“In 2005, Apple moved to Intel to gain equality. In 2020, it’s moved away from Intel to gain superiority,” writes Ken Segall. He worked for Apple and was also part of Intel’s advertising agency team, so he knows a thing or two about the two companies. “By unveiling the M1 processor, Apple has exposed its Moon Monolith to the sun, marking a major inflection point in its existence. ” A fun piece to read, especially if, like me, you are gobsmacked by the audacity of Apple’s chip ambitions.
Is it time to SoC the CPU?
The M1, the first member of the Apple Silicon family focused on laptops and desktop computers, is taking the battle that has been brewing for a long time right into the enemy camp. It is poised to pull down the curtains on CPUs as we have known them. After nearly five decades — Intel 4004 … Continue reading Is it time to SoC the CPU?
Return of the old fashioned
A lot of old tech ideas are back in fashion thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. A few weeks back, Intel announced that — thanks to the immediate need for people to work from home, and in many cases, learn from home — it saw a sudden spurt in the sales of laptops. 1 Logitech, … Continue reading Return of the old fashioned
Intel’s Mobile Problem
While a lot of digital ink has been spilled on Apple’s retreat, somewhat lost in the shuffle is Intel’s failing grade when it comes to cashing in on mobile opportunities. Soon after the arrangement with Apple fell apart, Intel announced that it was exiting the 5G mobile modem business. This move was undoubtedly related to losing their only customer of consequence. To be sure, the Cupertino Counts can be demanding customers. But without Apple’s orders, Intel can’t pay for the ever-increasing costs of a cutting-edge chip fabrication plant. Continue reading “Intel’s Mobile Problem”
CES, Say What?
So finally got done reading all the articles worth reading on CES and finished watching the keynotes. YouTube and Netflix executives were the only ones who had anything meaningful to say, mostly because they are doing things that are not conventional. But apart from that, I was glad I didn’t break my streak and get … Continue reading CES, Say What?
Chipmakers want to AI
What This Chart Says About the Tech Sector
Here is a quick snapshot of the stock performances of key technology companies over the past year, from Aug. 8, 2014, to Aug. 7, 2015. And here are a few takeaways: Oracle, Intel and HP are in the red, because clearly the market thinks they are part of the legacy Silicon Valley and are slowly ceding their … Continue reading What This Chart Says About the Tech Sector
It is a damn shame to see AMD fall on tough times. They were always a great story. Every new chip breakthrough invigorated interest in the company. For a while their chips powered my home-assembled, constantly upgraded PCs that I used to put together in my NYC East Village apartment. I still remember this beautiful 15-inch gaming laptop — Ferrari logo and seriously fast and powered by AMD. It had great graphics, terrible battery and would warm up a cold apartment. The fans were like two turbochargers. I played Age of Empires on many a few cold winter nights. The computer almost always got me in the end, much like Intel got AMD.
From the very day I started covering the semiconductor industry, I have thought of Advanced Micro Devices as an interesting, slightly crazy and yet fun upstart. I can’t remember when it shed its “perennial also ran” status. Its founder and chief executive Jerry Sanders was a colorful man, known for his luxe lifestyle and one-liners that even Aaron Levie can’t match. He was a consummate salesman, a great marketer and started the company with seven colleagues from Fairchild in 1969. And he lacked fiscal discipline and lived larger than his means — which ultimately became the company’s culture and its undoing. It started out strong and had about a dozen great years but the rise of the PC turned it into the bridesmaid, but never the bride. And ever so often the company would come up with a new chip to compete with Chipzilla, a moniker The Register founder Mike Magee had for Intel Corp.
For most of its life, the company was an underdog and relished in that role. It was essentially a second-source supplier to companies that were using Intel’s chip. It has a technology agreement with the giant chip maker and it always wanted to figure out its own path. Intel, especially under the leadership of Andy Grove was so good and dominant and rich that even when AMD seemed to have good products, Intel would muscle its way ahead through sheer financial power. Still, AMD did a lot of interesting things — and in fact pushed the envelope for a few years.
In 1995, AMD acquired a company called NexGen and that sowed the seeds of what would become AMD’s rise to glory. In 1997, the company released K6 chip the slow resurgence started. Then came K7, dubbed Athlon. From 1999, when it released its Athlon line-up of chips to 2005, the company produced great chips and the market responded accordingly. AMD even filed a law-suit against Intel for anticompetitive business practices — the good old days when being a reporter was really a lot of fun and you could read legal documents at leisure.
One has to tip one’s hat to AMD’s engineers. (Many have made their way to Apple by the way.) AMD was first to put memory controllers on the CPU and lead the way on putting more capabilities on the CPU itself. It came up with 64-bit extensions and even Intel licensed their x86-64 technology. It went after the server market with its Opteron processors and carved up nearly 25 percent of the server processor market. It pushed multicore processing technologies hard. However, all these were for naught as the company was spending money on fabs and facilities. Sanders is rumored to have once quipped, “Real men have fabs.”
Sanders’ bombast and a whole lot of other executive suite challenges have kept the company from realizing its true potential. It has been run by many chief executives and none of them could stall the slow-motion tailspin. It was always buying a company (NexGen, ATI Technologies, Alchemy, Geode, SeaMicro) or selling/spinning off its divisions (to Spansion, GlobalFoundries, Qualcomm, Broadcom and others), restructuring or doing something — anything really to find a way ahead. AMD perfected the art of activity without achievement, and allowed Intel to stay dominant.
AMD can blame Intel and the markets for its eventual downfall, but the troubles are its own making. AMD’s long standing problem has been mismanagement and big-spending ways. It was apparent even in the halcyon days — and you could pick up that attitude from the executive. Even as late as 2008, when I simply backed away from writing about chips, the company was in denial about its future. It was becoming a flash memory company with some microprocessor and graphics chip business. It was one big tangled mess, according to Ars Technica which ran a two part series on the company’s troubles — it’s worth a read.
AMD, in many ways is a perfect example of a company that had the right ideas, could find the right technical talent and yet couldn’t execute on its own plans, brought down by hubris. I have seen this many times in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, the most recent being Nokia, which too was a great company with smart people and smarter ideas, but too beholden to an image and carriers.
Here is what I wrote this week
Here are my posts over on GigaOm from this week: Realtime & the off switch: The internet is going to get a lot more real-time in 2013, and in years to come. And that means a constant stream of information and updates. Since the genie is out of the bottle, how about an off-switch for better … Continue reading Here is what I wrote this week
Why Intel Will Be a Mobile Loser
Intel (s INTC), as it’s wont to do, overnight made a splashy unveiling of a new family of processors: the Atom Z6xx series, whose chips are much more powerful than current versions but consume less power. Why the hoopla? Apparently these chips, which run at over 1.5 GHz, can be used to power not only … Continue reading Why Intel Will Be a Mobile Loser