There aren't too many companies with the infrastructure or financial backing in place to take on Intel in the desktop processor market, nor can there be much gumption after witnessing the struggles AMD continues to go through as the sole competitor. But in the fast growing netbook sector, all bets are off. VIA's Nano chip has emerged as a viable contender with a promising multi-core future, AMD is expected to unveil a chip for ultraportables at CES, and now yet another company looks to jump in the ring with a low cost processor of its own.
Freescale Semiconductor announced on Monday a new ARM-based chip from its i.MX line the company claims will finally make sub-$200 netbooks a reality.
"We see a huge opportunity in the netbook market as consumers demand more cost-effective and higher performing solutions,” said Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager of Freescale’s Networking and Multimedia Group. “Our solution for netbooks will enable OEMs to develop compelling products that feature cell phone-like battery life at extremely aggressive price points."
Hit the jump to learn more about Freescales new chip.
If AMD continues to falter in 2009, it won't be from a lack of processors. Less than two weeks ago, DigiTimes reported that the Santa Clara chip maker would churn out no less than half a dozen 45nm Athlon CPUs by June of 2009 in addition to the upcoming Phenom II release, all of which are aimed at the consumer desktop sector. But that's just the beginning; AMD also plans to flesh out its business CPU lineup with several 45nm silicon as well, DigiTimes says.
Six new business classes processors divided evenly between dual-, triple-, and quad-core parts are slated for Q3 2009. These include:
Athlon X2 B21 (2.7GHz, 2MB cache)
Athlon X2 B23 (2.9GHz, 2MB cache)
Phenom II X3 B71 (2.6GHz, 7.5MB cache)
Phenom II X3 B73 (2.8GHz, 7.5MB cache)
Phenom II X4 B91 (2.6GHz, 8MB cache)
Phenom II X4 B93 (2.8GHz, 8MB cache)
Several new Phenom II, Athlon X2, and Athlon processors will also receive last order notices in Q4 2009.
Intel may have the nettop and netbook markets cornered with its Atom processor, but that could quickly change if PC manufacturers become enamored with VIA's Nano processor, which has been shown to hold its own in benchmarking next to the much more popular Atom. Giving PC makers a nudge, VIA plans to launch its next-generation Nano 3000-series CPU in the third quarter of 2009, with engineering samples being made available in Q1 2009, according to DigiTimes. The new chip will be produced under Fujitsu's 65nm manufacturing process and will be the first Nano processor to support SSE4 instructions.
Also on tap is a dual-core Nano. A previous roadmap showed the two-cored chip going into production in June 2010, which could give Intel a significant headstart should the company decide to port its existing dual-core Atom 330 CPU over to netbooks instead of just nettops. But now it appears VIA will have engineering samples available in the second half of 2009, with mass production to begin by the end of 2009 or very early 2010.
It has not yet been decided whether the dual-core Nano will use Fujitsu's 45nm manufacturing process or Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC's) 40nm process. But no matter which direction VIA takes its dual-core Nano part, the company could put itself in a favorable position if it doesn't run into any delays and makes its two-core chip available for use in netbooks, which have become increasingly powerful as of late.
Forgive us if we're starting to sound like a broken record, but AMD continues to find itself struggling to stay afloat. The chip maker's list of financial woes just keeps piling on, and to date we've witnessed high level executives jumping ship, a new CEO take the reins, billions of dollars in quarterly losses, a Phenom(enal) flop (compared to pre-release hype), a major shift in business operations by splitting into separate design and manufacturing companies, and now another round of layoffs.
AMD has been cutting employees more frequently than some people cut their hair. Earlier this year, the Santa Clara chip maker reduced its workforce by 10 percent, and more recently, the company said it would be cutting another 500 jobs to reduce costs. Now AMD is saying it plans to issue another 100 pink slips, for a grand total of 600 job cuts in this quarter alone.
The additional layoffs means AMD will record $70 million in restructuring charges instead of the $50 million it had previously expected. More charges are expected in the first half of 2009, though AMD didn't say what they would amount to.
Here's hoping Phenom II kicks ass and finally reverses the company's fortunes. If not, one has to wonder just how long AMD can keep this up.
Unlike in the desktop market where quad-core computing has become commonplace, the four-core revolution has yet to make any real headway into the mobile sector. That might change soon as Intel has launched an affordable quad-core mobile chip.
The new Q9000 processor comes listed at $348, which is far easier to swallow than the $1,038 asking price for the existing mobile quad-core QX9300, or $851 for the Q9100. To make the lower price point possible, Intel cut the amount of cache in half from 12MB (QX9300 and Q9100) to 6MB. The Q9000 races along at 2.0GHz.
Acer has already jumped on board as one of the first OEMs to announce a Q9000-based laptop, the Aspire 8930G-7665, priced at $1,800. In addition to utilizing Intel's new quad-core chip, the Aspire also comes with an 18.4-inch WUXGA screen and GeForce 9700M GT GPU.
In other mobile chip news, Intel announced a handful of new dual-core mobile processors. These include the T9800 (2.93GHz, $530), P9600 (2.66GHz, $348), T9550 (2.66GHz, $316), and the P8700 (2.53GHz, $241).
According to DigiTimes, AMD will launch half a dozen 45nm Athlon processors by June of 2009. The quad-core Athlon X4 615 and 605 and triple-core Athlon X3 420 and 410 are expected to ship in April 2009, with the company's dual-core Athlon X2 240 and 235 coming a bit later in June 2009.
AMD has also been busy planning last order notices for its upcoming 45nm AM2+ Phenom II X4 920 and 940 Black Edition processors, which the company plans to issue in May 2009. Meanwhile, the Santa Clara chip maker will no longer take orders for its quad-core Phenom X4 9650. More Phenom last order notices aren't far behind, with AMD's Phenom X4 9950 (140W) and 9850 (125W) getting theirs in March of next year, and the Phenom X4 9750, 9850 (95W), and 9950 (125W) in June 2009.
But wait, there's more! DigiTimes says AMD's triple-core Phenom X3 8450 and 8550 are nearing their end of life in the market place, while the Phenom X3 8650 will have its last order notice issued in March 2009. The Phenom X3 8850 and 8750 CPUs will follow the same fate in June. And finally, AMD's Athlon X2 4450e chip, a low-power CPU, will be phased out in March 2009.
Phew! That's a lot of chips getting ready to head to the chopping block. Plan accordingly, AMD fans.
With the release of Intel's Core i7 lineup, it appeared Intel and Nvidia might be on the path to patching up their relationship as the two finally came to terms with licensing Nvidia's SLI technology on Intel's X58 chipset. But don't call them BFFs just yet.
Nvidia recently announced plans to release its Ion platform, a low power netbook solution which would pair the company's GeForce 9400M chipset with Intel's Atom processor. According to Nvidia, users would be able to play popular games on the Ion platform, like Call of Duty 4. The only problem is Intel doesn't appear to have any intention of sharing its Atom processor with Nvidia.
According to DigiTimes, an internal statement distributed to hardware makers reiterated Intel's stance that its Atom processors would only come bundled with the chip maker's 945GSE and 945GC chipsets. The news site also claims Intel indicated it has no plans to validate the Nvidia MCP79 chipset on Atom-based platforms, nor does it plan to partner with Nvidia to support nettops or netbooks.
AMD could really use a compelling CPU launch to win back favor among enthusiasts and turn its financial struggles around, and the company hopes its upcoming Phenom II processor line will do just that. Last month the chip maker demoed a Phenom II being overclocked on a variety of cooling solutions culminating with a 5GHz run using LN2, and now end-users putting the Phenom II's overclocking prowess to the test are seeing similar results.
During Tom's Hardware's Overdrive overclocking finals in Paris, teams from all over the world competed for the highest scores using Intel's Core i7 platform, but AMD's Phenom II also made an appearance. With the help of one of the competitors, the news and review site took the 940 Phenom X4 BE II from its stock 3GHz frequency up to 4.957GHz using a Gigabyte motherboard and liquid nitrogen cooling. Ironically, the extreme cooling may have prevented the quad-core chip's overclocking ceiling, as Tom's Hardware claims "it has an issue of locking at temperatures below -70°C."
Not many system builders are going to interested in keeping a supply of LN2 handy, but what's interesting to note is the frequency headroom AMD's next generation Phenom chips appear to offer. During AMD's demo, the 45nm quad-core chip still broke the 4GHz barrier on air and water cooling, which bodes well for Phenom II and perhaps AMD's immediate future.
AMD is expected to launch Phenom II in January 2009.
Two months ago AMD made the decision to split into separate design and manufacturing companies. Under terms of the deal, which involved significant investments from the Abu Dhabi government, AMD was to own 44 percent of the new entity involved with chip making, temporarily known as the Foundry Company.
More recently, AMD cut its 4Q revenue forecast by 25 percent citing a sluggish global economy as the culprit. In an effort to reduce its manufacturing costs and realign itself with the current state of the economy, AMD said it will own less of the Foundry Company spinoff.
Abu-Dhabi-based Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC) was already a majority owner in the Foundry, and under terms of the new deal, ATIC will increase its share to 65.8 percent, with AMD dropping down to 34.2 percent. Other changes to the original deal include a restructured agreement that now says Mubadala, a minority owner, will purchase 58 million shares of AMD's common stock at a revised purchase price.
"All other material economic terms of the transaction agreements remain unchanged. ATIC will still invest $2.1 billion to purchase its stake in the Foundry Company, of which it will invest $1.4 billion directly in the new entity and will pay $700 million to AMD," the chipmaker said in a statement.
Don't fret if you just plunked down a wad of cash for a 45nm processor, you're still ahead of the curve. And while 32nm chips aren't 'just around the corner,' they have officially moved into the production phase and it looks as though Intel will make the transition on schedule. The first commercial processors on the shrunken die process are expected to debut by the end of 2009.
Moving to 32nm isn't without its technological challenges, and Intel will use a second-generation high-K gate material to contain leakage current, TGDaily reports. The chip maker will also transition to a 193nm immersion lithography production technology to print the circuits on the chips, something AMD already does on its 45nm parts.
Should Intel not run into any product-delaying roadblocks, the switch to 32nm will put the chip maker at least a year ahead of AMD, whose roadmap shows a 32nm server processor scheduled for 2010 (consumer processors built on a 32nm manufacturing process aren't expected until 2011). And looking past 32nm, 22nm technology has moved out of research and into development, putting it on pace for a 2013 release.
Intel will give more details on its next generation chips at the International Electron Devices meeting (IEDM) in San Francisco on December 15th.