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Intel To Buy Smartphone Chipmaker Infineon For $2B

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the whatta-boggin dept.

Intel 95

sylverboss writes "Intel Corp., the world's largest chipmaker, is close to an agreement to buy Infineon Technologies AG's wireless business, three people with direct knowledge of the discussions said. When it comes to desktop, laptop and server chips, Intel's pretty much got a lock on the market but everyone can see the writing on the wall: mobile chips and architectures are the future of computing thanks to the popularity of smartphones, but Intel doesn't have anything to offer in that regard. Don't know Infineon? You should: they are the guys who have supplied Apple with their iPhone baseband chips since 2007."

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Infineon? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33410600)

"they are the guys who have supplied Apple with their iPhone baseband chips since 2007."

Does that really mean they're important, though?

Re:Infineon? (2, Informative)

ELCouz (1338259) | about 4 years ago | (#33410688)

they make a lot of chip including RAM. They have a big market share for the memory.... just look a their competitors... TI, Broadcom, STMicroelectronics, Marvell, Freescale, NXP, Renesas, International Rectifier, Fairchild Semiconductor, Semikron, Dynex Semiconductor. Yup, definitively an important company!

Re:Infineon? (5, Informative)

klingens (147173) | about 4 years ago | (#33410744)

Infineon hasn't made RAM for 4 years now when they spun off Qimonda. Qimonda itself went bankrupt early 2009.

Re:Infineon? (1)

treeves (963993) | about 4 years ago | (#33420916)

...Marvell...

Anyone remember who bought Intel's wireless chip division....yep, Marvell. Ooops.
Well, I guess Infineon is bigger.

Re:Infineon? (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 4 years ago | (#33410690)

I think it means two things:
1) They are a big enough player that they can supply Apple with key components for a widely distributed product.
2) If they sell to Apple they probably sell something to other large handset makers.

Re:Infineon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411104)

But is Infineon indispensable?

Re:Infineon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411154)

But is Infineon indispensable?

important != indispensable

Re:Infineon? (5, Insightful)

forkazoo (138186) | about 4 years ago | (#33410730)

"they are the guys who have supplied Apple with their iPhone baseband chips since 2007."

Does that really mean they're important, though?

Not in isolation, no. It is, OTOH, an example of a very high profile contract, which suggests that they are sufficiently stable in the rest of their business that Apple would be willing to trust doing business with them, without having to fear them suddenly going bankrupt and cutting off supply of a key part. Given that the company is important enough that it would be impossible to list every example of a device that uses an Infineon chip in tfS, the iPhone was probably the most effective example to use.

Escrow arrangements are probably in place. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33410872)

I'd be surprised if Apple didn't have the key IP in Third-party escrow, so if they
go belly-up or get bought by Microsoft Apple can still get the chips they need.

Re:Escrow arrangements are probably in place. (3, Interesting)

perlchild (582235) | about 4 years ago | (#33411232)

The IP likely belongs to Apple, and wouldn't need third party escrow. On the other hand, even with the IP, a lack of supply is what killed the power pc in the first place. The same, but affecting the now higher profile iphone would be a disaster for Apple.

Re:Escrow arrangements are probably in place. (3, Insightful)

mikrorechner (621077) | about 4 years ago | (#33412936)

The IP of the baseband chips Infineon makes (GSM, 3G radio) most definitely does not belong to Apple.

Infineon also sells the same chips to Samsung and Nokia. As one of the parents wrote, Apple may be their highest profile customer, but it certainly isn't their biggest.

Re:Escrow arrangements are probably in place. (2, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#33411296)

IP isn't the only factor when it comes to chips. It's not like you can just email some zipped-up files off to a fab and get chips back in a few weeks (like you usually can with PCBs); there's a lot more to it than that. So even if you have all the IP, masks, etc., there's still a significant and costly ramp-up time at whatever fab you choose to supply you with the chips.

Re:Escrow arrangements are probably in place. (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#33414012)

It's not like you can just email some zipped-up files off to a fab and get chips back in a few weeks

Actually, you can, for lots as small as a few hundred. It's very expensive doing it that way, but there are quite a few companies that offer precisely that service. If you talk to ARM, they have agreements in place with a few fab companies that let you license a core from ARM, add your own on-die peripherals to the design, and get the whole SoC produced by one of ARM's partners.

A lot of Intel's advantage comes from the fact that they invest heavily in research related to manufacturing techniques, so they tend to be at least half a generation ahead of their competitors in terms of fabrication processes. Switching to producing a new design in one of their fabs is surprisingly quick these days, and it's something they've been focussing on since the mid '90s when they found they had incorrectly estimated demand for several of their products.

Re:Escrow arrangements are probably in place. (2, Interesting)

mjwx (966435) | about 4 years ago | (#33412802)

I'd be surprised if Apple

Why is everyone so obsessed with Apple?

Infineon's Trusted Platform Module would be of far more interest to Intel as Infineon supplies TPM's to a lot of OEM's who shift more units per quarter then Apple has in the last 3 years. Not to mention the interest Intel's had in pushing Trusted Computing. I'd say expect TPM on die in future. Possibly an Atom based SOC but even Intel has already figured out how unlikely that is to take off compared to ARM SOC's.

Re:Escrow arrangements are probably in place. (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | about 4 years ago | (#33413808)

Why is everyone so obsessed with Apple?

Because there's a who category here and there's at least one story a day on the company or some iNoun thing and it just builds up from there.

I would've guessed DIMMs... (1)

Junta (36770) | about 4 years ago | (#33414192)

I don't think TPM-on-Die is something that Intel would've needed to shell out $2B for. It's a straightforward device designed to be implementable with as little cost as possible. Intel has done far more complex things in house and adding TPM on-die would probably take them a trivial amount of time if they cared to do so. Putting aside that, I don't see that as a huge differentiator in the market. First, because even if people by large explicitly cared, then AMD could easily do it too, and even if they didn't, I'm told that TPMs are dirt cheap, so having them on a system board is trivial. Secondly, there are some who care, but by and large this stuff is simply flat out ignored by the vast majority of the market. TPMs are nearly ubiquitous as they are mandated by certain industry standards, not due to overwhelming explicit customer interest. Finally, for those that do care, it's a boolean, does it exist, or does it not. There's no comparison of any performance metric (TPMs can be slower/faster, but no one cares today), so the only metric a system vendor cares about is price, i.e. for TPM market it's a race to the cheapest. Intel's MO has not been about investing huge amounts to get into a market that by definition is anti-margin.

However, DIMMs are even more ubiquitous and also have the room to differentiate on latency, throughput, power consumption, and capacity and extract a certain premium.

Ultimately though, I have to concur that having traction in mobile devices is almost certainly the key. 'Apple' tie-in may have been superfluous, but it does show that Infineon has share in the mobile device arena, whereas Intel has nearly none. Intel sees mobile devices displacing much of their current target market, so they have to do something.

Re:Infineon? (3, Interesting)

shoehornjob (1632387) | about 4 years ago | (#33410936)

They don't have to be important..just big enough to attract the right kind of attention (it appears they have.)

Re:Infineon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411422)

Yes it does. It means they're important enough for intel to gobble them up.

Re:Infineon? (1)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | about 4 years ago | (#33411720)

"they are the guys who have supplied Apple with their iPhone baseband chips since 2007."

Does that really mean they're important, though?

No. It means there was an easy way to sneak Apple into the summary.

Re:Infineon? (2, Interesting)

mjwx (966435) | about 4 years ago | (#33412786)

Does that really mean they're important, though?

What makes them important (to Intel) is that they are one of the worlds largest suppliers of Trusted Platform Modules (TPM). Which is also why I distrust any radio made by them, who better then a Trusted (treacherous) computing company to build a back door in for the manufacturer.

Re:Infineon? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33413286)

Yes and no. It is a major win for a few people on Intel's management team, but I doubt if this even pays to keep the lights on, let alone keep investors happy. These chips are usually the domain of Korean companies like Hynix, and a few other small-fry Japanese semis. Intel is DESPERATE to be something other than a high-volume, low-profit-margin CPU company. So, these chips cut the mustard on THAT score, sure enough; so I guess you could say 'Yes' to the small business win, but a really big NO to it making a difference in Intel's bottom-line. We are talking pennies per unit here -- this is not a big deal.

Intel laid-off their entire wireless division back in 2003-2004 because a few of the big players in the cellphone market simply (and wisely) wouldn't allow Intel to get a foot-hold on their turf. Nothing has changed on this score, and Intel simply doesn't have a wireless future. They have no capabilities in this area; and the billions they spent on trying to build that capability the first time around ended up in the toilet. Also, as a fabbed-semiconductor company, Intel always needs to salt-away their billions every quarter to pay for foundry upgrades. And as a publically-traded company, they need the Jethro (cash) to pay dividends to their share-holders.

So, in summary: 1) This chip deal is not meaningful in terms of Intel's bottom-line. 2) Intel is hurting; and their recent moves (McAffee, Infineon) are increasingly desperate efforts at finding new revenue streams. 3) The entire semiconductor industry has been undergoing consolidation for some time now (spinoffs are another form of consolidation -- they allow the parent company to consolidate their resources). Intel can be expected to do something along these lines soon; as their ever-increasing layoffs are starting to bite into their numbers and growth prospects.

Lastly -- and in my mind, this is the biggee -- the entire semiconductor industry is getting pretty old these days, and so are their technologies. Planar CMOS (or planar BiCMOS, or planar sapphire substrate, or planar-anything-else) is starting to sound like DSP, or RADAR. This stuff is OLD, folks. Semiconductors are now VERY mature technologies. Their science is old, and there really isn't anything new in this field left to talk about, let alone do research on anymore. It's a dead field. And Intel is on the wrong side of that field. They have all of their 'chips' in the wrong basket. IBM, for the most part, got out of this business a long time ago. Intel should have followed suit. But they didn't, and in another 12-24 months or so, that company is going to be gone. Intel's fate as a company was sealed ten years ago when their management made critical mistakes about their corporate direction.

Ever hear of Westinghouse? I didn't think so. Guess what -- your kids won't know what 'Intel Corporation' is, either.

Re:Infineon? (1)

tjb (226873) | about 4 years ago | (#33416652)

Ummm, dude - lay off the crack... Intel runs 66% (!!!) gross margins, 34% operating margins, and is by far the largest semiconductor company on earth, they aren't going anywhere.

Re:Infineon? (1)

MikeURL (890801) | about 4 years ago | (#33417678)

I hate when a cash cow company cannot accept its fate as a cash cow (intel, microsoft, google, etc). Intel has very large margins on its sales (66% in the last quarter if I recall correctly). So it is a hugely profitable slow (or no) growth company. Why is that bad? Intel could have paid shareholders a huge special dividend rather than use up 10 of its 14-15 billion in short term cash on deals of questionable merit.

They have a great semiconductor business. They should be the best little buggy whip maker around until they stop making buggy whips. For me the only upside is that if the keep shitting away their money the stock will keep falling and the yield will go up. Intel is still a safe company so I'm pretty happy with a 3.5% yield.

Re:Infineon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33460630)

Seriously? This is modded "Insightful". Yeah, they're important. TWO BILLION DOLLARS of Intel money is a pretty obvious clue.

What about RAMBUS? (3, Interesting)

ELCouz (1338259) | about 4 years ago | (#33410664)

Buying the Infineon RAM chipmaker will directly place Intel in competition with it's once best friend RAMBUS...

Re:What about RAMBUS? (5, Informative)

DDDKKK (1088707) | about 4 years ago | (#33410692)

Rambus does not produce RAM. They develop and license RAM related technologies. Infineon is one of the licensees (as is Intel).

Re:What about RAMBUS? (5, Informative)

klingens (147173) | about 4 years ago | (#33410698)

No it doesn't. Infineon hasn't made RAM in a long time. They sold off their RAM business in 2006 naming it "Qimonda". in January 2009 Qimonda declared bankruptcy.

Why would Intel care about Rambus? (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 4 years ago | (#33410808)

The deal with Rambus was a purely business one. Rambus paid them a good deal of money to use Rambus technology. Also, at the time, it really WAS faster. Wasn't faster enough to be worth the money and of course scaled like shit, but a Rambus P4 was quick. So Intel made the decision to use RDRAM. However it turned out to be a bad decision as DDR-SDRAM quickly eclipsed it speed wise, which helped AMD with the edge they had at the time. So, when the deal was up, Intel chose not to continue using RDRAM, and still does not to this day. Rambus does make new RAM products, XDR RAM is their current thing and the PS3 does use it. However Intel decided it was in their best interests not to.

Companies generally aren't buddies or anything, they just have interests that may match up. Intel though RDRAM was the way to go, especially since they made a lot of no-cost money on the deal. I mean $100 million is nothing to sneeze at. If someone is willing to pay you that to use their technology, and their technology looks like it works, then great. However that doesn't mean it was "BFF for life," or whatever. It didn't work out, the arrangement ended, that is that.

Re:Why would Intel care about Rambus? (1)

ooshna (1654125) | about 4 years ago | (#33411286)

Yeah I remember reading the reviews back when they were only competing with sd133 and was drooling over the speed they had up until I saw the price for it.

Re:Why would Intel care about Rambus? (3, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#33411344)

Actually, it wasn't fast at all, depending on your definition of "fast". Rambus RAM had huge bandwidth, but terrible latency. So it was great for things like streaming media, and terrible for just about everything else. At the time, all Intel could think about was bandwidth, and they didn't give a second thought to latency. They basically thought everyone was going to start using their computers for watching movies, video editing, and little else. So they designed the P4 with a horribly long pipeline that meant any context switching resulted in terrible performance, and they used Rambus RAM which was perfectly matched to their pipeline and memory channel bandwidth. Worked great if you were doing video editing, but most other applications had mediocre performance, with sheer clockspeed trying to compensate for the huge penalty of poor latency and pipeline flushes. In the end, people were stuck with fancy new computers with horrifically expensive RAM which weren't any faster than their old PIIIs for most applications, yet consumed 3 times as much power, making their offices very warm.

The whole thing was just a bad idea. AMD pretty quickly realized what was going on, avoided Rambus RAM like the plague, and concentrated on better performance at lower clockspeeds. AMD made huge inroads against Intel during this time. After user rebellion (including people building their own motherboards using Intel's notebook CPUs, which had a different architecture that had much lower power consumption with better performance), Intel finally dumped the P4 "Netburst" architecture and moved to "Core". They also dumped their CEO Craig Barrett who was responsible for this disaster. Since then, they've been greatly outperforming AMD, probably due to their larger size, and their strong fab technology (Intel makes all its own chips, AMD I believe outsources theirs).

Re:Why would Intel care about Rambus? (2, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 4 years ago | (#33411426)

I'm not saying it was a good design over all, I'm saying that when it hit the market with the P4s, it was the fastest thing out there. Its desktop performance was unmatched. It just cost a lot and didn't scale.

High latency isn't necessarily a problem, good caching can get around a lot of that, and of course increasing the speed means that the cycles of latency matters less.

Now in hindsight, RDRAM was a bad decision on Intel's part but it was understandable. It was also understandable in terms of their CPU design. AS you hinted at, Netburst was similar. The idea was that it was not as efficient per clock, they said that right up front, but that it would scale to tremendous speeds. Lab testing on individual ALUs showed that 10GHz ought to be doable. Of course that didn't work out, Netburst didn't scale well and they redesigned things.

Regardless, I understand why Intel did the RDRAM thing. It looked promising, and they got a bunch of money to do it. It didn't work out, so they switched.

Re:Why would Intel care about Rambus? (4, Informative)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | about 4 years ago | (#33412248)

They basically thought everyone was going to start using their computers for watching movies, video editing, and little else. So they designed the P4 with a horribly long pipeline that meant any context switching resulted in terrible performance.

If you don't know much about CPU architecture, please don't make a bunch of random statements about the P4.

First, the pipeline length has minimal impact on the speed of context switches. Context switches are relatively infrequent (compared with the CPU frequency) and relatively slow (typically several hundred cycles at a minimum).

The major downside of pipeline length comes from branch mispredicts. Branch mispredicts hurt you more because you have to flush more wrong instructions. Additionally, the scheduler is less able to parallelize instructions because instructions with data dependencies need to be spaced further out in the pipeline (forwarding doesn't help you unless the result has actually been computed, and in long pipelines there are typically several execution stages). Some of this can be improved with tactics like better branch prediction or multi-threading, but ultimately you give up IPC in a longer pipelined design.

Second, the P4 was not designed for "watching movies, video editing, and little else". It was designed to be fast. When Intel was designing the P4, the IPC-bag-of-tricks was starting to run out. The P6 (Pentium Pro, later evolved into the Pentium II/III) already had all the common improvements including multi-level, fast on-chip caches, a fully pipelined design, out-of-order execution, branch prediction, and multi-issue. The bottom line is that Intel realized (like everyone else) that making the chip wider or increasing caches really didn't do much for performance anymore. To keep seeing dramatic improvements in single-threaded performance, we either needed a completely new bag of tricks or we needed much higher clocks. Intel figured that they would make a CPU that (architecturally) could hit very high clocks, which means very deep pipelines to meet timing constraints. Yes, P4 would have lower IPC, but it would more than make it up in clock speed.

For a while, it worked. P4 was not a huge winner at first but over time (with Northwood) the P4 managed to out-gun AMD's lineup and become one of the fastest CPUs available. It does't matter if the Athlon could retire more instructions per clock, the P4 was clocked dramatically higher.

The problem is that somewhere around Prescott, the process technology ran out of gas. Leakage current became an issue more quickly than Intel had anticipated, thermal issues became problematic, and despite Intel's tricks (sockets that could handle more power, BTX, etc.) it became clear that people just weren't going to put a 400W CPU in their machine.

None of this is really a problem with the P4 architecture. With the right cooling and power, P4 can hit 8GHz. That's higher than any Intel or AMD CPU before or since.

You'll hear people say that P4 was a marketing decision. While I'm sure that the high clocks did benefit marketing, people who know the actual architects will tell you that it had more to do with chasing single-threaded performance than it had to do with marketing.

Some people say that the P4 was optimized for media. While it's true that highly predictable code (e.g. loopy scientific code and media encoding) performs especially well on the P4, compared with the Athlons of the day (before Athlon 64) so did everything else. You can't compare a 1.5GHz Athlon XP to a 1.5GHz P4 and argue that the Athlon is better because it's faster. P4 was specifically designed to make up for its lower IPC with very high clocks.

The whole thing was just a bad idea. AMD pretty quickly realized what was going on, avoided Rambus RAM like the plague, and concentrated on better performance at lower clockspeeds. AMD made huge inroads against Intel during this time.

AMD made inroads very late in P4's life after they launched Athlon 64, which was a much newer architecture with a lot of improvements (like a lower latency on-die memory controller). This was long after Intel had stopped using RDRAM.

Intel knew P4 was a turkey before Prescott had even shipped. They canceled Tejas as a result. But designing a new CPU architecture is a multi-year process, and Pentium-M (despite being an excellent notebook CPU) would not have competed well against Athlon 64.

I'm not going to argue that P4 was the right design choice. It clearly wasn't, and even Intel will acknowledge that now. But it wasn't a terrible design and the problems that it did have later in its life were not due to architectural issues.

Since P4 there has been considerably more emphasis on integrating things like power modeling into the design of CPUs. In 10 years architects went from basically not caring about power to it being one of the most important considerations with every design element.

Atom? (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 4 years ago | (#33410668)

Intel's Atom chips are low power. They're not good for putting into smartphones?

Are there some Infineon chips now used for only smartphones that will show up in netbooks? Do they run Linux? Do they run x86 instructions? And if not, will Intel sustain a product line that splits its main CPU culture away from x86?

Re:Atom? (3, Informative)

klingens (147173) | about 4 years ago | (#33410712)

The Z600 in 4Q10 is the first Atom supposed to go into Smartphones.
What Intel bought are not general purpose CPUs like Atom. It's the high frequency chips talking to the mobile base stations. Think "modem chips for mobiles". The chips running applications on the phones are totally different ones.

Re:Atom? (4, Insightful)

zzatz (965857) | about 4 years ago | (#33410716)

Atoms are low power only compared to Intel's other x86 chips. Compared to typical controllers for portable devices, they use too much power.

Re:Atom? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33410828)

Atoms are low power only compared to Intel's other x86 chips. Compared to typical controllers for portable devices, they use too much power.

Why do you trolls persist with this fiction? Is it the Microsoft hate disease rearing its ugly head again? Didn't Lunis Trovalds himself mock you zealots himself? Look, I understand you want to promote non-x86 on portable devices as desktop Windows doesn't run on ARM but, telling lies about Atom isn't going to win your argument for you. Atom is just as power efficient as Snapdragon and OMAP processors. Just like Windows tablets will destroy the iPad, Windows smartphones could easily be made. Microsoft is just biding its time until the opportunity is right then you open sores religious nutcakes will be off and running again with your tales between your legs. If MSI, Asus, and the many other netbook makers couldn't succeed with that LUnix crap and had to go begging Microsoft for Windows XP, do you think Goggle and Abble have a chance? Ha ha ha.

I often wonder how is it even legal to run non-Windows on a computer? Even the government gets this and uses Windows and Office. Do you people think you are better than or smarter than your own governments? I have a surprise for you... You're not! Seriously, you arrogant grandiose assholes need to take a look into the mirror and reevaluate your lives.

Re:Atom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33410958)

For those interested in taking advantage of a 'teaching moment', the post above is a prime example of when asshattery crosses the line into douche baggery. Visualize if you will a sorry individual who resembles the griefer named Jenkins in South Park's Make Love, Not Carcraft [wikipedia.org] . Donning a rain slicker and rubber gloves, he covers his computer with a clear shower curtain to avoid getting his brand of filth on his precious Windows as he spews forth his comical and misguided garbage. Luckily for him the basement in his mom's house has a linoleum floor that is easily cleaned with a hose and a squeegee.

Reevaluate your life indeed, Jenkins. We'll be as patient with you as your mommy is.

whoosh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411904)

I mean, whoosh

Re:Atom? (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | about 4 years ago | (#33411658)

Just like Windows tablets will destroy the iPad,

I'm no fan of the iPad, and wouldn't buy one myself, but what Windows Tablets are even getting a fraction of the sales (or buzz) of the iPad? Windows desktops/laptops/netbooks have 90%+ marketshare, but their Apple counterparts have hardly been destroyed.

I often wonder how is it even legal to run non-Windows on a computer?

Because the government hasn't gotten around to banning the practice? The statutes don't pass themselves.

Even the government gets this and uses Windows and Office. Do you people think you are better than or smarter than your own governments?

The NSA uses Linux. Are you smarter than the NSA?

Re:Atom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33413072)

I wonder how one can miss sarcasm as strong as OP's.

Re:Atom? (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | about 4 years ago | (#33421206)

Oops. I didn't notice the funny mod until after I posted.

on a handheld scale, they aren't low power (4, Informative)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 4 years ago | (#33410724)

Atom is maybe a 2W chip at best.

Whereas the ARM CPUs used in phones are under 0.5W.

In a device like a smartphone, you simply cannot find room to make the battery larger to make up for the extra power used. Not to mention the cost of the larger battery.

Re:on a handheld scale, they aren't low power (4, Informative)

zlogic (892404) | about 4 years ago | (#33410934)

Intel thought they'd develop an x86 chip with the power requirements of an ARM chip, that's why they sold their ARM division to Marvell. I guess that was a bad move considering the progress ARM made during the last few years.

Re:on a handheld scale, they aren't low power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411032)

a bad move considering the progress ARM made during the last few years.

It's ironic but it's thank to Intel's move that we have seen this ARM progress. ARM @Intel would have failed. They are a slow big gorilla and can no longer be the cheetah.

Re:on a handheld scale, they aren't low power (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#33411966)

It's ARM that's made all the progress, not Marvell. Marvell is just one licensee of ARM technology.

Re:on a handheld scale, they aren't low power (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#33414048)

Does Marvell actually license ARM designs? Intel's XScale design was a derivative of the StrongARM, designed by ex-Alpha engineers and was an independent implementation of the ARM instruction set.

Re:on a handheld scale, they aren't low power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411200)

arm CPUs are 2 watts at full load with multiple cores at 1+ghz and doing opengl graphics at hd resolutions.
atom cpus are 2 watts on standby. my atom netbook uses 40 watts for a single core and can barely do any graphics.

intel could get their shit together if they decided to stop making gpu and chipset tech the red headed stepchild of the company

Re:on a handheld scale, they aren't low power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411724)

Your atom based netbook takes 40 watts? That's hard to believe. Now, if it has a 40 or 60 watt power supply I certainly believe that. But even a 15.4 inch Dell D820 with a dual core real Intel processor and an nVidia graphics processor doesn't take 40 watts when running at a normal loads. Plug in something simple (and not hugely accurate) device like a watts up pro or even many brands of inverter (for converting the 12 volt output in your car to 110) and it will show you how much the machine is using. The aforementioned Dell uses between 20 and 30 watts under normal use (I am sure it is more with heavy graphics), but your netbook must not be even close to as much as this machine.

Re:on a handheld scale, they aren't low power (1)

Torontoman (829262) | about 4 years ago | (#33412236)

I really want to know who will buy ARM Holdings. Any speculation?

Re:Atom? (4, Informative)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 4 years ago | (#33410738)

Intel's Atom chips are low power. They're not good for putting into smartphones?

They may be, but these are baseband chips (EDGE, GMS, etc) not the main CPU's.

Are there some Infineon chips now used for only smartphones that will show up in netbooks?

Not unless you want to hold your netbook up to the side of your head and use it to make a phone call ...

Do they run Linux? Do they run x86 instructions?

No.

Not unless And if not, will Intel sustain a product line that splits its main CPU culture away from x86?

Not everything Intel produces runs x86 instructions.

Re:Atom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33410968)

Not unless And if not, will Intel sustain a product line that splits its main CPU culture away from x86?

Not everything Intel produces runs x86 instructions.

Like the Itanium? Wait, they are still supporting that, right?

Re:Atom? (1)

yuriyg (926419) | about 4 years ago | (#33412070)

Intel's Atom chips are low power. They're not good for putting into smartphones?

They may be, but these are baseband chips (EDGE, GMS, etc) not the main CPU's.

Interesting, given that Intel is already producing CPU's and are part of OHA, are they looking to build an Android phone?

Re:Atom? (1)

jisatsusha (755173) | about 4 years ago | (#33412098)

Netbooks with mobile internet (3G) capability built-in, perhaps?

Re:Atom? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about 4 years ago | (#33418050)

" Do they run Linux? Do they run x86 instructions?

No."

Infineon processors definitely do run Linux, but not x86 instructions.

Re:Atom? (4, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | about 4 years ago | (#33410742)

Infineon doesn't make cpus. Intel is probably most interested in their rf stuff. Believe it or not, there's a lot more to a cellphone than the processor.

Re:Atom? (1)

owlstead (636356) | about 4 years ago | (#33411322)

Infineon does not make cell-phone or computer CPU's. They do however create smart card controllers and security controllers that contain a CPU.

Smart card controllers do have some rather specific security design constraints though (the high end Infineon SLE66 obviously did not have enough not to be hacked though: look for Christopher Tarnovsky and watch the video).

So there might be an awful lot of phones out there with Infineon CPU's, but they are in the SIM card :)

Googling Infineon SIM brought up this press release:

http://www.infineon.com/cms/en/corporate/press/news/releases/2007/INFAIM200711-014.html [infineon.com]

seems like Intel and Infineon are on rather friendly terms.

Re:Atom? (1)

owlstead (636356) | about 4 years ago | (#33411390)

Oh, I forgot their micro-controller business for the automotive and other embedded markets. That's probably even more a CPU than the SoC's used in the security controller business.

Re:Atom? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411622)

Here in Toulouse* Intel has just hired back most of Freescale's cellphone/embedded R&D team (which was recently closed by Freescale along with the rest of its local fab) as well as test equipment, in order to work on system integration of ultra-mobile platforms. Since they definitely are targeting this market in the near future, I can see some logic in the buying of a baseband processor maker.

(*: that's in France, for you yankees)

Re:Atom? (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 4 years ago | (#33412270)

Infinion DO make CPUs. They make a number of "digital baseband" ASICs (including the one used in the iPhone) that contain ARM CPUs matched to other specialized hardware.

Re:Atom? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#33414116)

Believe it or not, there's a lot more to a cellphone than the processor.

Perhaps more relevantly, there's a lot more to a cellphone processor than the CPU core. You don't buy mobile phone CPUs from ARM, you buy them from a company like TI or Qualcomm, and you get an ARM core taking up around 20-50% of the die area, plus a load of extra controllers. Intel tried licensing Atom to third parties to make SoCs, but I've not seen anyone actually doing it. This means that, to compete with ARM, they need to produce the extra stuff in house, or license it. Intel generally doesn't seem to like licensing stuff if they can produce it, so buying a company that produces this stuff makes sense.

Re:Atom? (1)

rm999 (775449) | about 4 years ago | (#33410750)

They still use more power and cost more than ARM-based competitors like Infineon's chips and Apple's A4.

Re:Atom? (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about 4 years ago | (#33410760)

iirc the Atom uses about 5x the power as an OMAP3, and the Atom still needs other hardware that is already integrated with the OMAP. The Atom is simply not a good competitor for smart phones, and isn't even on the map for dumb phones.

Different makret (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 4 years ago | (#33411448)

Atoms are low power, and despite what the ARM fanboys like to say, they do a lot given their power budget. However they are still higher power than you want for mobile devices. They are targeted at low end PCs, like netbooks, or perhaps some higher end embedded applications. ARM chips (most of them at least) use far less power. When you are talking the tiny batteries in cellphones, this matters. Going from a half a watt chip to a 2 watt chip means 4x the power draw. Given that the CPU is one of three major components that draw power (the LCD and radio being the others) you don't want this.

For example my BlackBerry has a 4.3 watt-hour battery. That means just what it sounds like: It could provide 4.3 watts for 1 hour. Ok so a CPU that uses 2 watts could drain the battery by itself in 2 hours, even if the screen was off (which of course it wouldn't be). A Half watt CPU would last 8 hours on the same battery. Big difference for a small device.

Re:Different makret (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 4 years ago | (#33411580)

Atom is doing much better these days on the power budget, though of course you're right the Atom chips aren't quite there yet. The ARM chips are clocking up and multi-coring up which increases their power needs so there's an vector intersect here. At the rate they're going they will approach ARM soon, maybe next year. The reason why I'm not hopeful for any product with Atoms being in my mobile arsenal is quite simple. Intel platforms run Windows. If the platform runs Windows, the manufacturers will be "encouraged" to ship with Windows to the exclusion of all else. At that point my desires for Utility, practicality, features and benefits, security and stability are lower in precedence to getting the thing to run Windows. If it can run Windows, it ships with Windows, no matter how bad the user experience is, no matter if it doesn't meet the consumer's need.

I prefer a product with its utility to me as the primary design factor. After that, maybe safety. The business interests of third parties completely unrelated to the transaction isn't just not in the top five, it had better not even be considered. Unless Intel makes the Atom incompatible with Windows, Atom is not for me in a lifestyle device. I do like to play with them in my lab though.

curves? trends? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411938)

There is no way for an x86 of sufficient calculating power to compete with an ARM to run on the same amount of power.

x86 is, by design, inefficient.

Segmentation was cute in the '80s, and it helped a lot of engineers keep projects small enough to complete. That is the best you can say for the x86 design.

Re:curves? trends? (3, Insightful)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | about 4 years ago | (#33412496)

Right. History is littered with dimwits who thought x86 wouldn't impact _their_ market.

Re:curves? trends? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 years ago | (#33415712)

Low power has different rules. The people at the top thought that they could keep charging a premium for faster chips and that Intel couldn't catch up because of the extra complexity of producing an x86 chip. The same thing that made them wrong work against Intel now.

Once you get past the instruction decoder, there isn't much difference between an x86 chip and any other CPU. Remember the marketing claims about the Pentium being 'RISC internally'? The front end decodes x86 instructions into micro ops and then these are run by the rest of the chip. There are some weird side effects and interactions between instructions that people implementing an ISA not designed by drugged-up monkey don't have to deal with, but aside from those the back end is similar. The front end, however, is much more complex. Decoding an instruction set like ARM or SPARC is significantly easier than decoding x86 instructions.

As you scale up the die, this matters less. The decoder goes from being a third of the chip to being 5% or less, and having a decoder 2-3 times more complex than the competition doesn't matter. In fact, it becomes an advantage because the variable-length instruction coding means that you get better instruction cache usage.

When you try to scale in the opposite direction, however, you have problems. The decoder complexity remains relatively constant, but your total transistor budget goes down so it increases in proportion to the rest of the chip. Worse, the decoder is a part of the chip that is always on as long as you are executing instructions[1]. Something like a SIMD unit can be powered down when not in use, but the instruction decoder can't.

Worse, the competition has also moved on. The instruction set density is no longer an advantage. A modern ARM chip supports ARM and Thumb-2 instruction sets (and often a couple of others). The Thumb-2 instruction set is at least as dense as x86 and so can be used to reduce cache pressure. It is a fixed-width 16-bit instruction encoding, however, so (unlike x86), the cost of decoding it is very simple. Even better, because the ARM and Thumb-2 instruction sets are separate, only one decoder needs to be powered up at once. ARM gets the benefit of a variable-length instruction set, without the associated hardware cost.

[1] Some recent Intel chips cache micro ops and power down the decoder, but they still need to keep the micro op decoder powered, and this is about as complex as an ARM instruction decoder, which is why this gives a power saving in the server, but has not been used in Atom.

Re:curves? trends? (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | about 4 years ago | (#33418420)

You're forgetting something fairly obvious. Intel has fab and process advantages other CPU makers don't have.

For the very lowest power devices, x86 probably won't be a good fit. Smartphones? MIDs? Tablets? Hell yes, wait until you see Medfield. Why do you think Intel just bought part of Infineon? Integration. Anywhere you see a high end ARM you'll see x86 competitive at worst.

Re:Different makret (4, Interesting)

asliarun (636603) | about 4 years ago | (#33413382)

The intersect is going to start happening later this year when Intel releases Moorestown. Moorestown is a ground-up redesigned architecture that will still run x86, and will idle at 23mW and play video at 1.1W [anandtech.com] . It will also give about 2X performance increase over current ARM designs, although the 1.1W power consumption will probably mean that it will only end up in tablets, MIDs, and PMPs. For naysayers who keep bashing how wasteful x86 is (which it is) and how it will never compete with ARM, note the power consumption in idle.

The real intersect will happen when Intel releases Medfield [anandtech.com] , the next generation of Moorestown, probably in Q4 of 2011.

One caveat to this is the fact that by the time Intel releases Moorestown and Medfield, ARM performance would have also increased to an extent that Moorestown's performance edge may only be a small one (although ARM's power consumption also seems to be increasing). On the other hand, x86 (and Linux) support may be a strong reason for companies to migrate to this platform.

I disagree with your views on Intel/Windows. Firstly, your notion is quite outdated - in the mobile space, Intel is actually pushing Linux very strongly in the form of Moblin, and is really not trying to shove Windows down everyone's throat.

Secondly, and more interestingly, MS itself recognizes how unsuitable Windows is in mobile devices. Take a look at the extent to which MS has redesigned Windows Mobile 7 - I strongly suspect that it will be a viable challenger to Android and Apple in the near future.

Re:Different makret (1)

deathguppie (768263) | about 4 years ago | (#33414694)

Take a look at the extent to which MS has redesigned Windows Mobile 7 - I strongly suspect that it will be a viable challenger to Android and Apple in the near future.

I wouldn't be so sure about that. Being late to market isn't necessarily a killer, but being late to market when it means you have only a small fraction of the apps needed to compete is huge. People already know Iphone/Droid branding, and people already know that they either of those phones will do what they need. When Android started out it was only available on cheap hardeware, and that hurt it. Now Mobile7 is only going to go through the same thing. It is going to be a really tough sell competing with free. (Maybe it's karma for Internet explorer.. who knows)

Re:Different makret (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 4 years ago | (#33415656)

I didn't say Intel was pushing Windows. Intel's interest and motion are irrelevant to the question. To pretend you don't know this is to pretend to be ignorant of one of the primary factors controlling the market. If the platform will run Windows - no matter how poorly - it will come with Windows. Therefore the Atom is less interesting as a platform because with Windows the experience is poor. If Intel wants to get people excited, they should make a low power mobile CPU that's not Windows compatible.

Re:Different makret (1)

jvkjvk (102057) | about 4 years ago | (#33418488)

The fact that you are berating someone for an accurate reading (just not what you "meant" to say) of your statements just begs rebuke.

You said:

If the platform runs Windows, the manufacturers will be "encouraged" to ship with Windows to the exclusion of all else.

So, who is "encouraging" the manufacturers in your statement? Who could encourage them besides either MS or Intel?

How is this statement incompatible with reading it as "intel pushing windows"?

To pretend that you don't know this is to pretend to be ignorant, to borrow a phrase.

Regards.

Re:Different makret (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 4 years ago | (#33419058)

I didn't phrase that as gracefully as I should have, you're right. I'm sure Intel is as frustrated with the situation as consumers are. They want to sell lots of chips. They want to win in the tablet and mobile space. As he said, they're promoting Moblin and MeeGo and other stuff, which would actually be pretty cool on an Atom chip. If that stuff shipped it would move a grip of units.

But the OS that ships on the platform isn't selected by the processor vendor. It's selected by the OEM. No large OEM is going to ship a credible Linux mobile platform on Intel processors. Be realistic. It's just not going to happen. So what we get instead is sample quantities of overpriced underperforming Windows on tablets that don't sell well enough to get economies of scale. And some interesting niche gear from third tier vendors. That's it. And the Atom platforms don't take off like they should, because they really are very nice gear. Intel gets to sit out the migration to mobile, not because they didn't give with the engineering, but because of this very issue.

I never said Intel was pushing Windows. I don't think they are.

Re:Different makret (1)

jvkjvk (102057) | about 4 years ago | (#33421524)

Oh, I agree they don't appear to have any incentive to push Windows. Any manufacturer is going to make what sells.

But the quote I reposted could have certainly been read that way.

It is actually very nice to see someone not just attack in fear and anger after a bit of push back.

I just hope I can emulate your example.

Regards.

They sold thier SoC group (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33410764)

to Marvell in 2007. This included the radio group in Israel.

Not the entire company (5, Informative)

MtHuurne (602934) | about 4 years ago | (#33410782)

Contrary to what the headline suggests, Intel is not buying all of Infineon: they are negotiating to buy the wireless division.

Finally figured it out! (4, Funny)

MarkRose (820682) | about 4 years ago | (#33410838)

2 billion dollars for a bunch of chips and antenna components? I guess we know the true value of an ARM and a leg.

Re:Finally figured it out! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411868)

I met a guy named Bandit once, at an IEEE lecture. He has only one upper limb, and told me he likes to hang out by the ARM table at conferences, telling people nearby, "If I get an ARM here, I'll finally have two!"

Re:Finally figured it out! (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 4 years ago | (#33412250)

2 billion dollars for a bunch of chips and antenna components? I guess we know the true value of an ARM and a leg.

They'll make it back in the next Apple order for chips for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6. You can be sure of it. (iPhones use Infineon parts). Or maybe just in iPhone 4 sales, too, if Apple could keep it in stock... how many of those have they freaking sold?

Re:Finally figured it out! (1)

tokul (682258) | about 4 years ago | (#33412888)

2 billion dollars for a bunch of chips and antenna components? I guess we know the true value of an ARM and a leg.

Or true value of USD.

Re:Finally figured it out! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33413500)

Infineon made 2 billion from their mobile division last year. If it continues at this rate, Intel made a good deal.
Infineon wants to get rid of a division which brings a lot of risk for the company as Apple (who buys lots of their stuff) is certainly only profiting from a hype.

About Infineon (5, Informative)

dmesg0 (1342071) | about 4 years ago | (#33410914)

If Infineon doesn't ring a bell to someone, the name Siemens surely does. Infineon was the semiconductor division of Siemens, before being spun off into a separate company.

Infineon's current market cap is around 5B, so Intel is rumored to buy about 1/3 of the company (assuming some premium over the stock price).

Re:About Infineon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33410946)

Okay, 'Mr. Infineon Expert', so does this mean that they will change the name of Infineon Raceway?

Re:About Infineon (1)

dmesg0 (1342071) | about 4 years ago | (#33410992)

Of course, it's part of the deal: they will rename it to Intileon raceway. Since Infineon and Intel already have the same logo (well, almost the same), no one will notice any difference.

Re:About Infineon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33412436)

They aren't buying the company, just a division. Marketing at the track will likely remain.

Renaming the Racetrack? (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 4 years ago | (#33411208)

It'll go back to being named Candlestick\\\\\\\\\\ Sears Point...

Re:Renaming the Racetrack? (1)

OFnow (1098151) | about 4 years ago | (#33412110)

No, wait, wasn't that Monster Park? SBC Park? drat.

Re:About Infineon (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33413044)

If we could only see such "why you should know them" in future TFS, instead of..."they're in an iPhone" (c'mon, something representing ~1% of its category as an example?)

Windoze (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411046)

Forced down your smartphone havin throat whether you like it or not.......

Buh Bye Android it was good knowing you.....

This story is 3 days old. It bike on the 26th!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411122)

What happened to /. ?!

cash to burn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33411456)

two major acquisitions in less than a month (mcafee being the other)?

wtf? guess that proves that intel chips are, indeed, overpriced, if they have that much cash to burn.

Renaming the Racetrack? (1)

clint999 (1277046) | about 4 years ago | (#33411574)

Atoms are low power only compared to Intel's other x86 chips. Compared to typical controllers for portable devices, they use too much power.

Intel doesn't lead in server market (2, Informative)

karvind (833059) | about 4 years ago | (#33412446)

When it comes to desktop, laptop and server chips, Intel's pretty much got a lock on the market but everyone can see the writing on the wall: mobile chips and architectures are the future of computing thanks to the popularity of smartphones, but Intel doesn't have anything to offer in that regard.

Server market is a different ball game. Xeon are only in the low end server. IBM has lead in middle and high end servers with their P and Z systems. P and Z chips are custom designed for IBM systems only.

Re:Intel doesn't lead in server market (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 4 years ago | (#33413242)

I use Sparc64, you insensitive clod!

A Bit Cheap Isn't It? (1)

Kagato (116051) | about 4 years ago | (#33415156)

Seems like most FABs cost about $1bn to build. You would think a between manufacturing infrastructure and IP portfolio they would fetch more than $2bn.

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