Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Intel Slashes Prices on Quad-Core Chips by Up to 40%

Intel Corp. on Monday dramatically reduced prices on select quad-core and dual-core microprocessors in a bid to boost demand towards speedier chips. The lowest-cost quad-core processor from Intel is now available from $163.

Intel’s Core 2 Quad central processing unit model Q9650 (3.0GHz, 12MB L2 cache, 1333MHz processor system bus) has lost 40% of its price in business quantities and is now available for $316. Other quad-core models from Intel, such as Q9550, Q9400, Q8300 and Q8200 has lost 16% - 20% of pricing. The Core 2 Quad Q8200 chip, Intel’s most affordable processor with four processing engines is available for $163. In addition to quad-core desktop chips, Intel also made several quad-core Xeon chips for uni-processor servers more affordable.

Besides, Intel also slashed prices of several entry-level dual-core products, such as Intel Core 2 Duo as well as Intel Pentium Dual-Core chips.

Additionally, the world’s largest chipmaker reduced pricing of certain mobile processors, primarily Intel Celeron mobile chips in order to enable low-cost notebooks with higher-performance processors and avoid cannibalization of the segment by netbooks powered by Intel Atom.

The price-cut from Intel is rather unexpected and will definitely add pressure on the company’s arch-rival Advanced Micro Devices, who only recently launched competitive AMD Phenom II processors. In addition, price slashes catalyze PC makers to more aggressively push systems with Intel CPUs inside.

Intel on Track with Processors Featuring Graphics Core in 2009

Despite some over-conservative expectations and reports, Intel Corp. is on track to release its central processing units (CPUs) with integrated graphics cores this year, the company said during its most recent conference call with financial analysts.

Answering the question from Hans Mosesmann – an analyst from Raymond James, a financial services holding company – Stacy Smith, chief financial officer of Intel, said that the code-named Havendale processor with integrated graphics core for desktop and mobile computers will be available “in the second half” of this year.

Intel’s Havendale processor is a multi-chip module (MCM) in LGA1160 form-factor containing Nehalem micro-architecture-based dual-core CPU in addition to graphics and memory controller hub (GMCH) that features dual-channel DDR3 memory controller, PCI Express 2.0 x16 interface to connect add-on graphics cards as well as integrated graphics core. It is projected that both chips on the MCM are made using 45nm process technology.

Since Havendale CPU line has memory controller as well as PCI Express interconnection inside, there will be no need for GMCH (or North Bridge) on the mainboard. Instead, the new processors will connect directly to code-named Ibexpeak platform controller hub (PCH) that will carry hard drive controller, wired and wireless network controllers, monitor physical interfaces, PCI controller and other input/output as well as platform-related capabilities.

Earlier some web-sites reported that Intel’s processors featuring integrated graphics cores will only be out in 2010. Still, even despite the fact that Mr. Smith said that the chips will ship for revenue in 2009, it remains to be seen, whether products on their base will emerge this year.

“You can expect volume production of Nehalem into mainstream price points for desktops and notebooks in the second half of this year,” said Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel.

AMD Updates Embedded Processor Line

Advanced Micro Devices has unveiled two new AMD Sempron processors for embedded systems that feature new packaging technology as well as lower power consumption. According to AMD, the new lidless packaging will allow to make AMD-based systems smaller and more attractive to various customers.

“These new lidless BGA packaged processors can help customers significantly shrink their embedded design into new smaller, flatter form factors without having to sacrifice any computing performance. Retail touch screens, self-service kiosks and digital signage are a growing part of the consumer experience and thin client computing continues to play a strong role in helping businesses become more efficient. These new processor features will help our customers stay on the cutting edge of embedded system design,” said Buddy Broeker, director of embedded product marketing at AMD.

Customers can further streamline development by pairing the new AMD Sempron 210U and 200U processors with single-channel DDR2 memory controller with the AMD M690E chipset. This embedded platform can help speed time to market and deliver the graphics and display options that are increasingly important in embedded systems. It is likely that later this year AMD will deliver dual-core embedded processors in lidless BGA packaging, enabling high-performance on very small systems.

Embedded systems based on the AMD Sempron 210U and 200U processors are also available from iBASE, aValue, EVOC, Gigabyte, and Inventec while additional AMD embedded customers are expected to bring systems to market in 2009.

“The new AMD Sempron 210U processors enable us to deliver high performance in a very low power thermal range, and with the BGA package, we are able to offer increasingly compact designs,” said Curt Schwebke, chief technology officer for Wyse Technology.

Intel: Transition to 32nm Process Technology Becomes Top Priority

Despite of economic crisis and rapidly declining sales of microprocessors and chipsets, Intel Corp. is very serious about starting production using 32nm process technology in 2009. According to the company, the new process technology will enable the world’s largest chipmaker to enter new markets.

“From an investment standpoint, we are absolutely prioritizing the investment that it takes to get to 32nm processor technology. We are going to get there as fast as we possibly can. That is what gives us performance advantage, cost advantage, and allows us to get to the higher level of integration that the future market we want to serve requires, the system-on-chips,” said Stacy Smith, chief financial officer of Intel.

According to Intel, with 32nm fabrication process the company will get a “great cost benefit” in terms of the cost per transistor as well as power characteristics that will allow Intel to target adjacent markets that the company is looking at. The company stressed that the vast majority of capital expenditure will be spent on 32nm process tech ramp.

“The predominant majority of the CapEx that we will spend in 2009, is for 32nm and leading edge process technology,” added Mr. Smith.

Intel reported fourth-quarter revenue of $8.2 billion, operating income of $1.5 billion, net income of $234 million and earnings per share (EPS) of 4 cents. The results included a billion-dollar negative impact from the previously announced reduction in the carrying value of the company's Clearwire investments.

For 2008, Intel posted revenue of $37.6 billion, operating income of $9 billion, net income of $5.3 billion and EPS of 92 cents. Intel generated approximately $11 billion in cash from operations, paid cash dividends of $3.1 billion and used $7.1 billion to repurchase 324 million shares of common stock.

“The economy and the industry are in the process of resetting to a new baseline from which growth will resume. While the environment is uncertain, our fundamental business strategies are more focused than ever. Intel will continue to extend its manufacturing leadership, drive product innovation, develop new markets and implement operating efficiencies that have already taken more than $3 billion out of our ongoing cost structure since 2006. Intel has weathered difficult times in the past, and we know what needs to be done to drive our success moving forward. Our new technologies and new products will help us ignite market growth and thrive when the economy recovers,” said Paul Otellini, Intel president and chief executive officer.

Apple Interested in Nvidia’s Ion Platform, Intel Atom Processors – Media Report

Apple, a maker of personal computers and a leading supplier of portable digital media players, is reportedly working on a device based on Intel Corp.’s Atom processor as well as Nvidia Corp.’s Ion platform. No details are available at this time, but it can be expected that Apple is preparing a new Apple TV, Apple Mac Mini or Apple Mac netbook.

A news-story by Tom’s Hardware web-site claims that a partner of Nvidia Corp. said that “Apple was the first to receive samples of Nvidia’s Ion platform”, which is designed to support Intel Atom processors, and that Apple got prototypes of Ion “long before” other partners of Nvidia. Considering that, the web-site makes natural conclusion that Apple is preparing a product powered by Atom and Nvidia’s GeForce 9400-series core-logic.

Nvidia GeForce 9400M is a single-chip core-logic with DirectX 10-compatible GeForce 9-class graphics processor inside that also supports dual-channel DDR3 memory, PCI Express 2.0 x16 and x4 links, Serial ATA, USB, Gigabit Ethernet and so on. As all modern Nvidia GeForce integrated graphics processors, the novelty features hardware-accelerated high-definition video decoding and post-processing as well as supports various outputs, such as dual-link DVI-I, D-Sub, DisplayPort or HDMI.

Theoretically, Nvidia’s GeForce 9400M and Ion platform may power either Apple TV, rumoured Apple netbook or even a new Mac Mini. Considering that currently Mac Mini utilizes dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo processor, it is hard to believe that Apple would install a much lower performance dual-core Intel Atom 330 chip into a new version. Meanwhile, Nvidia’s platform provides rather advanced capabilities for netbooks or Apple TV set-top-box. While on the netbook market the GeForce 9400M will hardly be the best option considering its high power consumption, the platform may be ideal for Apple TV or other add-on-console.

Apple or Nvidia did not comment on the news-story.

Kingston Begins to Ship High-Performance SSDs Powered by Intel

Kingston Technology, a leading producer of memory modules as well as flash-based products, has begun shipments of its new SSDNow family of solid state drives that are powered by Intel Corp.’s flash devices. The SSDs offer high performance and promise to become rather popular among enthusiasts without budget constraints.

“We are thrilled to enter the solid-state drive market with our SSDNow E and M Series SSDs. The combination of the fastest SSDs in the world along with Kingston’s tremendous distribution capabilities and legendary customer service will position us to succeed in this arena. The performance capabilities of these first two offerings are off the charts and our enterprise customers will be very pleased to use them in servers and corporate laptop computers,” said Mark Leathem, director of flash business development at Kingston Digital.

Kingston SSDNow E-series offers 250MB/s read speed and 170MB/s write speed, whereas SSDNow M breed features 250MB/s sequential read speed and 70MB/s sequential write speed. SSDNow E-series provides 2 million hours mean time before failure, SSDNow M family offers 1.2 million hours MTBF.

Kingston’s SSDNow E and M Series drives are equipped with S.M.A.R.T (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) to monitor the integrity and reliability of the drives. The drives are backed by a three-year warranty, 24/7 tech support and KingstonCare.

Pricing of the new SSDs was not revealed.

AMD Preps Dual-Core Chips for Thin-and-Light Laptops – Company

Advanced Micro Devices will offer dual-core microprocessors for thin-and-light notebooks in 2009, the company revealed on Wednesday. While there is no news that AMD is preparing dual-core chips for ultra-portable notebooks, the company’s confirmation that those products will be available already this year sounds promising.

According to AMD’s spokesman John Taylor, the company is on track to release its code-named Congo platform in 2009. Apart from dual-core AMD Athlon Neo central processing unit, the new platform aimed at ultra-portable mobile computers will deliver better multimedia capabilities as well as other improvements over the code-named Yukon platform for thin-and-light notebooks.

AMD’s Congo platform is based on dual-core code-named Conesus central processing unit as well as AMD RS780M + SB710 core-logic set that features ATI Radeon HD DirectX 10-class graphics core as well as ATI Avivo HD hardware high-definition video post-processing engine.

The first microprocessors to power cheap ultra-think notebooks from AMD are Athlon Neo MV-40 (1.60GHz, 512KB level-two cache) with 15W thermal design power (TDP), AMD Sempron 210U (1.50GHz, 256KB L2 cache) with 15W thermal envelope and AMD Sempron 200U (1.0GHz, 256KB L2 cache) with 8W TDP. All chips are made using 65nm process technology.

According to AMD, power-consumption of the new dual-core chips will not exceed that of single-core AMD Athlon Neo products.

AMD did not announce when code-named Congo platform hits the market in 2009.

Nvidia Begins to Ship New Dual-Chip GeForce GTX 295 Graphics Card

Nvidia Corp. has begun shipments of its new graphics card that features two graphics processing units (GPUs) to offer extreme levels of performance. Unlike in previous times, the new graphics board does not carry incredible price-tag as due to economic slump few people would invest over $500 into a new accelerator for video games on the PC.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 graphics card is powered by two code-named G200b chips each featuring 240 shader processors (SPs), 80 texture units (TUs), 30 render back ends (RBEs) and 448-bit memory interface. Nvidia recommends its partners to clock the GPU at 576MHz with stream processing operating at 1242MHz and also set the memory’s frequency to 1998MHz. The graphics cards will be equipped with 1792MB of GDDR3 memory (896MB per GPU).

Nvidia remained committed to its strategy of offering ultimate-performance dual-chip graphics card for gamers who demand performance at any cost as well as highest-possible-performance single-chip solution for those, who do not want to utilize multi-GPU rendering technologies. Besides the model GTX 295, Nvidia also launched GeForce GTX 285, which replaces the GeForce GTX 280.

The model GTX 285 sports 240 SPs, 80TUs, 32 RBEs and 512-bit memory interface. Thanks to new chip produced using 55nm process technology, the new single-chip high-end offering not only consumes less power, but also boasts higher performance due to increased clock-speeds: 648MHz for GPU, 1476 for stream processors and 2484 for 1GB of GDDR3 memory.

Nvidia launches the new graphics cards right in time: sales of its products collapsed quarter-over-quarter recently and the firm needs new products to boost its revenues as well as return market share, which it lost to ATI, graphics products group of Advanced Micro Devices. However, considering the fact that sales of graphics cards are usually weak in Q1, the company’s market positions may not change as a result of introduction of two new high-end products.

The GeForce GTX 295 is available now from leading add-in-card manufacturers with a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of $499. GeForce GTX 285 will be available on January 15th with a MSRP of $399.

Sony Expected to Cut PlayStation 3 Price in April

Even though it seems that people do realize the value of video games compared to other ways of entertainment, the PlayStation 3 game console is still a way behind competing Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii in terms of installed base because of its very high price tag. Despite of the high manufacturing costs of PS3, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. will lower the price of the system this April, an analyst said.

“Once the PS3 is at a more affordable price point, we think that sales of that device will once again begin to grow,” said analyst Michael Pachter from Wedbush Morgan Securities research company.

Sales of Sony PlayStation 3 have been slowing down in the recent months because of the high price and global economic problems, but Mr. Pachter believes that after generally slow first quarter Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. will reduce the price of the entry-level PS3 to $299, which is just $50 higher than the price of Nintendo Wii and is inline with the cost of Microsoft Xbox 360 60GB console.

The price-cut should boost popularity of the PS3, which retails for $399 today, among consumers who are cutting down their spending because of gloomy economic outlook. In fact, the analyst from Wedbush Morgan also expects Microsoft Corp. to reduce pricing of the X360 60GB to boost its popularity on the market.

“We expect another cut in price for the Xbox 360, with the feature-laden Pro model likely to come down in price to $249 at or before this year's E3 show in June,” said Mr. Pachter.

But the price-cut may not be exactly what Sony would like to do with the PlayStation 3. Each PS3 video game machine still costs $448 to build despite of the official price tag of $399, therefore, the manufacturer is losing money on every unit sold. Sony Group, the parent company of SCEI, is rumoured to post $1.12 billion loss in March for the fiscal year and Sony’s video game unit said earlier that this year the company will concentrate on making money, not cutting prices.

“The most important thing for us as a company in the very short term is for us to start making money. This is a pledge that was made last March and is something that we are still very much on target to achieve. Once we have achieved this, I think it will be a very exciting time for PlayStation. Once we have alleviated that specific pressure, we can move forward at a rate of knots,” said David Reeves, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.