Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Intel Launches Six-Core Microprocessors for High-End Servers.

As expected, Intel Corp. on Monday formally unveiled its central processing units with six cores aimed at high-end multiprocessor (MP) servers. The new Intel Xeon 7400-series chips – previously known under code-name Dunnington – are projected to significantly strengthen Intel’s positions on the lucrative market of servers oriented at large enterprises.

“The arrival of these processors extends Intel’s lead in the high-end server segment. This new processor series helps IT manage increasingly complex enterprise server environments, providing a great opportunity to boost the scalable performance of multi-threaded applications within a stable platform infrastructure. With new features such as additional cores, large shared caches and advanced virtualization technologies, the Xeon 7400 series delivers record-breaking performance that will lead enterprises into the next wave of virtualization deployments,” said Tom Kilroy, Intel vice president and general manager of the digital enterprise group.

Initially, Intel’s product family will include two six-core microprocessors with 16MB of L3 cache – Intel Xeon X7460 and Intel Xeon E7440 – which operate at 2.66Hz and 2.40GHz, respectively and have thermal design power of 130W and 90W. Both microprocessors utilize 1066MHz processor system bus. Besides, Intel has four six-core chips with 12MB of shared L3 cache with TDP of down to 50W. Since the new CPUs are based on the Penryn micro-architecture, they also boast additional performance improvements compared to previous-gen Xeon MP processors.

The Xeon 7400 processor series is compatible with Intel's existing Xeon 7300-series platforms and the Intel 7300 chipset with memory capacity up to 256GB. Platforms based on the new Intel Xeon 7400-series processors can scale up to 16 processor sockets to deliver servers with up to 96 processing cores inside, offering scalability, ample computing threads, extensive memory resources and reliability for enterprise data centers.

Starting today, servers based on the Intel Xeon 7400 processor series are expected to be announced by more than 50 system manufacturers around the world, including four-socket rack servers from Dell, Fujitsu, Fujitsu-Siemens, Hitachi, HP, IBM, NEC, Sun, Supermicro and Unisys; four-socket blade servers from Egenera, HP, Sun and NEC; and servers that scale up to 16-sockets from IBM, NEC and Unisys.

Given that Advanced Micro Devices will be unable to build its own 6-core processor code-named Istanbul until the second half of 2009, Intel will have a very comfortable lead on the market of high-end enterprise servers due to lack of competition. Nevertheless, an advantage that AMD still has is integrated memory controller as well as more advanced bus for its AMD Opteron processors which may translate in better performance scalability of AMD-based MP servers.

Pricing for the six-core Xeon 7400 processors in quantities of 1000 ranges from $1391 to $2729.

Apple Develops ARM Processor for Future iPhone Devices.

A senior manager of Apple said on his page on a social web-site that he and his team were designing ARM architecture processors for future Apple iPhone cell phones with rich multimedia capabilities. The claim is a rather surprising one, as it was widely believed that Apple planned to install x86 Intel Atom chips into Apple iPhone.

Wei-han Lien, the senior manager of Apple’s chip team, said in an entry at LinkedIn web-site that he managed “ARM CPU architecture team for iPhone”, reports New York Times. Naturally, no details were given, however, the fact that Apple is actually working on a custom ARM processor for iPhone is a big news itself.

Mr. Lien used to work for PA Semi, a designer of PowerPC central processing units (CPUs), that Apple acquired earlier this year. As a result, it was widely believed that Apple would develop PowerPC processors for its products that will be released in future.

The available versions of Apple iPhone cell phones that feature rich portable media player and Internet functionality are based on ARM processors by Samsung Electronics; therefore, it would be very easy for Apple to migrate to a different ARM processor, as the company will not have to re-develop software, but will be able to tailor its new chips in full accordance with its needs.

Sources familiar with Apple’s plans implied earlier this year that the company did have plans to put Intel Atom inside the iPhone, but that would cause Apple to re-create its software for the device.

Apple did not comment on the news-story.

Toshiba May Be Interested in Acquiring SanDisk – Company.

Toshiba Corp., the world’s second largest producer of flash memory, may acquire SanDisk Corp., a leading supplier of flash-based products and also one of Toshiba’s largest customers. The Japanese electronic conglomerate may be the third company, after Samsung Electronics and Seagate Technologies, who may be interested in assets of SanDisk.

“We need to take preventive steps, if (SanDisk) looks like it will be acquired,” said Shozo Saito, corporate senior vice president on the sidelines of the Industry Strategy and Technology Forum on Tuesday, reports Reuters news-agency. Mr. Saito said that although Toshiba was interested in a combination with SanDisk, there were no concrete negotiations between the two companies.

Earlier on Tuesday SanDisk rejected hostile bid of Samsung Electronics, which proposed to take over the flash products vendor for $5.85 billion.

Samsung and Toshiba are the world’s largest makers of flash memory, who command over one half of the market. Samsung commands roughly 30%, whereas Toshiba has about 20% based on figures by iSuppli market research firm. Late in 2007 the two companies agreed to license packaging and interface technologies for flash products of each other. The pact allows them to support their largest customers in terms of supply when needed to maintain dominant positions on the market.

Under terms of the agreement, Samsung licensed product specifications of its integrated OneNAND and Flex-OneNAND “fusion” memory chips to Toshiba, while Toshiba licensed product specifications of its single-package LBA-NAND and mobileLBA-NAND flash chips to Samsung.

Given that Samsung and Toshiba already work closely with each other, acquisition of SanDisk by any of them would create a truly formidable force on the market of flash-based products that could completely reshape the whole market.

The Time of Affordable Blu-Ray Disc Players Has Not Come – Blu-Ray Disc Association.

The head of Blu-Ray disc association (BDA), the organization that coordinates development of Blu-ray format, said at a news-conference that he would not expect affordable BD players to emerge shortly since the market for them still had to be created.

“There’s continuously a pressure to bring prices down. What people overlook is that you have to have a market for it first,” said Andy Parsons, an executive from Pioneer who is also the chairman of BDA, at DisplaySearch/NPD HDTV conference, reports TVPredictions web-site.

It is logical that Blu-ray disc association, which consists mostly of consumer electronics (CE) makers as well as content creators, is interested in keeping the prices on hardware and content high enough so to make additional profit. For example, Pioneer recently launched a premium class BD player with $2000 price-tag, whereas an average Blu-ray player costs roughly $300 - $400. Both price-points cannot be imagined for typical DVD players.

But ability to sell the new technology at a premium does not mean that consumer electronics companies have no plans for driving Blu-ray into the mainstream market. The chairman of BDA insists that prices will go down eventually, but only after the volumes will increase and CE makers will be able to afford a substantial price-drop on the devices which are pretty expensive to make.

“Prices will go down. But what people overlook is that you need a marketplace first before you start cutting prices. If there’s not enough awareness about [the technology] than low prices are besides the point,” added Mr. Parsons.

There are a lot of high-definition televisions already installed, hence, the market for Blu-ray does exist. However, since movies on Blu-ray discs are more expensive than the same movies on regular DVDs and BD players are times more expensive compared to DVD equipment, consumers are reluctant to invest into the new technology, especially in current condition of the world economics. As a result, CE makers who have won the battle against HD DVD will have to start a price-war against each other to win the war against DVD.

Microsoft Plans to Release Windows 7 on June 3, 2009 – Rumours.

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest developer of software, reportedly intends to release its next-generation operating system in mid-2009, much earlier than previously anticipated.

According to a news-story at InternetNews.com, the software giant plans to unveil its Windows 7 OS on the 3rd of June, 2009, which is inline with claims of Bill Gates made earlier this year, but is about half a year earlier than Microsoft publicly stated. The new operating system is expected to correct all the issues with Windows Vista, which has been heavily criticized.

The news-story reads that Microsoft will use its Professional Developer's Conference in late October as the launch platform for the first public beta of Windows 7. Microsoft plans to unveil the first beta on October 27, the first day of the show, when chief software architect Ray Ozzie will be the keynote speaker.

Some hardware and software makers have already received early builds of Windows 7 to evaluate performance and prepare their drivers or programs compatible with the new OS.

Microsoft did not comment on the news-story.

Graphics Cards Suppliers May Dislike the Upgrade of Nvidia’s New Chip.

Nvidia Corp. does need to offer something more competitive compared to its GeForce GTX 260 product, but introduction of a new model may actually get its partners among suppliers of graphics cards upset as they think that the improved version of the GTX 260 may cause overstock problems.

Presently Nvidia and its add-in-board partners sell two versions of the GeForce GTX 200: the premium-class GTX 280 with 240 shader processors (SPs), 80 texture units (TUs), 32 render back ends (RBEs) and 1GB of GDDR3 memory connected using 512-bit interface as well as high-end GTX 260 with 192 SPs, 64 TUs, 28 RBEs and 896MB of GDDR3 memory connected using 448-bit interface. The GeForce GTX 280 has GPU clocked at 602MHz, SPs operating at 1296MHz and memory working at 2214MHz, whereas the GeForce GTX 260 is clocked at 576MHz, 1242MHz and 1998MHz, respectively.

But in September the company plans to add another board into the lineup, which will have the same clock-speeds with the GTX 260 model, but with 216 SPs, 72 TUs, 30 RBEs and 896MB of GDDR3 memory connected using 448-bit interface. It is projected that the novelty will retain the GeForce GTX 260 model number, which will cause a lot of misunderstanding on the market as different 260s will have completely different performance despite of similar price around $299.

According to DigiTimes web-site, sources at graphics card makers are worried it could create overstock problems for previous version GeForce GTX 260 cards as customers will be looking forward to buy improved versions of the board.

It is unclear why Nvidia wants to use the old model number for a new graphics card as this not only causes a lot of misunderstanding on the market, but also puts pressure on graphics cards suppliers who have the “old” GeForce GTX 260 products in stock. Naming the new product as the GeForce GTX 270 would simplify the transition considerably.

Nvidia did not comment on the news-story.

Sony to Acquire NEC’s Share in Optical Drive Maker Optiarc.

Sony Corp. and NEC Corp. announced on Thursday that they have signed an agreement to transfer NEC’s 45% stock in Sony NEC Optiarc to Sony. The move will strengthen Sony’s positions on the market of optical disc drives (ODDs).

As a result of this agreement, Sony will make Sony NEC Optiarc a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Sony Group, and will seek to strengthen its interaction with Sony group’s product and device businesses to further streamline decision-making processes, enhance management responsiveness and further reinforce its next-generation optical disc drive business.

NEC will continue to contribute to the advancement of Sony NEC Optiarc optical disc drive products through the LSI development being carried out at NEC Electronics Corp.

Sony and NEC separated their optical disc drive businesses and combined each company’s respective strengths in the Sony NEC Optiarc joint venture, established April 3, 2006, with the aim of achieving further business expansion.

Sales of Xbox 360 Game Console Surge Following Price Drop – Company.

Microsoft Corp. has released a statement claiming that after it slashed pricing of its Xbox 360 game system, sales of all the versions of the console increased dramatically. The immediate sales surge could have been expected, however, this does not automatically proof mid-term success.

“Microsoft Xbox 360 sales have surged, with retailers reporting over 100% sales lift for all Xbox 360 models compared to the previous weekend. Additionally, retailers are reporting that between Friday, Sept. 5 and Sunday, Sept. 7, some Xbox 360 models were selling at six times the rate they were the weekend prior,” the software giant said in a statement.

Beginning September 5, Xbox 360 Arcade started to retail for the estimated retail price of $199.99, the Xbox 360 60GB console for $299.99 and Xbox 360 Elite for $399.99.

Sales of Microsoft Xbox 360 have not been really strong this year and the company continuously reduced pricing of the system in various regions to boost its popularity. In addition, the company awaits several new video games that will further improve acceptance of the platform. Later this year Microsoft is rumoured to unveil a motion-sensing game controller for Xbox 360.

“At $199, Xbox 360 is now not only the most affordable next-generation console available, but it also packs more entertainment punch per dollar than any other consumer electronics device connected to your TV. Xbox 360 invites you into a limitless world where the best games, movies and TV shows live side by side with your personal pictures and music library, and the experience is ready to share anytime with friends in your living room or across the globe through Xbox Live,” Microsoft added.

Microsoft Xbox 360 console is based around triple-core microprocessor developed by IBM, high-definition visual processing unit designed by ATI Technologies, I/O controller engineered by SiS and some other key components. The gaming machine provides a broad set of multimedia capabilities in addition to games.

ATI Updates Entry-Level Graphics Cards Lineup with ATI Radeon HD 4600 Chips.

ATI, graphics product group of Advanced Micro Devices, on Wednesday enforced its entry-level family of graphics cards with new-generation graphics processing units (GPUs). The new chips promise to deliver exceptional performance on the market of sub-$100 solutions and add pressure on Nvidia Corp., which current product lineup does not contain such potentially strong offerings.

“Today, AMD is providing mainstream users – one of the largest segments of the market – with superior graphics products and performance at previously unheard of prices. The success of the ATI Radeon HD 4000-series validates that AMD’s shift away from the traditional means of producing large, hot, monolithic graphics chip continues to be a successful strategy AMD continues to execute against its timelines and deliver leading graphics performance at every price point,” said Rick Bergman, senior vice president and general manager of graphics products group at AMD.

The new ATI Radeon HD 4600-series graphics processors code-named RV730 feature 320 stream processors (64 VLIW processors), 32 texture units, 8 render back ends as well as 128-bit memory controller. The chips are produced using 55nm process technology at TSMC and contain just 514 million of transistors, considerably less compared to both ATI Radeon HD 4800 (RV770) and 3800 (RV670), which feature 956 million and 666 million, respectively. Like the other members of ATI Radeon HD 3000/4000 families, the new Radeon HD 4600-series fully supports features like DirectX 10.1, hardware decoding and post-processing of high-definition video and has native HDMI support for both video and 7.1 audio.

There will be three ATI Radeon HD 4600-series graphics cards initially:

* ATI Radeon HD 4670 512MB GDDR3 with GPU speed of 750MHz and memory speed of 2.0GHz;
* ATI Radeon HD 4670 1GB DDR3 with GPU speed of 750MHz and memory speed of 1.80GHz;
* ATI Radeon HD 4650 512MB DDR2 with GPU speed of 600MHz and memory speed of 1.0GHz.

The ATI Radeon HD 4670 is immediately available with a frame buffer of 512MB GDDR3 memory with a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) from $79, while a 1GB DDR3-based variant is scheduled to ship later this month. The ATI Radeon HD 4650 features a frame buffer of 512MB GDDR2 memory and is expected to be available later in the month at an MSRP from $69.

The ATI Radeon HD 4670 is likely to offer performance comparable to ATI Radeon HD 3850, which means that its direct competitor Nvidia GeForce 9500 GT - renamed GeForce 8600 GTS - will be considerably slower than the novelty at $79 price-point, which may catalyze Nvidia to slash the price on the more advanced GeForce 9600 GT, which will again affect profit margins of the company.

Tags: ATI, Radeon, RV730

Nvidia Accused of Fraud by Investor for Not Disclosing Information Regarding High Failure Rates.

A lawyers firm has filed a fraud class action suit on behalf of Nvidia Corp. shareholders who purchased common stock of the company during the timeframe when the company failed to disclose that it had issues with failure rate of graphics processing units (GPUs) and chipsets.

Shalov Stone Bonner & Rocco LLP has filed a securities fraud class action on behalf of all investors who purchased or otherwise acquired the common stock of Nvidia, between November 8, 2007, and July 2, 2008, inclusive (class period). The lawsuit is pending in the United States district court for the northern district of California and names as defendants Nvidia, chief executive of Jen-Hsun Huang as well as chief financial officer Marvin Burkett.

According to the complaint, the defendants violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Specifically, the complaint alleges that, during the class period, Nvidia issued a series of misrepresentations and omissions that actively concealed and failed to disclose the unusually high failure rates of Nvidia mobile video adapters and the impact of these defects on the company?s financial condition and results and future business prospects.

When the company belatedly revealed this information on July 2, 2008, Nvidia's stock plummeted, and the company's market capitalization was promptly reduced by over $3 billion. Back in September, 2007, the company's stock cost $39.67, whereas in early November, 2007, when Nvidia unveiled its quarterly results, the stock cost approximately the same amount of money. However, at press time the firm's stock price was $10.93, or nearly three times less than a year ago.

Plaintiffs claim that Nvidia as well as its CEO and CFO knew about the issues with unusually high failure rates of its GPUs and chipsets in early November, but did not disclose this information to all of its investors. The lawyers firm cites Michael Hara, vice president of investor relations at Nvidia as admitting that the company had issues with unprecedented high failure rates that the company noticed first back in August, 2007.

"We have been working on this problem with the customers for well over a year going all the way back to August of last year," Mr. Hara is reported to have said.

Fujitsu Microelectronics Looks Forward Creating a Semiconductor Alliance

Fujitsu Microelectronics, semiconductor business unit of Fujitsu, said in an interview that it was negotiating with other makers of semiconductors regarding aligning forces in order to strengthen positions and improve overall business efficiency. No actual deal has been announced, but the claim seems to be very important since Fujitsu is one of a few semiconductor firms that does not participate in any kind of alliance.

“From co-development to business integration, there are some potential ways for us to go. We are keeping our doors open on all options and our talks have not got into specifics yet,” Fujitsu Microelectronics president Haruki Okada said in an interview with Reuters news-agency.

The high-ranking executive indicated that the company was in talks with various chipmakers, including those in Japan as well as those abroad. The consultations were held amid warnings by Fujitsu that it would be uneasy to fulfill its promises regarding revenue targets and profitability as well as extended closures of semiconductor plant in Iwate prefecture due to earthquakes in June and July.

“There’s no denying that it is going to be tough to hit the targets. On top of a firmer yen, higher oil and raw materials prices, we've got earthquake damage to think about,” Mr. Okada is reported to have said.

Fujitsu Microelectronics originally aimed for ¥490 billion ($4.53 billion) in revenue and several billion yen in operating profit in the current business year, which ends in March, 2009.

Nowadays development of new process technologies to build chips is a very expensive and time-consuming process, which is crucially required to retain ability to manufacture state-of-the-art chips with rich functionality and high performance. Earlier this year Panasonic decided to develop its 32nm technology with Renesas, the semiconductor joint-venture between Hitachi and Mitsubishi; Toshiba will also develop its 32nm fabrication process together with IBM.

Besides costly development of manufacturing processes, companies like Fujitsu also have to utilize very expensive production equipment in their fabs and to constantly improve their workflow, which is also a very pricey process.

In order to maximize efficiency of its semiconductor business, Fujitsu may be very interested in either co-developing process technologies or even co-operation of the production facilities.