Tag Archives | CPUs

It’s Fast

Like John Gruber says, the iPad is a remarkably fast gadget. (The only thing that seemed less than near-instantaneous about it during my time with a unit today was the speed of the Wi-Fi–which is the one thing that Apple has the least control over.)

Gruber raves about the Apple-designed A4 chip at the heart of the device and says it looks to be the best mobile processor in the world; I wanna get a better sense of the real-world battery life before I come to any conclusions on that front. And presumably the fact that the iPhone OS was written for slow CPUs and is now running on a fast one is a major contributor to the overall sense of speed.

But if you’ve got $499 to spend on a secondary computing device and are trying to decide between an iPad and a netbook, the sheer zippiness of the iPad is going to be a major point in its favor.

I’m already having visions of the Stevenote in which Jobs explains to us why Apple is moving Macs from Intel chips to Apple’s own CPUs…


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The FTC Sues Intel

Last month, Intel and AMD settled their differences with an agreement that ended the long-running legal battle between the world’s largest CPU maker and its much smaller rival. Today, Intel is in hot water with an organization far more powerful than AMD: the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC is suing the company, accusing it of abusing its dominating market position to stifle competion. And the most interesting parts of the FTC’s list of complaints involve not CPUs but GPUs. Which is not a market that Intel controls in the least–Nvidia and AMD dominate discrete graphics, and Intel was recently forced to indefinitely delay its Larrabee GPU.  But the FTC says that Intel makes it difficult for PC manufacturers to choose Nvidia or AMD graphics options by charging them higher prices for CPUs than if they opt for Intel’s less powerful integrated graphics.

Here’s Intel’s response to the suit, in which it says it was on the verge of a settlement with the FTC, and that it’s the victim of a rush to judgment.

I don’t know enough about the backstory to have an opinion of the specifics of the FTC’s charges, and I like free markets more than government interference, but this I know: Consumers benefit when there are multiple healthy competitors in a category. If PC manufacturers make technology decisions based primarily on fear of Intel–which is what the FTC claims–it’s not good for anybody except Intel.


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AMD Cuts Employees, Compensation

amdlogoDeflation is rearing its head in the chip-making business. Advanced Micro Devices intends to reduce its workforce by nearly 9 percent and will reduce employee compensation during its first quarter.

Even its top executives are taking a hit to their base salaries (no word about their bonuses); the rank and file will see their incomes drop on a staggered basis depending on their employment status. Other perks, including the company’s 401(k) matching program are being suspended indefinitely.

AMD must take difficult and prudent steps to reduce its cost in response to the worldwide economic downturn, it explained in a statement to the press.

This should come as no surprise considering there has been a corresponding downturn in the sales of semiconductors. Chip sales dipped to $20.8 billion in 2008 from $23.1 billion in 2007, according to a recent report by the Semiconductor Industry Association. Public companies like AMD are going to respond to reduced demand by cutting expenses, because they have to act in the interest of shareholders.

The company is not selling the copper plumbing–yet. While its sales have dipped, it still remains second largest semiconductor producer in the world next to Intel, and it has laid out long term road maps for future technologies. Further, new chips designed for low-cost computers, such as its Neo processor, could entice spendthrift consumers to open up their wallets.

Should PC buyers worry about AMD’s prospects or even shy away from buying machines that use its chip? Not really. Companies  that big don’t just close up shop overnight, and AMD is also highly unlikely to skimp on its manufacturing processes or R&D, lest it risk damaging its brand or ceding even more market share to Intel. Customers can buy AMD-based systems with confidence.


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Semiconductor Sales Decline Slightly in 2008

The Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group comprised of computer, device, and chip makers, is reporting that chip sales dipped to $20.8 billion in 2008 from $23.1 billion in 2007, New York Times is reporting. It’s yet another sign of the U.S. economy’s fragile condition. But the “glass is half full” part of my brain can’t ignore the fact that sales are still brisk.

We already knew, of course, that businesses and consumers are spending less on IT. It makes perfect sense that non essential capital expenditures would lower: you can’t eat silicon. Innovations in technology can give businesses an edge, but when it comes time to tighten the belt, it is better to delay buying new workstations or BlackBerries for interns than it is to cut advertising or hand out pink slips. Consumers can afford to wait another year for the latest and greatest gadget.

There could be other contributing factors. Aside from the economy, the industry is on the downward edge of a sawtooth. I’m not going to buy a new computer today unless I have to, because OS X Snow Leopard and Windows 7 aren’t out yet. Many consumers are informed enough to know that they may want to hold off purchases for those releases.

While it is widely accepted that 2009 will be a difficult year economically, that does not mean that every sector of the economy will be affected equally. The IT industry is not the automobile industry–let’s not panic because one report tells us what we already anticipated.


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