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.”

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