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Intel eyes 7nm tech, extends x86 architecture

Posted: 22 Jul 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:7nm? x86 architecture? capex spending?

Intel Corp. is increasing its capital expenses this year to pave the way for its own 7nm process technology. The company hopes that this move will bolster its efforts in tablets and its ultrabooks. Intel also announced that it is planning to extend its x86 instruction set architecture for security.

Intel lowered its expectations of its overall PC market unit growth for this year to 8C10 percent. But the company believes that its revenue growth would be stronger, projecting growth as high as 12 percent. However, analysts' forecast it to be just around 5 percent this year.

Intel said that it plans to spend around $16.2 billion on a wide range of internal investments.

This is $500 million more than earlier forecasts. The investments are intended to fuel Intel's efforts in several areas including servers, notebooks, tablets and smartphones. The company is also upgrading its 14nm fabs that are under construction.

"Some of (the increased fab expenses) are a pull-in from next year (because we are moving) faster than expected into our 14nm factories," said Stacy Smith, Intel's CFO.

But "the larger portion is an increase in the scope of the factories," Smith said. The 14nm plants will now be outfitted to handle expected needs for 10nm and 7nm process technology, he added.

"There's a higher return-on-investment to do that now rather than later," said Smith. Currently Intel's capex spending is focused on enabling "22nm peak (production) and (building) 14nm shells, and soon you'll see us move into the cycle of 14nm equipment" purchases, he said.

Paul Otellini

Intel's 22nm process technology is on track for volume production this year, said Paul Otellini, Intel's chief executive. The company expects the process will help it extend its lead over the rest of the chip industry, he added.

Part of the $500 million increase will fuel Intel's work on ultrabooks, a new generation of ultra-thin notebooks with tablet features, a system concept announced in June. Intel is using the ultrabook concept to shore up its notebook business against ARM-based competitors such as Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments expected to power systems next year based on Windows 8.

"The ultrabook project is akin to Centrino, trying to move the market to a new form factor and a new feature set like instant-on, touch interface and always-on systems," said Otellini, referring to Intel's notebooks that pioneered use of Wi-Fi. "There's a great deal of engineering that has to be done because these features cost a lot of money, but PC prices won't go up, so we have to cost-engineer these products," he says.

Ultrabooks could help drive growth that has slowed in segments such as netbooks. "Netbook [growth is] down to some extent because of tablet strength and good values in low-end notebooks," says Otellini. He adds that emerging markets are driving plenty of growth for PCs.

For example, "Brazil could be third largest market for computers in 2012," he says. "I was just in Brazil, and the fact it's going to be third is astounding because it was not long ago it was sixth or seventh," he adds.

At its Intel Developer Forum in September, the company will give more details about its ultrabook plans. It is also expected to announce the first results of collaboration with its new security software division, McAfee.

Intel is adding new security instructions to its processors as part of the effort expected to enable hardware-backed authentication based on the standard set by the Trusted Computing Group. McAfee is providing enabling software for the effort, something Microsoft has not yet done in Windows.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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