Let it not be said that the European Union is playing favorites when it picks on Microsoft. The powerful antitrust regulators have now set their sights squarely on Intel, and the fines could be much worse. The commission began investigating Intel’s sales practices in late 2000 when AMD filed its initial complaint. Both chip makers are US based, but European regulators are historically much more aggressive at punishing monopolistic behavior than their American counterparts.
The chip maker has allegedly been accused of giving large rebates to computer manufacturers and retail chains to carry Intel exclusively, or in some cases, to downplay the AMD offerings. In some situations, Intel is even accused of offering server chips below cost to help corner the market. Intel denied any wrong doing and according to Intel spokesmen Robert Manetta, “Over all, Intel’s conduct is lawful, pro-competitive and beneficial to consumers.” Intel has every right to be concerned over the investigation however, since the fines imposed are rumored to dwarf those faced by Microsoft. In the 2004 EU antitrust verdict against Microsoft, the software giant faced a fine of close to $663 million US. Intel on the other hand could be facing a penalty of $1.3 billion or more according to experts.
Intel currently controls around 81.9 percent of the global market for CPU’s, while AMD scrapes by with only 17.7 percent. A guilty ruling could put Intel into further hot water after being found guilty of anti competitive practices in South Korea less than a year ago. They are appealing the $19.5 million fine, but this is chump change compared to the $3.6 billion penalty the European union is capable of leveling.
Two new nettops based on Nvidia's Ion platform have been unveiled in Taipei this week, one by ASRock and the other by Pegatron Technology. ASRock's Ion 330 trades in the oft-used single-core Atom processor for a dual-core variant, the Atom 330 CPU (1.6GHz, 1MB L2 cache, 533MHz frontside bus). Not much else is known about the PC, other than it comes with an integrated DVD optical drive.
Taking up a slimmer form factor, Pegatron's Cape 7 comes encased in white plastic and has four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, HDMI port, 3.5mm audio jack, and a power connector for an external power brick. It doesn't come with an optical drive, nor are there any details regarding the processor.
While these are some of the first dual-core Atom 330 based nettops to be spotted in the wild, they won't be the last. According to web rumblings, Nvidia expects around 40 Ion platforms to show up on the markt by the end of the year, some of which are bound to come with dual-core Atoms.
Most parts of the country aren't expected to see any more snowfall until next winter, but the relationship between Nvidia and Intel couldn't be any more chilly. At odds with each other over Nehalem licensing, netbook platforms, and other tech related spats, the two sides seem all to happy to take digs at one another when the opportunity arises. For Nvidia, that means calling to question Intel's claim that its Core i7 processor can improve game performance by up to 80 percent.
"I have a copy of Intel’s latest deck that they share with press and customers, and on there they have a slide that is called The Intel Core i7 920 Processor, where they claim that gaming performance goes up by 80 percent when you use a Core i7, said Tom Peterson, Nvidia's technical marketing director. "Now, I was impressed by that claim, and I was trying to figure out how they could possibly say such a thing, and it turns out that Intel is basing that claim on only 3DMark Vantage’s CPU test."
Peterson went on to point out that the synthetic benchmark's CPU test doesn't actually measure game performance, and to say otherwise would be disingenuous. To drive his point home, Peterson showed Nvidia's own benchmarks of a Core 2 Duo E8400 machine outfitted with a GeForce GTS 250 videocard. The PC averaged 41.6 FPS in Nvidia's testing, and only increased to 42.4 FPS after upgrading to a Core i7 965. But after upgrading to a pair of GeForce GTX 260 videocards, that number jumped to 59.4 FPS.
"In real gaming, there's no difference between a Core i7 and a Core 2 Duo," Peterson concluded.
Following a board meeting last week, VIA has come to the conclusion that it needs to cut capital to NT$5.17 billion ($153.4 million USD), a 60 percent reduction. A shareholder meeting on June 19th will decide when the reduced capital will take place. As a result of the planned reduction, VIA said it expects shares to improve to $NT11.36, or almost three times as much as the current NT$4.50 share price.
VIA didn't say what effect the reduced capital would have on its Nano processor roadmap, which could put the heat on Intel in coming months. Citing un-named market sources, news and rumor site DigiTimes notes that demand for Intel's Atom netbook CPUs has been slowing down lately in the wake of price cuts by low-end notebooks. The sources also attributed the reduced demand to consumer anticipation of the next generation of Atom processors, currently scheduled for the second half of this year.
Having to replace a $2,000 notebook after it's been swiped from under your nose is bad enough, but it's only the tip of the iceberg for business owners, Intel says. According to a study on notebook security commissioned by Intel and conducted by the Ponemon Institute, laptops lifted from airports, taxis, and hotels around the globe end up costing their corporate owners an average of $49,246. That number reflects "the value of the enclosed data above the cost of the PC."
Somewhat surprisingly, it's not the CEO's computer that holds the most value, but a director or manager, the study says. Analyzing 138 instances of lost and stolen notebooks, the study values the average senior executive's laptop to be $28,449, whereas a director or manager's laptop is worth twice as much at about $61,000 each.
The well-timed (or strategically-timed) study comes shortly after Intel's "Poison Pill" Anti-Theft PC Protection technology finds its way onto a pair of Asus notebooks.
Intel this week slashed prices on several Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors by up to 20 percent. The chip maker also introduced a pair of new processors, the Core 2 Quad Q8400S and Q8400 for $245 and $183, respectively. This month's price cuts break down as follows:
Core 2 Quad Q9300: $213 down from $266
Core 2 Quad Q9550S: $320 down from $369
Core 2 Quad Q9400S: $277 down from $320
Core 2 Quad Q8200S: $213 down from $245
Core 2 Duo SP9400: $284 down from $316
Core 2 Duo SU9400: $262 down from $289
Intel's latest round of price cuts come well timed, as AMD today launched its AM3-based Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processor. While the 955BE serves as AMD's new flagship part, the company is aggressively pushing the chip as the best quad-core in the market within its $245ish price range.
If the latest web chatter turns out to be true, then Santa won't be stuffing any 6-core Intel chips in anyone's stockings this year. Instead, news site HKEPC tells us Intel's roadmap for for its 6-core Gulftown chip has been pushed back from Q4 2009 / Q1 2010 to sometime in Q2 2010.
From what we know so far, Gulftown will be worth the wait. Built around the Core i7 architecture, Gulftown will purportedly support HyperThreading, turning those 6 cores into 12. It will also come with two QuickPatch Interconnects (QPIs), 12MB of L3 cache, and hardware encryption support. Perhaps best of all, Intel's 32nm Gulftown likely serve as a drop-in replacement for LGA 1366 socket motherboards and work with current X58 chipsets.
How do blokes at the S60 on Symbian Consumer Operations (SOSCO) contend with monotony that usually plagues people at workplaces with such unimaginative names? They savagely slaughter time through such wild undertakings as the porting of Symbian to an off-the-shelf Atom-based motherboard – please do try that at home.
“ A few of the bright and capable guys in the SOSCO (S60 on Symbian Customer Operations) team have Symbian compiling via GCC and now running on an off the shelf Atom based motherboard from Intel,” Lee Williams, Executive Director of the Symbian Foundation, wrote in a blog post.
Williams wrote that the “responsiveness of the UI and upper application layers” impressed him the most. Williams’ bluster apart, the screenshots are rather vapid.
Earlier this month, we caught wind (no pun intended, MSI) of Samsung's upcoming netbook, the N120. Details were scarce at the time, with only half-baked preliminary e-tailer product pages to go off of, but that's no longer the case. Amazon (and others) are now selling the N120 that Samsung has been surprisingly quiet about.
Available in both black (N120-12GBK) and white (N120-12GW) trim, the new 10.1-inch netbook model keeps it simple (read: boring) with an Intel Atom N270 (1.6GHz, 533MHz frontside bus, 512KB L2 cache) processor on an Intel 945GSE chipset, integrated Intel GMA950 graphics, a 160GB/5400RPM hard drive, 1GB of DDR2-667 memory, WiFi, Bluetooth, 3 USB 2.0 ports, 3-in-1 memory card reader, 1.3MP webcam, Windows XP, and a handful of other features we've now seen a thousand times before.
We've spotted several vendors selling the N120 for around $465.
If you're to take Intel at its word (and earnings report), then forget any talk of the PC industry continuing to decline. According to CEO Paul Otellini, the immediate future looks bright, especially for the No. 1 chip maker.
"We believe PC sales bottomed out during the first quarter and that the industry is returning to normal seasonal patterns," Otellini said in a statement. "Intel has adapted well to the current economic environment and we're benefiting from disciplined execution and agility. We're delivering a product portfolio that meets the needs of the changing market, spanning affordable computing to high-performance, energy-efficient computing."
Backing up his claims, Intel reported a first quarter profit of $647 million, or 11 cents per share, on revenue of $7.1 billion. Wall Street was expecting earnings of 2 cents on revenue of $6.98 billion.
But does Intel's success translate to a recovery in the PC market as a whole? While Intel has been riding high on sales of its Atom processors and managed to beat expectations for Q1, the company wasn't as forthcoming when it came to forecasting Q2.