Intel is a big enabler for a lot of companies. The data dump from Intel CeO Paul Otellini today reveals the nature of the opportunities in a lot of different markets. Otellini, of course, would love to dominate the underlying hardware for all of the devices we’re going to use to get on the Internet.
After a few lackluster years, Intel has bounced back. Ahead of the rest of the indutsry, Intel has shipped 4 million processors based on its 45-nanometer manufacturing process. Otellini says Intel may be a year or two ahead of others on the high-k feature of that process which delivers much lower power benefits. About 100,000 chips a day are shipping and Intel has 32 45-nm chip products shipping today.
By the second quarter, Intel will ship its 45-nm laptop chips, code-named Montevina, and it will also be shipping Silverthorne chips for the mobile Internet device market in the second quarter. Those chips have very low power compared to the laptop chips and will be used in a variety of mobile Internet displays, handheld gaming devices, GPS gaming devices, and other gadgets over time, said Sean Maloney, executive vice president at Intel.
Intel will ship an six-core server chip, code-named Dunnington, later this year. By the third quarter, Intel will be shipping more 45-nm chips than 65-nm chips. That’s right on schedule. By 2009, International Data Corp. predicts that laptop shipments will outnumber desktop shipments for the first time.
Meanwhile, Otellini says there are expansion opportunities for Intel’s processors in markets where it hasn’t traditionally been strong: consumer electronics, the emerging mobile Internet devices, embedded devices (such as webcams or ATMs or gas station pumps), and low-cost computers. Each of these opportunities represents a $10 billion revenue opportunity over time, Otellini said. Intel isn’t going to repurpose PC processors for these markets; it will create “purpose-built” solutions, Otellini said. Clearly, one of the big targets Intel is going after is ARM Ltd., which owns most of the low-power processor market in spaces such as cell phones.
ARM has historically had the lowest-power chips. But Intel’s Silverthorne chip and its later models such as Menlow are going to have power consumption numbers in the low milliwatts. That’s encroaching on ARM’s territory, if not for cell phones then more for the devices with bigger screens. One hope, an Intel marketer told me recently, is that Intel will get Silverthorne into a number of mobile Internet devices with GPS capability. Intel has to keep charging ahead on power consumption improvements, as its architecture is inherently higher power than ARM’s. But the manufacturing process advantage that Intel has could help on that front as the process improvements can also bring lower power. Since 2006, Otellini said Intel’s average power consumption is down 90 percent, thanks to both design and process improvements.
Otellini’s other point is that software developers are accustomed to the Intel architecture and, he claims, the Internet runs better on Intel chips. He pointed to how Adobe has lots of different versions of its software for various kinds of mobile chips but can use one version for Intel architecture. That simplifies Adobe’s development tasks and it means that Adobe will optimize its software for Intel first.
“Any way you look at this, if you build a category of machines for the Internet, Intel architecture is the way to go,” Otellini said. “Hundreds of thousands of Intel architecture developers around the world can re-use their software across platforms.”
The Silverthorne low-power chip will go into four markets. The Diamondville version will go into low-cost PCs and laptops. The Menlow version will go into mobile Internet devices. The Sodaville version goes into consumer electronics chips. And there will also be an embedded version of Menlow coming in the third quarter for here-to-fore dumb appliances that will soon be Internet aware.
In a year, Intel will also advance its platform for systems-on-a-chip, where everything from memory to input/output is building into the same chip. Intel will push into the SOC market with a program dubbed Six plus Six, meaning it will take six months to get from idea to prototype SOC chip and six months to go from prototype to production. About 2,000 Intel engineers are working on this project.
The 45-nm Menlow chip, which succeeds Silverthorne, will be out next quarter and a 32-nm version will be out next year. At the Consumer Electronics Show, Otellini said that mobile Internet devices, such as a location-aware display that could guide travelers to recommended hot spots, were considered the hot new category. Intel has 35 design wins coming this year from 25 different customers. The consumer electronics devices will be coming with Diamondville in the next quarter and there are two flavors: Windows XP-based or Linux devices.
Intel’s core microprocessor chips for the PC will get a new spin when Nehalem comes out this year. Those chips will have up to eight cores on one processor chip, will be able to run two threads, (the equivalent of two programs) , on one core, and will integrate a memory controller on the processor. The latter feature is what set apart Advanced Micro Devices’ Opteron processor from Intel’s for the past five years.
In graphics, Intel will launch its Larrabee many-core chip in late 2009 or 2010. That chip will challenge stand-alone graphics chips from AMD and Nvidia. That chip is aimed at high-performance computing as well and its value proposition will be the easy-to-program Intel architecture, Otellini said.