RealTime IT News

Wireless Will Wag The Chip Dog

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A proliferation of smaller, mobile computers and the demand for more valuable services on handheld devices will drive innovation in the chipmaking market, said Intel CEO Paul Otellini at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo here.

The prospect of mobile technologies pervaded a question-and-answer session between Gartner analysts Ken Dulaney and Steve Kleynhans and the top chipmaker's chief during a keynote session.

Questions not asked included how Intel  intends to defend itself from a patent infringement suit from Transmeta and the European Commission's probe into Intel's alleged anti-competitive practices.

Everything else was pretty much fair game, including the requisite questions about top Intel rival AMD .

Paul Otellini
Paul Otellini
Source: Intel

Otellini said Intel and other vendors have to be ready to bring products to bear for what he calls "broadband to go," the idea that mobile and wireless technologies will spur the high-tech sector to new heights in adoption and new opportunities to make money.

"This shift to mobility is inexorable in my mind," Otellini said, noting that, just as mobile devices are getting more portable, 4G services will become more readily available from carriers looking to make those devices more valuable for consumers and boost the bang for their buck.

Despite competitive pricing that has squeezed PC makers in the desktop market, Otellini said he expects over 200 million PCs to be shipped globally this year, thanks to emerging markets such as China and South America. Most of the new machines will likely be notebooks, he said.

Otellini also said Moore's Law  is safe for awhile. He said he expects chips built in the 45 nanometer process to hit the market next year; Intel has 15 currently in development to meet that goal.

Otellini also claimed the company has a working transistor built in a 11 nanometer form, but this is years away from reaching fruition. Intel also recently showed off a prototype device with 80 cores on one die that is capable of processing a teraflop.

A conversation with Otellini wouldn't be much fun without throwing No. 2 chipmaker AMD into the mix.

Kleynhans asked the CEO how Intel would prevent AMD from out-innovating it in the future.

"Run faster," Otellini said, without bristling at the question. "I would say we nicely out-innovated them and you should ask them what they're going to do to keep with us. We've refreshed 100 percent of our product line in the last 100 days."

The question is a fair one; many semiconductor analysts have said AMD gained market share by adding features in its chips that Intel doesn't have, such as memory cache directly integrated on the die.

Otellini was also candid about how Intel got to that unsavory perception position of lagging behind AMD.

The executive said the company "made a mistake" by letting its NetBurst microarchitecture inside the Pentium processor live for too long -- six years -- instead of putting it through Intel's now-standard refresh cycle of two years.

"We didn't change the microarchitecture for servers and desktops in a reasonable timeframe," Otellini said.

Interestingly, one area where Otellini said Intel did not fall behind was on the mobile notebook side, arguing that Centrino came out about three years ahead of the curve before Wi-Fi networks were largely in place the way they are now.

Otellini argued that this was important; he expects the use of notebooks in the market, which he currently puts at 32 percent to 33 percent, to pull even with desktops in the next few years.

In the next five years, he expects broadband will be ubiquitous.

This broadband rush will light the way for Internet video, with more corporate workers conducting webcasts and consumers viewing content from YouTube and other sources from compact computers and other handheld gadgets.

"You'll see Intel taking a more studied view of markets at the holistic level to help hone these ideas we have and turn them into world-leading products," Otellini said.

Intel's recent restructuring will help the company move faster to meet emerging trends, he said.