Posts Tagged Intel

Intel funds next-gen chipmaking, buys into ASML for $4.1 bn

SAN FRANCISCO: Intel Corp will spend more than $4 billion to buy a stake in ASML and bankroll its research into costly next-generation chipmaking technology, a major vote of confidence in the Dutch company that sent its US shares soaring 6 per cent on Monday.

Intel hopes to speed the adoption of the next generation of chip manufacturing processes from ASML by as much as two years. That will require intensive capital investment, but delivers billions of savings in future, analysts said.

ASML, the world’s largest maker of machines that etch circuits onto silicon wafers and a barometer for the chip sector, may want to spread the risk of developing cutting-edge chipmaking equipment, based on 450-millimeter wafer sizes and “extreme-ultraviolet” or EUV lithography.

Intel will acquire an initial 10 per cent stake in its European supplier and add another 5 per cent pending shareholders’ approval, for a total of about $3.1 billion. It also benefits by being able to move on to larger wafer sizes.

“The transition from one wafer size to the next has historically delivered a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in die cost,” Chief Operating Officer Brian Krzanich said in a statement. “The faster we do this, the sooner we can gain the benefit of productivity improvements.”

RBC Capital analyst Doug Freedman estimates Intel can save about $2 billion a year on 450mm processes, versus the current standard of 300mm. Larger silicon wafers lower production costs because more chips can be sliced off them.

Under the agreement, Intel gains no exclusive rights to future ASML products. But Freedman said Intel, as the sector leader, stands to gain if the overall industry benefits.

“I was a little surprised that ASML did not offer exclusivity or preferential access,” Freedman said. But “if in fact they’re lowering the cost of technology in emerging markets, you’re opening markets as well.”

MARKET SLOWING Intel and other chipmakers are grappling with slowing demand as consumers shift to mobile devices, and economic growth in Europe and even emerging markets is weakening. On Monday, Advanced Micro Devices warned its second-quarter revenue may slide 11 per cent, blaming disappointing demand from China and Europe.

A shift to cutting-edge EUV helps also push the natural progression of semiconductor technology advancement known as “Moore’s Law”, which posits that the average number of transistors packed on a chip doubles every 18 months.

The world’s top chipmaker will also help finance $1 billion of research into 450mm and extreme-ultraviolet chipmaking, both cutting-edge technologies that had been expected to emerge in the decade’s second half.

While many semiconductor companies outsource the fabrication of actual chips to third-party “foundries,” Intel is among the last remaining chipmakers that build and operate their own network of multibillion dollar production facilities, or “fabs”.

“If Intel is able to ramp 450mm production ahead of the world’s fabs such as TSMC or Global Foundries et al, it may yet prove that real men have fabs,” said John Jackson from CCS Insight. “There are signs that the global semiconductor fabrication sector is poised to realign.”

Intel is the first major chipmaker to sign up for ASML’s “customer investment” program, under which it hopes to enlist partners to fund expensive research into 450mm wafer technology, a more economical chipmaking process.

Under their agreement, Intel will pay 1.7 billion euros ($2.1 billion) for the initial 10 per cent slice of ASML, and a preliminary 553 million euros for research.

The pact also involves advance orders of next-generation ASML chipmaking gear, strengthening the Dutch firm’s assurance to move ahead in developing the technology.

Intel shares slid about 1 per cent to $25.87 after hours, from a close of $26.17 on Nasdaq. ASML shot up 6.3 per cent to $51.53 from a close of $48.46.

ASML competes with Japanese groups Canon and Nikon. Its clients include Intel and Samsung Electronics. ($1 = 0.8130 euros)

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Review: Lava Xolo X900

There’s something significant about this Android smartphone from Lava – it says Intel Inside on the back cover. In fact, Lava’s Xolo is the first Android smartphone powered by an Intel processor – a processor based on Intel’s Atom processor, which still does duty in netbooks. But what does this mean for you?

The new platform is codenamed Medfield and even though it’s a single architecture, it promises performance to match and even better many dual core smartphones. Making processors for smartphones is way different from making processors for desktops or laptops. That’s why the Atom processor here is modified for higher efficiency.

The Xolo is based on an Intel reference design. This means that it looks good and performs well. The flipside to this is that there may be other phones with exactly the same design. The device itself has a smart silver-black design and an even thickness throughout – similar to the current iPhone. The bright and responsive 4-inch screen has a 1024 x 600 pixel resolution which makes it very sharp. The 8MP camera also does 1080p video in acceptable quality. Battery life is about one day with normal use. We faced no issues with call quality.

You will notice that the phone is not very thermally efficient – the lower half of the device tends to get uncomfortably warm during extended use – especially when you’re taxing it with a game or HD movie. The battery is not user replaceable and we felt the device could do with better build quality. Coming to the price – it’s roughly Rs 22,000. This puts the Xolo at a disadvantage.

On one hand, it has Samsung’s Galaxy S Plus as competition. The Galaxy S Plus will not match the Xolo in performance, but it has Samsung’s excellent Amoled screen, plus the assurance that it comes from the world’s largest cellphone maker (by unit sales). You could also consider Motorola’s Atrix 2 – a dual core Android smartphone with better build quality, dual core processor, larger display (4.3-inch vs 4-inch), expandable storage, faster camera and similar performance levels for about the same price.

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Intel eyes future with computers that learn

TEL AVIV: Intel Corp is launching research in Israel into technology that mimics the human brain and develops devices that “learn” about their user.

“Machine learning is such a huge opportunity,” Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer, told reporters in Tel Aviv.

“Despite their name, smartphones are rather dumb devices. My smartphone doesn’t know anything more about me than when I got it,” he added.

“All of these devices will come to know us as individuals, will very much tailor themselves to us.”

The research, to be carried out by the Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Computational Intelligence along with specialists from the Technion in Haifa and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is aimed at enabling new applications, such as small, wearable computers that can enhance daily life.

For example if a user leaves his car keys in the house, the device will in the first week remember where he left them and by the second week will remind the user to pick up his keys before leaving home, Rattner said.

Such devices, which continually record what the user is doing, will be available by 2014 or 2015, he said.

“Within five years all of the human senses will be in computers and in 10 years we will have more transistors in one chip than neurons in the human brain,” said Moody Eden, president of Intel Israel.

Rattner said Intel is already implementing the new technology in digital signs it created for Adidas. The signs determine whether the shopper is male or female, adult or child and shows shoes suitable to that person.

He said this was part of Intel’s expansion beyond its traditional semiconductor business.

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