28
Mar

What is prompting interest in Altera from Intel?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-width This last week the Wall Street Journal published an article written by Dana Mattioli, Dana Cimilluca, and Don Clark about Intel® and Altera® (http://www NULL.wsj NULL.com/articles/intel-in-talks-to-buy-altera-1427485172).

The topic was Intel’s public expression of more than a passing interest in Altera from the perspective of an acquisition. Despite the fact no name could be publicly associated (the following claim is merely attributed to “people familiar with the matter” in the article) with the most important clause in the piece, “Intel Corp. is in advanced talks to buy chip partner Altera Corp”, a lot of editorial content appeared almost instantaneously after the publication of this article in the online WSJ, in what might easily be construed as merely a knee-jerk reaction as the 800 lb gorilla in the PC CPU business starts moving around and sniffing the air.

Is this interest the result of Intel’s obsession with opening other substantial revenue streams? Or is it being prompted by Intel’s inept handling of Altera as its biggest tenant for its foundry business? Or, finally, is it even being prompted by recent market acknowledgement of favorable features of Field Programmable Gateway Architecture (FPGA) semi-conductors (Altera’s main product line) for the development of what amounts to today’s hottest trend in computing — machine learning, algorithms and computer cognition systems. Incidentally, anyone skeptical on this last point should read this call for proposals from the ACM (http://www NULL.sigarch NULL.org/2015/01/17/call-for-proposals-intel-altera-heterogeneous-architecture-research-platform-program/).

I will not take the time here to provide more detail on each of the above points, namely, the need to augment the PC CPU business with something equally compelling for major markets, the foundry business model, or FPGAs as a superior platform for machine learning applications. If you would like further detail on any of these, or all, please contact me and we can talk about it.

If impatient readers with a keen interest in either player in this drama still think it is very important to put together a strategy now to plan for this acquisition taking place, it might save them a lot of effort to simply mention “this notion has come up before” as a quick look at Analyst: Intel may acquire FPGA vendor (http://www NULL.eetimes NULL.com/document NULL.asp?doc_id=1172756), which was published back in 2010 will corroborate.

Bottom line, we need further word from Intel and Altera before any one of us should write much more about this. The setting simply is not clear enough, now, to warrant all of this chatter.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

5
Jan

Intel brings to market 5th generation CORE processors

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthOn the first day of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), 2015, Intel® introduced its line of 5th generation CORE, “Broadwell”, processors. These new additions include the CORE m processor, which was introduced in early December, 2014, and is notable as a first in consumer grade 14 nm chip technology.

Don Clark wrote about the debut of these CPUs in an article titled Intel Unveils New Flagship ‘Broadwell’ Chips for PCs (http://blogs NULL.wsj NULL.com/digits/2015/01/05/intel-unveils-new-flagship-broadwell-chips-for-pcs/?mod=ST1). Intel has provided new pages on its website promoting these new CORE processors (http://www NULL.intel NULL.com/content/www/us/en/processors/core/core-processor-family NULL.html).

Readers unfamiliar with why the debut of consumer-grade 14 nm computing technology is an important event should consider the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 2 in 1 computer (tablet and laptop). The Surface Pro 3 empowers users with a completely functional personal computer powered with Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 O/S (not the Windows 8.1 RT O/S powering the Surface 2) in an ultra lightweight, comparatively small hardware form factor.

The capability of this hardware form factor (which works fine without a fan) to run completely standard versions of the current Microsoft O/S release should not be under-appreciated. HP is presently selling a model of its Envy consumer-grade PC line, powered by a CORE m and 8 GBs of RAM. This hardware can easily support a Linux Virtual Machine, not to mention any of the 3rd party software targeted to the Windows 8.1 user community.

Price is a drawback. HP displayed a price of $949.99 for the Envy device on its website on January 5, 2015. On the same date, I noted Lenovo promoting a “Yoga 3 Pro 2-in-1” powered by the CORE m at an even higher price of $1,199.00.

The initial market for this technology is, therefore, the high end of the laptop/notebook consumer, which may limit its sales promise to consumers in need of a refresh for existing hardware. But a combination of better marketing communications, together with consumer appreciation for the capabilities of the hardware I have not discussed in this post (readers are recommended to read Clark’s post, or to review the pages I have mentioned on Intel’s website to obtain this information), should help these devices make a positive contribution to the Intel OEMs opting to bring them to market.

I will discuss the marketing communications point in the next post to this blog. The point of the communications effort is to better inform consumers about the benefits of devices like these, which are powered by a full-featured O/S (Windows 8.1), versus lower cost competitive options with neither the support of a comparable O/S, nor a reliable promise of an upgrade path given a plethora of versions (I’m thinking squarely about Android here).

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved