RealTime IT News

Chip Universe Rotates on Intel's Axis

While Intel lays out its plans for a multi-core future, the rest of the semiconductor industry is rallying around the chipmaking giant with its own news.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip making giant is polishing up its silicon in San Francisco this week as part of its semi-annual Developers Forum. The company is expected to use the three-day event to focus on "threading" (parallelism) as its core technology for future server and desktop processors.

Look for an update for developers on its new research projects, including wireless sensor net application trials with British Petroleum and German software vendor SAP AG. The company said it will also stand with other companies to give tiny handhelds data storage and information transfer performance akin to that we have now on our laptops and desktops. There will also be a roundtable later this week to discuss Intel's evolving technologies, including FB DIMM , DDR 3 and Flash memory .

While Intel's top brass outlines the company's strategy, several groups are advancing their own agendas based on Intel's movements. Intel said it is expecting upwards of 75 third-party announcements to take place this week alone.

For example, a new Serial ATA storage industry group will be announced that brings together system builders, vendors, chip designers and computer technology designers to foster the quality and growth of Serial ATA technology. Storage equipment players AMCC, Seagate and Marvell are expected to hold a meeting to demonstrate, for the first time, end-to-end 3Gigabit per second (Gb/s) SATA technology, which conforms to the newly released 3Gb/s speed specification.

Agilent Technologies is expected to demonstrate the industry's first 4 Gb/s Fibre Channel controller to use the new PCI Express system bus. The demonstration will show the Agilent Tachyon QX4 exceeding 1.4 GB/s of bandwidth over four Fibre Channel ports on a single PCI Express bus.

In the wireless spectrum, the MultiBand OFDM Alliance (MBOA) said it would announce a Special Interest Group to help develop technical specifications for very high-speed, short-range ultrawideband (UWB) wireless communications. At the same time, the MBOA will announce that its specifications for a physical layer ("PHY") are complete and that specifications for the Media Access Control layer ("MAC"), designed to enhance mobility for personal electronic devices, are on track to completion by end of year.

"Wireless USB, the first major application for UWB, will use the MBOA's common radio platform, based on TI's original multiband OFDM proposal," Yoram Solomon, general manager of consumer connectivity solutions for Texas Instruments and MBOA co-founder said in a statement. "Using UWB, we have the ability to replace frequently used connections and synchronize or stream information between devices such as digital cameras, MP3 players, PCs and printers. And using the MBOA's common radio platform, we can ensure co-existence and interoperability among multiple wirelessly connected devices."

The semiconductor industry as a whole is enjoying growth. Worldwide sales of semiconductors rose slightly to $18 billion in July, an increase of 1 percent from the $17.8 billion reported in June and 37.9 percent from the $13 billion reported in July 2003, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) reported last week. The SIA said the slower growth rate for chip sales was not unexpected.

"The latest numbers reflect a slower growth rate for worldwide sales of semiconductors as previously projected," said SIA President George Scalise. "A combination of factors -- consumer uncertainty, inventory accumulation in key sectors, and seasonal issues in some markets -- resulted in modest sequential sales growth from June."

Intel's sphere of influence is also being felt in computer memory markets, where spot prices for 256-Mbit double DDR-400, dropped 4 percent to $4.34 yesterday from its price of $4.51 last week.

Analysts blame the price drop on Intel's news that it is now expecting third-quarter revenues of $8.3-$8.6 billion, below analysts' estimates of $8.9 billion, and below even the reduced estimates that some analysts began putting out earlier this week,

Pundits have also been quick to point out that AMD is capitalizing on Intel's missteps with announcements of its own multi-core processors and industry support from HP, Novell, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems.

When asked about Intel's production problems and the rise in interest in AMD's products, Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and chief technology officer, told internetnews.com last week that AMD is not the next Intel and that the company is not taking the situation lying down.

"The next Intel is Intel and IDF is all about the Gelsinger said. "We're going to have the better part of what is going on in the industry. Our portfolio is one of an unprecedented breadth and depth. Obviously they've done some good products, but isn't just about one or two product broad range of products."