Analysts Say the Tri-Gate Architecture Gives Intel an Edge
Although Intel has been criticized in the past for spending so much money to build and run its own fabs, "we believe the advantage of having its own integrated process capability has brought it significant market advantage," Gold wrote. "Without this capability, it is unlikely [Intel] would have been able to so quickly move to mass produce its Tri-Gate transistors using the High K metal gate technology it also pioneered."
It probably won't be two years before other manufacturers can duplicate the Tri-Gate technology, "giving Intel a major competitive advantage," Gold wrote.
The new graphics capabilities integrated into Ivy Bridgealways a weak point in the Sandy Bridge chipswill reduce the need for more expensive discrete graphics in more than 95 percent of systems sold, he said. "Integrated graphics has the ability to reduce cost, power and physical size of systems, especially in the new age of Ultrabooks and other portable devices," Gold wrote.
Beau Skonieczny, an analyst with Technology Business Research (TBR), said in a research note following Intels first-quarter earnings announcement April 17 that the Ivy Bridge chips will be key drivers for Intel in 2012, even with what he said was the uncertainty that surrounds Ultrabooks and Intel-based mobile devices.
"[T]he quad-core iterations of Ivy Bridge will appeal mostly to enterprises and SMB [small and midsize business] customers looking to adopt all-in-one desktops," Skonieczny wrote. "However, TBR believes dual-core Ivy Bridge processorswhich will shortly follow the quad-core versionswill drive more rapid growth for Intel, as demand for notebooks and premium Ultrabooks continues to grow."
Ultrabooks are a new laptop form factor that Intel is driving as one way of gaining a foothold in the booming mobile computing space and of boosting a maturing PC market. The Ultrabooks are designed to offer the productivity capabilities of traditional laptops while offering some of the key featuresincluding instant-on, long battery life and touch-screensthat are found in tablets.
During a conference call to discuss the quarterly financial numbers, CEO Paul Otellini said there already are 21 Ultrabooks on the market powered by current 32nm Sandy Bridge chips, and that another 100 designs are in the pipeline that will leverage the Ivy Bridge chips. Intel executives expect the Ivy Bridge architecture to fuel Ultrabook adoption, not only because of the performance and power efficiency improvements, but also because it will enable OEMs to drive down the cost of the systems.
With the Tri-Gate transistor architecture, Ivy Bridge also is expected to help Intel with its growing rivalry against ARM Holdings, whose low-power chip designs are found in most smartphones and tablets. Improving performance while driving down power consumption will be key for Intel, which covets the fast-growing mobile device space.
At the same time, it also will help Intel in its efforts to stave off ARMs expected incursion into PCs and low-power servers, areas that that have long been Intels domain. ARM and its manufacturing partnersincluding Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics and Texas Instrumentsare hoping to make inroads into the those markets later this year, when Microsoft releases its Windows 8 operating system, which for the first time will have a version that supports system-on-a-chip architectures like ARMs.