Connect with us

Tech

Intel adapts to survive competition from Apple and AMD

Intel announced major changes in strategy, not only offering its own designs to other companies, but also outsourcing manufacturing of some of its own CPUs, as well as manufacturing ARM chips for other companies

Published

on

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger

For the last quarter century, Intel has built processors using its own, closely guarded designs and manufactured them in their own facilities. This formula has served it well, often dominating the market for long periods of time. But the past five years have seen the chip giant go from practically unchallenged market dominance to being on the back foot, even in the gaming PC market which has been dominated by Intel since the Core2 processors were released in the mid-2000s. So last month, Intel announced major changes in strategy, not only offering its own designs to other companies, but also outsourcing manufacturing of some of its own CPUs, as well as manufacturing ARM chips for other companies.

Companies in this position are often there due to complacency, but in this case, Intel was not sitting back and actually had a solid roadmap in place just before it all started to go wrong. There are two major aspects of a processor, and indeed other chips such as GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) – the Architecture, basically the design and layout of a processor, and feature size or process technology, which is measured in nanometers (nm) these days and refers to the size of transistors, the fundamental building blocks of any chip. While there have been some issues with the Architecture, the main problems Intel has faced have been delays in its transition from 14nm to 10 nm.

If you are wondering what all this has to do with anything, it all comes down to physics. The smaller the transistors, the more you can pack into a processor of the same size and the less energy is required to run each one, which in turn means more performance with the same energy, often with the side-effect of less heat being generated. While Intel has been stuck on a larger size, AMD uses TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) to manufacture its processors, a company powering ahead with smaller feature sizes. 

AMD, under the leadership of CEO Lisa Su, who has an electrical engineering background, has gone from strength to strength with each of their new Ryzen processors. Last year’s Ryzen 5000 series of processors not only crushed Intel’s offerings in productivity tasks such as video editing and graphic design, as AMD CPUs have done for the past few years, but they also finally matched Intel’s performance in many games and even came out on top in some of them. The high-end gaming PC market has been dominated by Intel CPUs for over a decade, so this marks the end of an era. AMD’s rise coupled with years of delays to its 10nm process have resulted in a perfect storm for Intel.

But Intel’s processor woes don’t end there. In 2019, Apple announced it would be transitioning away from Intel to its own, ARM-based processors for their Mac computers, having used their own chips in iPhones and iPads since 2010. Apple has used Intel CPUs in their Macs since 2006 and, while Intel tried to downplay the impact of Apple’s decision on their business, it was clearly a huge blow for the company. Apple has always tried to design as many of the components used in its devices as possible, but the company most likely decided to switch when Intel’s continued delays to its 10nm process started affecting its ability to release Macs with the capabilities they wanted at the times they needed, probably around 2015.

Ironically though, Apple was only really able to do this because of Intel’s lack of foresight over 15 years ago, when Steve Jobs asked it to make a mobile processor for an Apple phone. Intel’s leadership at the time did not feel it was worth the investment required to design and build a chip for a device they thought would not be high volume. Thanks to that snub, Apple put an ARM-based chip in the iPhone and, in 2010, launched the first iPad and the iPhone 4, both featuring the Apple A4 chip, the companies first designed in-house. Apple designed chips are now considered among the best in the world, delivering performance that has kept its iPhones and iPads at the cutting edge of performance, despite fewer cores and lower specs on paper than its rivals’ offerings.

Thanks to the expertise and success of Apple’s silicon design teams, not only was Apple able to make the switch, its first Apple Silicon chip for Macs, the M1, saw huge gains in performance and battery life compared to Intel offerings in the same category. While that is partly due to Apple being able to focus on performance of targeted areas their market needs more, TSMC’s superior process is certainly a significant factor.

Intel Wafer: Processors are manufactured on wafers, before being cut into individual chips

Which brings us to last month’s huge announcements representing a fundamental shift in the principles Intel has operated on for decades. While much of Intel’s success has come from its formula of using its own designs manufactured in-house, the chip giant is making three changes. First, it will continue to build the majority of its own chips, but many will be made using newer technologies (such as Extreme ultraviolet lithography or EUV) that TSMC and Samsung have been using for some years now. Second, Intel will leverage external suppliers to manufacture some of its core processors, giving the company access to the best manufacturing processes for products that would benefit from them. Finally, the chip giant will become a foundry, manufacturing x86 (which their own processors currently use) and ARM chips, with the aim of becoming a major supplier of foundry to the industry. That last one is how Intel intends to try and win back business from Apple.

The new strategy, dubbed ‘IDM 2.0’, was announced by Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who took over from Bob Swan in February this year, having come back to Intel after 12 years away, most recently as CEO of Dell-owned VMWare. Gelsinger immediately berated the company’s failure to keep up with competitors, as well as the loss of Apple’s business.

These changes won’t happen overnight and much of what was announced has already been in progress for many months. The semiconductor industry is not fast moving, as chip design and development of new manufacturing process technologies takes years. In the meantime, AMD will continue to assert itself in the market and Apple will complete its transition away from Intel processors next year. Intel still has some tough times ahead, but it is clearly working to ensure the company comes back fighting. One thing is certain however, the market for processors, which power personal computers, smartphones, tablets and more, is as competitive as it has ever been, which should mean better performance and maybe even battery life for our computers and devices in the years ahead.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. nc

    9 April 2021 at 10:52 am

    Very interesting. Compounds the situation on top of what’s already happening with the big tech firms + Huawei. Intel’s plan to resurface is quite poor aswell 😐 …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Business

2021 In Focus

A look back at some of our best moments from 2021. As we explored topics ranging from Remote working, HGV Driver Shortages, Climate Change, Cryptocurrency, the COVID pandemic, Rebranding, though to Development through Play and much much more. So grab a snack and relive 2021 In Focus!

Discover more at https://analystnews.com

Follow us @AnalystDaily on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Published

on

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Tech

Button batteries can kill

Published

on

Button batteries causing injuries to children have been reported since the 1970s, however, what was once a rare occurrence in the past is increasingly becoming a common issue. These injuries are not just harmful, they have been proven to be fatal. This avoidable cause of death in children is spiking as time is evolving. The small size of button batteries cannot be taken for granted.

The spike in injuries associated with button batteries is parallel to the increasing use of these batteries in domestic products including torches, car keys, artificial candles, and remote controls. 

The issue starts with the lodgement of button batteries. When a button battery gets lodged in the human body including ear, oesophagus or nose, and lies against a moist environment, it generates an electrical charge. The current breaks water molecules and converts water to hydroxide and hydrogen gas. These hydroxide ions then eat through body tissue. Almost all injuries that led to death were associated with battery lodgement in the oesophagus and erosion into the aorta or other large vessels leading to massive haemorrhage. 

Even if ingestion of a battery is immediately recognised, the transport to an appropriate medical centre can also play a role in worsening the condition. The oesophageal perforation can occur as early as within two hours. Further, despite the removal of such a battery, the damage continues long after. Therefore, although the size of the battery is small, the effect is damaging

During the holiday season, a lot of electronic toys and gifts are given, and these mostly require button batteries to function. Due to the sensitivity of the consequences of button battery injuries, the harms of these batteries need to be made an approachable knowledge for the public.

Although identifying and removing impacted batteries is a way of saving lives, it is still equivalent to only rescuing an already bad condition. The occurrence of these situations needs to be prevented by designing products that require a safer alternative for power sources. 

A few ways to reduce the occurrence of these incidents include making products with warnings on product labels, securing battery compartments with screws, and making sturdy products so if they fall, they don’t break and release batteries. 

Currently, the compulsory safety requirements are only established for toys designed for children up to 36 months. These requirements are set in place to reduce the incidences of choking and deaths in young children. Although there are laws regarding choking hazards with toys in children, an official rule has not been passed that targets the danger of button batteries. 

There are many campaigns that are being run to raise awareness and establish laws related to dangers with button batteries. There is a non-profit group known as ‘Reese’s Purpose’ – named after a girl who could not survive after a button battery incident. This group is urging the government to pass the ‘Reese’s Law’ which represents having established laws regarding secure battery compartments on consumer products. 

The urgency of these standards to be approved is high. This is because, according to US Senator Richard Blumenthal, in 2020 alone, the reported incidents of button battery ingestions were 3,500 and this number is likely to be an undercount. Even in Australia, the incidents related to button battery exposures being reported to Poisons Information Centres and Injury Surveillance Units is still increasing.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Business

Giving to Charity in a Digital World – In Focus

Giving to charity is something that some do on a regular basis, others give on occasion and yet there are a few that are just reluctant for whichever reason. In this episode of ‘In Focus’ we dig into the ideas around giving to charity and how digitalisation in this industry is transforming the ways in which we donate, removing any barriers in donating. Join us as we speak to Sean Donnelly from RoundUps.org

Discover more at https://analystnews.com

Follow us @AnalystDaily on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Published

on

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Education

How to achieve a healthy ‘Play Diet’? – In Focus

Playing is an important part of being a child, but play has changed over the years. We have seen China put restrictions in place to limit the amount of time children spend playing games including on screens. Parents today struggle with their children who constantly seem to be on their devices and in front of screens day and night playing online. Outdoor play almost seems to be lost and forgotten about, but it is a key part of the ‘Play Diet’

Join us as we speak to Dr. Amanda Gummer, founder of the Good Play Guide (goodplayguide.com) who shares her research and insight to help bring ‘In Focus’ the importance of play, its role in the development for the next generation and how we achieve a good balance in our ‘play diet’

Discover more at https://analystnews.com

Follow us @AnalystDaily on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Published

on

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Tech

Musk polls Twitter followers about selling stocks

Published

on

Elon Musk’s tweets often stir conversation and this time is no exception. Musk recently polled his followers asking if he should sell 10% of his shares. The twitter poll was met with over 3.5 million respondents suggesting that he should go ahead with the proposition. The premise was not void of criticism with many speculating Musk’s underlying intentions and why a billionaire would sell parts of his key holding. The immediate consequence of Musk’s tweet saw Tesla share prices drop by over 4% with sales worth over $4 billion. It appears that since Musk is not paid a salary by Tesla and accumulates his wealth through his ownership of approximately $208 billion worth of shares, his only means to fulfil tax bills is by selling some of his stocks. Hence, there is a vital reason for Musk’s idea to sell stock. Not only that, it appears that he was already planning on selling parts of his stock this year and the twitter poll has likely had no influence on what seemed like an impulsive decision on the surface. 

Despite this, yesterday’s twitter exchange with Bernie Sanders saw Tesla shares drop yet again. Is Musk going to sell more shares in a frenzy, or is this a genuine effort to fund his tax bills? Many believe that he is simply selling shares because he can, and is not short of cash to pay his taxes; owing to the fact that Musk is still, well and truly, the world’s richest man alive. Musk is part of the billionaires club currently under scrutiny for not directing their wealth towards meaningfully reducing global social welfare challenges. His tweet on ending world hunger prior to the poll about selling his shares, openly called for suggestions on how his wealth could solve this crisis. Many groups have drawn up plans hoping Musk will stick to his word and extend his ideas to create a sustainable planet for the long term. Whilst many agree that 2% of Musk’s wealth cannot solve world hunger for good, it can surely contribute to innovation in this sector and agricultural and economic investments in less fortunate parts of the world. It is estimated that Musk has accumulated a staggering fortune of $260 billion dollars according to Forbes after his recent transactions.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Continue Reading

Tech

Nikon’s Z9 is a camera like no other

Published

on

Figure 1 (Featured Image): Nikon’s new flagship camera, The Z9. Source: Nikon

Nikon recently announced its first real “pro” mirrorless camera, priced at $5,500, the Z9 camera has one key distinguishing feature that sets it apart from all its competitors, the mechanical shutter-less design of its super-fast sensor. No other professional camera has this right now and it shares this trait with smartphone cameras.

It’s Nikon’s first camera that uses a 45.7-megapixel full-frame backside-illuminated stacked CMOS sensor that allows a flash sync of up to 1/200th of a second which might be the fastest sync speed ever for an electronic shutter. The sensor uses a very similar construction to a smartphone camera as it has a sandwiched architecture of sensor, logic board and RAM. The new image processing Expeed 7 processor and dual CFExpress or XQD card slots give the Z9 a high-speed continuous shooting at 20fps for more than 1,000 frames in both JPEG and RAW file formats. The Z9 does this while offering blackout-free shooting with the electronic viewfinder continuing to display the actual movement of the subject within the scene so that every single moment can be captured with no skipped frame or loss of view. Mirrorless cameras have always had a few advantages that DSLRs cannot offer namely the electronic view-finder that allows the user to see the scene exactly as it would appear in the final image instead of the optical view-finders offered in DSLRs and Z9 enhances that advantage even further.

Figure 2: Z9 Features a 4-axis tilting monitor facilitating shooting from high or low angles. Source: Nikon

This is why it should surpass the high performance that previously only digital SLRs could offer from Nikon like the D6. It is clearly aimed at professional sports and wildlife photographers, a market Nikon hadn’t appeased so far with its mirrorless offerings, where high frame rates and black-out free viewfinder would play a crucial role in allowing the photographer to capture the best image. 

Nikon had been previously criticised for its first mirrorless offerings when the Z6 and Z7 were released back in late 2018, but with the updated versions of those two cameras in the shape of Z6II and Z7II and now the Z9, Nikon have made a big statement and have finally caught up with Canon; whose offerings had a different target audience from the get-go with high performance lenses and cameras in the mirrorless space. For Canon, that proved to be a successful strategy earning them a lot of praise thus far as early adopters tend to be enthusiasts or professionals who demand high performance and specifications for their gear. However, both Nikon and Canon have some way to catch up with Sony when it comes to mirrorless cameras as they have the biggest share of the mirrorless market.

Figure 3: Images are displayed on EVF and LCD monitor and image date can be processed simultaneously to offer blackout-free shooting. Source: Nikon

Z9 with its shutter-free design now puts Nikon at the forefront of the mirrorless market, not even Sony can compete in this regard. Z9 sports a claimed world’s fastest CMOS sensor scanning speed and world’s most minimal rolling-shutter distortion. By getting rid of the mechanical shutter, pros who use this camera don’t have to worry about any shutter wear or breakdown. Nikon has also added a VR safety lock on the sensor that protects it from any risk of damage caused by unintentional movement when the power is off, for example by swaying during bumpy off-road travel. 

The Z 9 provides the 3D-tracking feature as an AF-area mode option for the first time in a Nikon mirrorless camera. It can continue tracking a subject even in a scene where subjects move drastically. The Z9 also brings new advances by offering three dynamic-area AF modes with different focus-area sizes (Small/Medium/Large) which is useful when shooting with a fixed composition. It also employs a deep-learning algorithm to detect the nine different subject types. All this means that the Z9 like many other newer mirrorless professional cameras is less of a camera with a computer in it and more like a computer with a lens attached to it. 

This shift towards computational photography has been happening for quite some time now in the professional cameras. For now, issues like processing power, memory and use of AI are holding the professional cameras back. It seems inevitable, however, that one day a lot of post-processing smarts of today will be built in features in these cameras that allow professionals and amateurs alike to spend a lot less time editing on their computer and more time shooting out in the field, doing what they love!

Nikon Z9 key specifications:

  • 20% smaller body than the D6 camera
  • 45.7MP Stacked CMOS sensor
  • 30 fps JPEG shooting
  • 20 fps Raw shooting (for over 1000 compressed RAWs)
  • 120 fps JPEG shooting at 11MP resolution
  • 8K/30fps capture and 4K-from-8K, with ProRes 422 HQ option
  • 8K/60fps, 12-bit 8K N-Raw and 4K ProRes RAW 
  • Native ISO range of 64 – 25600 (expandable to 32 – 102400)
  • Internal 10-bit N-Log and HLG capture
  • 3.69M dot OLED electronic viewfinder with reduced lag and greater brightness
  • Four-axis 3.2 touchscreen LCD tilts horizontally and vertically
  • Built-in GPS, GLONASS and QZSS
  • Dual CFexpress Type B / XQD card slots

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Foad is a professional Electrical engineer, avid traveller, always up for an adventure and trying to change the world – one word at a time.

Continue Reading

Recent Comments

Articles