Nick Wiley is

CPU Manufacturing Competition is Good

In Technology on June 12, 2011 at 10:16 pm

In my last post, I spoke about Intel’s new 22nm 3d transistor technology.  While I’m fairly excited to see what Intel is bringing to the table, I am concerned about what it may mean for the industry.  The CPU manufacturing industry (like all other industries) has relied on market competition to keep forward motion a priority.  If what Intel has been brewing is really all it’s cracked up to be, AMD (Intel’s largest desktop/server CPU competitor) has reason to be shaking in their boots.

For years, I have shared a slight hatred for all things Intel with many, many other true nerds out there in computerdom.  This is not necessarily because of Intel’s products (some of them have been alright), rather, because of the way Intel has (particularly in the past) perpetuated its market leadership position by covering up poorly engineered CPUs in marketing hype and a massive advertising budget.  In essence, Intel is the perfect example of the rich kid down the street who continues to succeed simply because he’s rich.

Specifically, Intel has used its riches in two ways.  Primarily, Intel has relied on its deep pockets to fund a marketing beast that has positioned Intel as the market leader.  Much of the consumer world has grabbed onto this notion hook, line, and sinker.  Since Intel’s name is more visible, they must make the best chips, right?

In addition, Intel’s riches have allowed them to construct the best chip CPU manufacturing facilities in the world, leaving AMD with the second best.  As I briefly pointed out in my last post, any time a die shrink (essentially, new machinery is installed that allows more transistors to fit in a smaller space) occurs, CPUs automatically gain a performance boost and a power consumption drop.  Because of its better manufacturing facilities, Intel is always able to die shrink earlier than AMD.  Basically, this allows Intel to squeeze extra life out of mediocre CPU architectures designs.

My proposed solution?

IBM needs to buy out AMD.  AMD needs some serious cash to stay competitive.  IBM has it.

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  1. I agree with much you have to say; this is very insightful and you show a clear understanding of the industry and its products. However, I would argue that Intel has put their engineers to good use with their latest generation of CPU technology.

    Intel was beat quite well with their inefficient and inferior Netburst (Pentium 4) architecture by AMD’s K8 (Athlon 64). However, their Core 2 series was developed with a much different paradigm focused on efficiency, and proved at least as good as AMD’s design, if not better. Since then, they have not slouched off with the following generation of i series processors. They brought further advances in their architecture for efficiency, further increasing their performance advantage over AMD’s designs (which were only marginal improvements, putting them a step behind). This is not to downplay Intel’s manufacturing advantage; however, in my opinion, it’s clear Intel has not slacked off with the architectural developments of their latest generation of microprocessor architecture.

    That being said, I concur that AMD’s disadvantage in manufacturing has prevented them from being as competitive as they could have been, especially given the nice architectural advantage they once held. In fact, AMD recently announced a delay on the launch of their first Bulldozer-derived Zanzebi due to manufacturing problems. These problems cause them to fall short of their clockspeed goals by over 30% and the delay is at least one more quarter. I believe Intel also announced a slacking in the release date of their next generation. Coincidence?

    So, in the end, I do agree with your final point, even if I disagree with the extent of Intel’s slacking on architecture design. I agree that AMD should at least work on manufacturing with IBM, if not just form a partnership for the whole CPU design segment. However it happens, let’s hope AMD catches up, for the sake of the whole market.

  2. P.S. I acknowledge your “particularly in the past” comment on Intel’s poorly engineered architectures and marketing cover-ups; however I felt the lack of specifics made it come across as an over-generalization, being as the last three generations of architecture have been vastly superior in design, and I think much of the reason of Intel’s present market superiority.

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