[Cialug] OT: More on Intel or Moron on Intel

Nathan C. Smith smith at ipmvs.com
Fri Jun 10 11:49:53 CDT 2005

Probably nothing new here for most of you, lots of opinions and guessing.
I'm interested in alternate viewpoints and other opinions.

One of our new attorneys (he is also an engineer) worked at Intel for a
while, I had a brief conversation with him yesterday and some points I took
away were this:

* Intel has all the hallmarks of a big company including headcount politics
* Chip foundries are expensive to build
* In his opinion, Intel may no longer makes the "best" CPU chip. (I think he
meant highest performing because they are certainly reliable)
* There is more money to be made in volume chips for consumer electronics
* Intel chip design teams are big.
* Intel maintains a "skunk works" team
* The manufacturing and design groups are in two "silos" that appear to be
pitted against each other.

He went into the usual schpiel about how the way to get more performance has
to change because going smaller on-chip is getting to be extremely expensive
(requires new specially built chip foundries) and physics are getting in the
way.  The complex Intel model of caches and tricks to boost performance
breaks down when you go to a dual core chip, requiring other changes to get
to the performance needed.  

Intel is also expanding into new areas including software and devices more
aggressively than when they were tightly focused on chips.  Blame or thank
computer saturation and dot-bomb for that.

What I think it boils down to, is that is is getting too expensive to build
"hot rod" chips, the way it has been done, and Intel is finding other ways
to get the performance without building more expensive chip foundries.  He
said one of the last foundries cost almost 10 billion and that is _before_
the chip-making equipment went in, basically the building, HVAC (clean
rooms), and the plumbing (water purification, toxic material disposal etc).

A large company doesn't change 20 years of momentum in a day or even a year,
but I think at Intel commodity chip-building is going to change from
building expensive, fast chips to doing more with less until a quantum leap
occurs that takes us to a new way of thinking about chips.

OK, he's not the ultimate insider, but he was at Intel and he has first-hand
impressions of what goes on.  Its easy to forget that so much crap and
politics go on at a big company like Intel that it isn't always about
building the best chip.  It's about budgets and shareholders and dollars.

[WOT] I wonder what a free (as in libre) chip would be like?  GNUchip?  You
can only sell the packaging it comes in.


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