVIDIA it seems is in a hurry to unveil Kal-El, its 2nd generation quad core micro-processor and pip Qualcomm Snapdragon in the battle of Quadcores. The Kal-El is rumoured to be featured and introduced on WP8 tablets. The Kal-El features an integrated graphics processor with an amazing 12 cores and can output at resolutions up to 2560 x 1600. It also offers stereo 3D without the need for extra software, which will be a boon for gamers and 3D movie fans alike. Kal-El’s real superpower might not be its speed, however. Unofficial specs suggest that Nvidia has made significant improvements to power consumption and efficiency with a possible battery life that could be measured in days, rather than hours. What this gives NVIDIA is a lead over the Qualcomm microprocessor in the multi-core microprocessor race.

While NVIDIA chipsets are found in more than 70% Android phones and are expected to be shipped alongwith 50% of the global superphone shipments, Kal-El will first be featured in a WP tablet. WP8 is said to be lean on power as well. WP8 Metro UI is borrowed from Windows Phone 7 and doesnt require the same amount of power that the UI running on traditional Windows desktops does. This, is because the applications on Metro are simpler than the more complicated professional programmes of older Windows operating systems.

Microsoft and NVIDIA are claiming that Windows 8 can run multiple programmes/multi task on powerful tablets using just an iota of the battery’s power. If this indeed is true, 2012 might just be the year that Microsoft makes a fortune!
Could this be the edge Microsoft needs against the iPad 2 and the Android’s?

The future in Microprocessing

Posted in Mobile Computing by Manas Ganguly on September 5, 2011

As the mobility revolution matures and smartphones start penetrating lower price brackets, Microprocessor chip makers such as Qualcomm and NVIDIA are becoming the superpowers of computing devices. According to a recent release by NVIDIA, revenue from NVIDIA’s mobile chip unit projected to mushroom tenfold by 2015, to a whopping $20 billion. Mobile processing sector will see very robust growth in the next 5 year horizon. It is estimated that there are about 100 million devices that will need chips this year — a figure that could soon rise to one billion, on the strength of more affordable smartphones, efficient ARM processors and the rise of ultra-thin notebooks. Between 2011-15, Gartner expects 4 billion smartphones being sold. Personally the 4bn number for smartphones appears to be a stretch given that it took Telecom industry a good decade and more to have 4bn subscribers on mobile networks. However, there are very many factors including price, better networks and mainstreaming of Internet that should benefit the massification of smartphones and tablets.

A few pointers in the general direction of microprocessors and computing given below:
1. Even while the demand for higher computing power increases and we would see more and more of dual and quad core processors, demand for graphics performance is also slated to increase.
2. Cloud based, Version and Platform independent technologies such as Microsoft’s Silverlight will play also feature in major roles in future cloud-based developments.
3. What this means for device manufacturers and content hosts is that the companies without a solid mobile strategy are “in deep turd.”
4. The only spanner in the wheel is that the ongoing patent wars between tablet and smartphone manufacturers may be a dampener to the growth projections for mobile computing even while immediate impact of the patent wars on mobile computing eco-system will not be too high .

Intel tries hard, very hard catching up on Tablets and Smartphones (The Roadmap thru to 2014)

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on July 1, 2011

Intel is finally getting its roadmap in place to address the Tablet and Smartphone markets, where it has not really established itself. With Tablets heavily eating into the laptop category, it is time that Intel marshalls its considerable resources to address new markets. Its first system-on-a-chip for tablets and smartphones–codenamed Medfield–will be a crucial component of that strategy, though chips that follow may be more important commercially. Medfield will arrive in the first half of 2012, followed by Clover Trail technology in the second half of 2012

Medfield marks Intel’s move to a 32-nanometer system-on-a-chip Atom processor for tablets and smartphones. At long last leaving 45-nanometer Atom processors behind. Generally, the smaller the chip geometry, the faster and/or more power efficient the chip is. Medfield is likely a single-core processor and the system-on-a-chip Clover Trail variety a dual-core chip

Clover Trail chip would be a good match for Windows 8 tablets and convertibles and should be in time for the new Microsoft operating system is expected to be released to consumers sometime in the second half of 2012.
• Medfield: first half 2012, single core, 32-nanometer
• Clover Trail: second half 2012, dual-core, 32-nanometer
• Silvermont: 2013, new Atom architecture, 22-nanometer
• Airmont: 2014, 14-nanometer

The only thing here is that while Intel dicusses deal core, many of its competitors like Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments are already discussing quad-core chips based on the ARM design. Nvidia for sure is bringing forth Quad core chips for tablets and high-end “super phones” by end of this year. Qualcomm and Texas Instruments are shipping dual-core ARM-based designs into products now with plans for quad-core later in 2012. And Apple’s next-generation A6 is rumored to be quad-core too. All this actually puts Intel at least one generation behind its competitors.

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