Intel launched its new Core i7 chip today. John Markoff's behind-the-scenes report in the Times is a good alternative to the technical-stats posts you can Google up anywhere. Intel — and several thousand miserable business reporters — want to spin Core i7 as as a sign of new hope for the tech industry's future. Truth is, there are three reasons Core i7 can't save us all:Forrester CEO George Colony listed them last week:
Wall Street types are worried because Michael Dell's company hasn't delivered the new music player that had been in the works for the holiday shopping season. The launch has been canceled, says an anonymous insider. That's the best news I've heard from Dell in a long time. Here's why.Competing with Apple on the iPod front seems like a Formula for Fail. My guess is Dell made an honest effort to develop an iPod competitor, then killed the expensive marketing campaign and production run after deciding that they'd built another Zune. Dell has also fallen behind on its downsized-laptop "netbooks", which have neither the power of a full-size notebook nor the portability of an iPhone. Why bother? The biggest segment of the consumer electronics market is still standard-size notebook computers. Dell has fallen from No. 1 to No. 3 position in sales, but that's still a lot of sales. Instead of diluting the company's resources across smaller, trendier markets, it seems more sensible for Dell to refocus on its core product, the cheap-but-impressive PC. Hey, I'd buy one. (Photo by AP/Manish Swarup)
“We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.” So said Steve Jobs, during his surprise appearance on yesterday's earnings call. Remember January 2003? Analysts forecast nothing but price cuts because of the economy. CNET leaked a rumor about a slim, portable multimedia device. Jobs unveils instead: A $3,299 laptop with the biggest screen ever. Now, Jobs says Apple doesn't know how to build a sub-$500 computer that isn't junk. Haha! Of course he knows how. Which is about to crack: The $499 price point, or the piece-of-junk legacy hardware in the current Mac Mini? I vote both. (Photo by mark_b)
Intel's revenues for the most recent quarter were flat, but its profits were up 12 percent on expense cuts. (Read: layoffs!) Intel CEO Paul Otellini says the company expects to "outpace" its competition. Right: That would be AMD, the chipmaker which is trying to shed its chipmaking facilities. Outpacing AMD is like running a three-legged race against a double amputee. [WSJ]
After months of teasing, AMD finally gave the New York Times the official word for publication this morning: The company will split into a chip design firm and a chip manufacturing company, temporarily named the Foundry Company, that will make chips for AMD and other clients. Abu Dhabi investment firm Advanced Technology has put up $2.1 billion for Foundry, with a pledge of billions more later. This leaves Intel, as new NYT reporter Ashlee Vance summarized, "the only significant maker of PC chips to still design and build its own products."
A report by BusinessWeek says "employees in HP's PC division are exploring the possibility of building a mass-market operating system. HP's software would be based on Linux, but it would be simpler and easier for mainstream users." The threat is simple: A sub-$1,000 MacBook would knock a huge hole in HP's own notebook sales. Apple is only $100 away from that goal. The division's CTO insists "it's about innovating on top of Vista." But on top of is a misleading preposition for some of his company's modifications, which bypass Vista's built-in photo and video apps in favor of HP's own. (Illustration by Paul Blow/BusinessWeek)
Insiders have blabbed to the Wall Street Journal that Dell "has approached contract computer manufacturers with offers to sell ... its computer factories." Founder Michael Dell is a Texan, not a Valley guy. But he did build a $1,000 investment into the world's biggest PC maker, starting from his college dorm in 1984. Shedding its factories would be a huge change for Dell, which made its name on build-to-order sales. Why would Dell dump its plants?The WSJ recounts how Dell got from there to here:
Let's face it, the world of Web development and production is a glamorous sham. The real science is in semiconductors. That cute Ajax script kiddie with the asymmetrical haircut? Ask him to design a microprocessor cache bus. Learn a little ActionScript? Go ahead and try to get a job pinning Intel chips to nuclear reactor control systems or laser-guided bombs. Even if you're a C++ jock or MapReduce expert, your gonads shrink when an actual electronic engineer is in the room. It's okay, you can admit it. We will.We've been focused too much on software and content, even though we know there's someone from SanDisk who just flipped their lid on the playa. Likewise, there must be some poor pacifist at PA Semi who, all too happy to get sold to Apple, learned they had to continue engineering chip fab designs for jets, subs and choppers. I mean, c'mon, AMD minions, can you come up with no good dirt on Intel executives? I yearn to hear the stories from the actual front lines of technology, and not from the front of the line at the British Bankers Club or 111 Minna. Do tell. (Photo by Marcin Wichary)
Google's mobile OS Android might have a future in "set-top boxes for televisions, mp3 players and other communication and media devices and services," reports VentureBeat. Silicon Alley Insider confirms the story — or at least the fact that Google's working on Android-loaded cable boxes — and wonders if maybe Google will move them as a part of its partnership with Clearwire. None of this will happen anytime soon, of course.The first Android-loaded phone — the HTC dream, to run on the T-Mobile network — isn't due out until October. It's not certain that when that device does come out that Android will be much to look at. Ever since Google released its last software developement kit only to the first 50 winners of its Android Developer Challenge, the jealous rest of the third-party developers building apps for the OS continue to trash the system's prospects in the press.
"A MacBook is in the same ballpark as a roughly similar Dell or HP, and less than a Sony." That's the conclusion of Technologizer editor Harry McCracken, after running the numbers several different ways on competing notebooks. The MacBook didn't win most hardware categories, but it came out well-rounded, with superior warranty service and media software. McCracken, until recently the editor in chief of PC World, was infamous among local tech journalists for toting Apple laptops to work.
A month before the Valley's perpetual Avis of chipmakers coronated heir apparent Dirk Meyer as CEO in July, the company had leaked rumors of a pending split into two separate businesses. One would be solely devoted solely to running the company's two chip-fabrication plants, the other to doing all the fun stuff. The upside for AMD?By selling off its fab plants, it could hopefully turn around its $1 billion-plus losses. Tom's Hardware Guide spinoff TG Daily now cites "sources" — don't you hate those? I know I do — who claim the split is only weeks away. Here's what's really happening: The split is real. The "leaks" and "sources" are AMD's way of letting the market know what's up without formally committing to it in a statement.
A new survey found that more than half of 1,000 consumers polled have no plans to buy a Blu-ray player. About one in four claimed they'll probably buy one in 2009, but you know how that goes. It's not hard to spot what stops them: $300 or more for a player and more than $20 per disc for most popular movies. Manufacturers and studios that backed the cheaper HD-DVD format can say it now: We told you so.
A reporter for the Taiwanese site Digitimes says chipmaker Nvidia "has decided to quit the chipset business" and focus on its core business of standalone graphics processor unit (GPU) products, which must be matched with an Intel or AMD central processor inside a computer. Nvidia's NForce 200 chipset (pictured) wasn't as widely adopted as the company had planned. The news, if true, kills rumors that Apple would replace Intel chipsets with all-Nvidia hardware in the next round of MacBooks. (Photo by Bit-tech.net)
Since 2005, when Apple first announced plans to switch to Intel, the companies have been joined at the microchip. Intel even tweaked its chip designs, reducing the size of the circuitry surrounding a cutting-edge chip to accommodate the tight confines of Apple's new MacBook Air. But a new report suggests Apple is getting antsy about Intel. AppleInsider says that while Apple will continue to use Intel CPUs, it will start designing its own custom chipsets — the motherboards on which processors sit and which houses all the supporting silicon. Could this have anything to do with Apple's recent purchase of chip designer PA Semi?
Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices will take a $948 million charge for Q2, the company announced this morning. Much like last year, the bulk of the writedown is due to the declining value of the company's ATI acquisition, for which it paid $5.4 billion in 2006. The resulting lines of cellphone graphics chips and digital TV chips just haven't sold as well as expected. The company's quad-core mobile graphics chip, codenamed Eagle, won't arrive to save the day until 2010. More important to some of us: A $32 million charge for employee severance packages.
Everyone likes to talk up Apple's innovative design. It's a much more attractive story than the real reason why Apple has come to dominate first the MP3 player market, and soon, the smartphone market: Ruthless haggling with suppliers to lock up crucial components, shutting out rivals. Apple is buying 50 million 8-gigabyte memory chips from Samsung — the kind used in its entry-level iPhone 3G — and Samsung is cutting off other customers as a result of tight supplies. [DigiTimes]
A team of researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory working on climate-change prediction have suggested that a supercomputer made from thousands of inexpensive, low-power processors like those found in iPods and cellphones would be cheaper to build and require less electricity to operate than one built with more powerful chips. [AP] (Via Spidey Senses, photo by AP)