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TI CEO: Intel's PC baggage will hurt mobile aspirations

Agam Shah | June 3, 2011
Texas Instruments' CEO this week took a shot at Intel, saying the company's history of making power-hungry PC chips could hurt its aspirations to compete with ARM in the handheld device market.

Texas Instruments' CEO this week took a shot at Intel, saying the company's history of making power-hungry PC chips could hurt its aspirations to compete with ARM in the handheld device market.

Despite advances in manufacturing technologies, Intel may struggle to make sub 1-watt chips that can perform under real-world conditions, said Rich Templeton, CEO of TI, during a speech at the Bernstein Research conference that was webcast. Intel may find it difficult to compete against seasoned chip makers with decades of experience making ARM-based chips, Templeton said.

ARM's processors, which go into most of the world's smartphones and tablets, are considered to be more power efficient than Intel's tablet and smartphone chips. Intel recently introduced its first Atom chips dedicated to tablets, and has already released mobile phone chips, but no Intel-inside smartphones are yet available.

"This is game, set and match on ARM-based computing in the mobile side. There's no debate left on that. I think the only one trying to make noise about that is the person that isn't on that journey at this point," Templeton said.

Intel is accelerating its move to new manufacturing technologies, and said it hopes to release chips in 2013 that are at par with ARM on power consumption. Intel also introduced 3D transistors for use in its next-generation of 22-nanometer chips, which are 37% faster and consume less than half the power of 2D transistors on its current 32-nm chips. Production of chips using the 22-nm process will begin later this year.

Templeton said that the argument of progress in manufacturing technology to make chips more power-efficient was also made three years ago, but the market conditions haven't changed.

"I still don't know if the true sub 1-watt world of low power is understood," Templeton said. "We've been working on low-power for 20 year coming out of the cellphone perspective. I think it really does help when you come from a 300 milliwatt voice-only cellphone world."

TI, which makes chips for smartphones, earlier this week announced a quad-core chip, the OMAP4470, which has ARM processor cores. TI's chips go into tablets such as Research in Motion's PlayBook and smartphones from companies such as Motorola and LG. In addition to Intel, TI competes with ARM-based chip makers Qualcomm, Nvidia and Samsung.

Intel is building process technology to support ultramobile products, while the chip maker's past processes have been built for speed and not power consumption, said Doug Freedman, senior semiconductor analyst at Gleacher and Co.

 

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