Just a few weeks ago, Intel announced it would lay off thousands of employees due to the recession, but the company has just revealed another more positive tactic that it will use to beat the financial downturn: Innovation.
In fact the company plans to invest $7 billion in new manufacturing facilities in the U.S. And these won’t be a simple continuation of the 45nm semiconductor fabbing technology the company’s currently exploiting for its Core i7 processors–instead the company is all but ditching 45nm production, including abandoning whole processor families it had planned for this year. “De-prioritizing” the tech is how Intel executives put it, and it accompanies the company’s move to sell-off the existing chip stock by slashing prices.
The innovative maneuver means Intel’s efforts will now be concentrated wholly on next-generation chip technology, a 32nm fabrication process that’ll produce a new range of processors under the codename “Westmere.” The shrinking sizes of chip fab technology go hand-in-hand with improved sophistication and performance of a CPU–it’s simply a case of fitting more technology onto the same size silicon slice, or a demonstration of Moore’s Law in action.
The first faster, better Westmere chips will come in two flavors: One for the desktop PC market, one for the mobile PC market, and both will have two processor cores and four threads. The chips will also do advanced hyperthreading. Essentially this means the chips can do more at greater speeds than previous chips, even though they run at the same clock speed (which historically was a good measure of processor advances.) The chips will also be the first ever from Intel that can switch from an on-chip graphics processor to an external one, which should give PCs a choice between powerful graphics or low-energy consumption option depending on what’s needed.
Yet more powerful quad-core chips will be out next year on the new roadmap, and a super-powered six-core “Gulftown” chip using the 32nm process will be out later in 2010.
This is a shrewd move by Intel. The economic downturn means potentially reduced consumer spending on electronics. So instead of pushing out its planned line of CPUs in bulk, and running into the recession headlong, Intel’s simply revised and consolidated its efforts to bring next-gen technology to the market even sooner. And that also places it well ahead of rival chip-maker AMD, whose own 32nm chips aren’t due until 2011.