As if the semiconductor market needed any more bad news, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) released a statement showing how bad worldwide sales of semiconductors have fallen in the past year, while warning that the industry has yet to hit rock bottom.
"The global semiconductor industry is going through one of the steepest corrections in its history," said SIA President George Scalise. "While it would be premature to conclude that the sales decline has hit bottom, there are some indications that the rate of decline has moderated from the final quarter of 2008. The industry responded quickly to the changing market environment by curtailing production and reducing inventory as demand slowed in late 2008. The world’s two largest foundry manufacturers have recently reported slight improvements in factory utilization rates, albeit at levels well below those of a year ago," Scalise continued.
According to SIA, worldwide semiconductor sales sat at just $14.2 billion in February 2009, a decline of a little more than 30 percent over February 2008 when sales reached 20.3 billion. It also represents a 7.6 percent drop from one month ago when sales were $15.3 billion in January.
Scalise warned that sales are expected to keep falling "well below 2008 levels" for the foreseeable future.
Intel this week launched its new Xeon 5500 series, which were previously known as Nehalem-EP, along with a handful of new mobile Core 2 Duo chips built around the 45nm Penryn core. Following the release, Intel has posted an updated price list reflecting the new CPUs.
Pricing for the new Xeon chips range from $188 for the entry-level E5502 (1.86GHz, 4MB L2 cache, 80W) on up to $1,600 for the flagship W5580 (3.2GHz, 8MB L2 cache, 130W). A total of 12 new 45nm Xeons have been added in all, covering just about every price point.
On the mobile front, four new Core 2 mobile chips have been added, starting with the Core 2 Solo SU3500 (1.4GHz, 3MB L2 cache, 5.3W) for $262. Other chips include the Core 2 Duo SU9600 (1.6GHz, 3MB, 10W) for $289, Core 2 Duo SL9600 (2.13GHz, 6MB, 17W) for $316, and Core 2 Duo SP9600 (2.53GHz, 6MB, 25W) for $316.
Nvidia is said to be eying a stake in VIA Technologies. VIA, which manufactures x86-based CPUs, is planning to sell 300 million new shares through private placement. Sources have revealed Nvidia and VIA are holding parleys. However, there is no official word on the names of those interested in buying a stake in VIA. According to Taiwanese website Digitimes, the price of the new shares will range between $0.27 and $.35. Intel has plans of invading Nvidia’s turf with its yet-to-be-released Larrabee GPU. Therefore, a stake in VIA might help Nvidia keep the scales even.
The VIA-developed Em-ITX form factor sees its first real world use today as the company showcases its new Em-ITX board with a VIA Nano processor at ESC Silicon Valley 2009. The company came up with the 12cm x 17cm Em-ITX specification for use in ultra-slim embedded devices, the first now being the EITX-3000.
"VIA has repeatedly pushed the thermal design envelope with innovative form factor specifications that allow ever more compact, slim, and versatile device designs," said Daniel Wu, VP, VIA Embedded, VIA Technologies, Inc. "The VIA EITX-3000 adds the performance-per-watt advantages of the VIA Nano processor to create a truly compelling embedded board for high-end digital media systems."
To make room for a passive cooling solution and keep the design fanless, the EITX-3000 combines VIA's Nano processor with the company's VX8000 media system processor on the reverse side of the board. VIA says it can be used in a wide range of temperature environments from -10C to 70C, and is an ideal choice for always-on applications like high-end POS, Kiosk, ATM, HMI, factory automation, POI, and digital signage.
The EITX-3000 comes configurable with either a 1.3GHz or 1.0GHz Nano ULV processor, dual gigabit networking, multi-configurable dual onboard LVDS and a VGA port, four onboard serial ports, and six USB ports,. It supports up to 2GB of DDR2 SO-DIMM memory. See here for a full list of specs.
VIA says samples of the EITX-3000 will be available to project customers in early May. No word yet on price.
AMD’s manufacturing spin-off, Globalfoundries, has started to obtain bulk 32nm process technology so that they can begin taking orders by Q4 2009/Q1 2010. Should these plans come full circle, it would allow Gobalfoundries, and AMD, to get a solid foothold in the 32nm market, making them competitive with United Microelectronics and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (who are both working on 32nm processes of their own).
“Globalfoundries is entering the foundry market at the right time and with the right business model to change the landscape of the industry. More importantly, we’re entering the industry with the right mindset and resources. Our investments in leading edge technology and in supporting infrastructure will ensure the success of our customers,” said Jim Kupec, Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
Apple earlier this month began taking orders for its new Mac Pro workstations with Intel's Xeon 3500 and 5500 quad-core processors, so technically, Lenovo isn't the first major PC maker to announce Nehalem-based workstations. Unless, like us, you demand a real PC (oh burn!).
Due for release next week, Lenovo's ThinkStation D20 and S20 workstation will also come configured with Intel's Xeon 3500 and 5500 dual- and quad-core processors. Intel is expected to launch the new CPUs next week as well.
The lower-end S20, which will start out at $1,070, is a single-socket system with support for up to 12GB of memory. The higher-end D20, which will start out at $1,550, comes with two sockets and ups and ante with support for up to 96GB of memory. Both systems will offer up to 1TB of storage.
End-users will be able to choose between Windows Vista Business and Red Hat Enterprise Linux for the OS, and an Nvidia Quadro or ATI FirePro workstation videocard for graphics chores.
Both models are expected to be available before April.
Ack! Your smokin' fast Core 2 Quad processor and other Intel chips may suffer from what security experts call "CPU cache poisoning." Sounds nasty, and according to Joanna Rutkowska who discovered the security flaw, it is.
"In this paper we have described practical exploitation of the CPU cache poisoning," Joanna Rutkowska and Rafal Wojtczuk wrote in an abstract paper (PDF). "This is the third attack on SMM (system management mode) memory our team has found within the last 10 months, affecting Intel-based systems. It seems that the current state of firmware security, even in case of such reputable vendors as Intel, is quite unsatisfying."
Rutkowska and Wojtczuk go one to discuss proof of concept codes for arbitrary SMM code execution, which could (theoretically) lead to abuses of the super-privileged SMM mode and embedding SMM rookits. Doing so would (again theoretically) give hackers control over the affected PC. Worse yet, according to Jamey Heary, a consulting systems engineer for Cisco Systems, the hack would be "virtually undetectable."
So what does Intel have to say? "We are working with these researchers. We take this research and all reports seriously. Currently as far as we know, there are no known exploits in the wild," Intel spokesman George Alfs said in a written statement.
Get the full scoop here, then hit the jump and tell us what you think.
Unlike the chicken and the egg, in today's multicore environment, we can definitively say the hardware came first, and we're beginning to wonder if the software will ever come at all. We're not referring to the handful of games and applications that are multicore friendly, but the widespread development of software to take advantage of multiple cores.
So what's the holdup? According to participants at last week's Multicore Expo in Santa Clara, California, programming challenges remain. While there's no shortage of multicore processors in the wild, much of the software being written is still being geared towards single-core computing.
"Looking at the specifications for these software products, it is clear that many will be challenged to support the hardware configurations possible today and those that will be accelerating in the future," said Carl Claunch, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "The impact is akin to putting a Ferrari engine in a go-cart; the power may be there, but design mismatches severely limit the ability to exploit it."
The above statement comes from a report Gartner released two months ago. In it, Claunch goes on to explain that the software running today's servers have both hard and soft limits on the number of processors the software can effectively handle, the latter of which requires trial and error to overcome.
Parallel computing may seem like a no-brainer, but programmers point to the potential of new types of software bugs and lack of programming tools. On the bright side, more tools are emerging, and both Intel and AMD have made it clear that the future of computing lies in multiple cores. That future will be realized once software development catches up to the hardware.
Intel has made quite the splash in both the nettop and netbook markets with its low-power Atom processors, but it will be another month before the chip maker dives into the mobile internet device (MID) end of the electronics pool, says DigiTimes.
Citing un-named "sources at MID makers," the news and rumor site reports Intel has postponed the launch of its Atom Z550 and Z515 Atom CPUs to mid-April, both of which are intended for MIDs. When it launches, the Atom Z550 will run at 2.0GHz, making it the fastest clockspeed Atom to date. It will offer the same 2.4W rated TDP, 512KB of L2 cache, and 533MHz frontside bus. The Z515 will run a tick slower at 1.2GHz. Both chips sport an average power consumption of just .22W.
The Z550 will boast support for Intel's US15W chipset, while the Atom Z515 will support both the US15W and low-power UL11L chipsets. In addition, the Z515 will also feature Intel's new Burst Performance Technology (BPT), which will adjust the core clockspeed based on performance requirements.
According to news and rumor site DigiTimes, Intel doesn't have much in the way of upcoming Core i7 processor price cuts, but if you're looking to piece together a Core 2 machine, look for some pretty significant reductions in the near future.
Citing un-named motherboard makers, the site claims Intel will drop pricing on several quad-core processors on April 12. These include:
Core 2 Quad Q9300 - $266 down to $213 (19.92%)
Core 2 Quad Q9550S - $369 down to $320 (13.28%)
Core 2 Quad Q9400S - $320 down to $277 (13.44%)
Core 2 Quad Q8200S - $245 down to $213 (13.06%)
On May 31, DigiTimes says Intel will introduce a handful of new processors, among them the Core i7 975 (3.33GHz) for $999 and Core i7 950 (3.06GHz) for $562.
Hit the jump to see what other new processors Intel has in store for May, along with what other price cuts to expect this summer.