Intel's new Tri-Gate transistor structure will help the company slow ARM's incursion into the PC space while enabling Intel to challenge in smartphones and tablets, analysts say.
Intel's new Tri-Gate transistor technology should give it the ammunition it
needs to stave off a challenge by rival ARM
Holdings in the PC business and enable Intel to make inroads into the
lucrative tablet and smartphone markets, according to some analysts.
week after Intel executives announced that its 3D
-which the company had been working on for almost a
decade-was ready to go into production, industry analysts continue to assess
the risks and benefits to the giant chip maker.
officials said they were spending millions to outfit their fabs to be able to
make the Tri-Gate-based chips, which they said will boost the performance of
the processors by 18 to 37 percent while consuming half the power of current
offerings. The new 22-nanometer "Ivy Bridge"
chips with the Tri-Gate technology are expected to begin getting to OEMs later
this year, with products appearing in early 2012.
50 percent reduction in power consumption is significant," Matthew Wilkins,
principal analyst for compute platforms research at IHS iSuppli, said in a
statement issues May 10. "The less power your electronic device consumes, the longer
the battery will last, and the longer a user can be truly mobile."
that mobility that's increasingly important to Intel. The company is the
dominant chip maker in the PC and server businesses, but it also has ambitions
in the mobile device space, particularly in tablets and smartphones. In that
market, most devices now run on ARM-designed
chips built by the likes of Samsung, Texas
Instruments and Qualcomm. To gain a foothold there, Intel will have to drive
down the power consumption of its x86 processors, and then convince device
makers to switch from the established ARM
the same time, ARM's low-power chip designs
are expected to make inroads into the laptop PC market, as OEMs look to improve
the battery life of their systems. Market research firm Gartner is expecting ARM
13 percent of the PC chip space by 2015. Intel currently owns
more than 80 percent of the market, followed by Advanced Micro Devices.
performance in the markets where Intel actively competes is measured in two
distinct areas: in high-voltage settings (conventional PCs, laptops and
servers) and low-voltage settings (mobile handsets, smartphones, tablets and
netbooks)," Charles King, principle analyst with Pund-IT Research, said in a
May 11 report. "Intel dominates in high-voltage applications and devices, but
has faced serious challenges in penetrating low-voltage markets, except for the
success of its Atom processors in netbooks. According to the company, Tri-Gate
transistors will provide the tools Intel requires to continue leading its
traditional markets and make it far more competitive in low-voltage
along with aiding Intel's mobile push, the Tri-Gate transistors-which feature
conducting channels on three sides of what officials call a vertical "fin"-will
give Intel the technology it needs to defend its PC chip dominance from ARM,
which got a boost when Microsoft announced earlier this year that it its
Windows products will support such SoC (system-on-a-chip) architectures.
its historical advantage in power consumption, ARM
could stand to eat into the X86's core market in PCs, particularly in notebooks,"
IHS iSuppli analysts said in their research note. "However, Tri-Gate will make
X86 a better matchup for ARM. In terms
of power consumption, X86 will become more competitive with ARM
in low-power devices such as notebooks, netbooks, tablets and smartphones."
began to crystallize last week, when speculation grew that Apple
officials planned to migrate their MacBook laptops from Intel processors to
ARM-designed chips within the next three years. A Website fueled the
speculation with a report based on unnamed Apple sources.
a May 9 report on the technical
Website Real World Technologies
talked about the technical and business
challenges that would go into making such a transition and argued that it
wouldn't make sense for Apple to jump from Intel to ARM.
there are advantages for Apple to use ARM
and precedents for such transitions, it is an exceptionally unlikely scenario,"
David Katner wrote.
important aspect of Intel's Tri-Gate technology is that switching to the new
architecture will only add 2 percent to 3 percent of the production costs,
Pund-IT's King wrote. In addition, going into production now with the Tri-Gate
chips will give Intel a significant advantage over other vendors-in particular,
IBM and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing
Corp.-which also is working on a 3D structure, according to Len Jelinek,
director and chief analyst for semiconductor manufacturing at IHS iSuppli.
capability to go into high-volume production should give Intel a two- to
three-year manufacturing advantage over its competitors," Jelinek said in the