People spend little time discussing anything beyond the top line speeds and associated metrics of computer chips because it is a complex world with its own very specific and dense language.
It is an important world, though, and one that is changing. PC Advisor’s Dave Stephenson compares Intel and AMD as they maneuver a landscape that has been transformed by the drastically reduced role of the desktop:
Less than a decade ago, Intel and AMD had the world at their feet. Intel’s distinctive audio logo rang out wherever laptops were sold and AMD’s future was considerably bright thanks to its 2006 acquisition of graphics powerhouse ATI. These chip giants haven't quite kept up with the times, though. The tech landscape is fast changing and Intel and AMD's apparent slowness to switch focus to mobile computing has allowed other chip manufacturers – most notably ARM but also the likes of VIA and Qualcomm – to dominate this huge new market.
This week, Gartner said that semiconductor revenue will increase 5.4 percent this year compared to 2014. The drivers of the sector, which will reach $358 billion this year, are smartphones, ultramobiles and solid-state drives. The firm, according to ZDNet, found that these decidedly non-desktop devices will represent more than two-thirds of semiconductor revenue and have the most influence on how the sector evolves going forward. The rising star will be semiconductors used in the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. This market will enjoy growth of 9.1 percent, with the promise of increased growth in subsequent years.
The dynamic seems to be a familiar one: Incumbents are fighting to retain relevance in the face of drastic market changes and the new entrants that those changes spawn. Forbes offers a look at how Intel is reacting. Dave Altavilla says that the company’s 5th Generation Core Series processors, which are based on the Broadwell architecture, are “the geek-equivalent of Jennifer Lawrence or Bradly Cooper” for folks who want to use “super-thin” notebooks that do not need to be recharged too often.
Meanwhile, AMD seems to be struggling with the new reality. The Austin American-Statesman reports that three senior executives have left the company and a new CEO has been appointed. AMD has expanded into new markets, but Wall Street is not satisfied with the progress. Revenue slowed by more than 9 percent last year and the market value of the company is half of what it was in 2011.
One of the new chips off the old block is MediaTek. The company is reported to be working on chips with 10 or 12 cores—each core is a central processing unit (CPU). Brad Linder at Liliputing describes what the advantages of multiple-core chips are and expresses skepticism about the high number. Nonetheless, if the development actually happens, it will be a good example of innovation and competition in the field.
The chip sector was staid and a bit dull until the mobile revolution. That change and demands of the IoT mean that things never will be boring again.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.