Intel talks new strategy and expands Atom roadmap with SoFIA and Broxton
Intel executives said at an investor meeting Intel’s mobile GPU and CPU performance will dramatically increase, while the company shifts to meet new business challenges.
Brian Krzanich announced an expanded Atom roadmap and a change to Intel’s business model at his first analysts’ day as CEO of the company on Thursday.
Krzanich and Intel brass told analysts and investors at the meeting that Intel is working hard to expand its mobile offerings in light of fierce competition in the sector. “I was a little embarrassed that we seemed to have lost our way,” Intel chairman Andy Bryant said during the meeting. “We’re paying a price for that right now.”
Intel’s goal for the mobile sector is to increase mobile GPU performance by 15 times and CPU performance by a factor of five by the end of 2015, according to Krzanich.
Intel’s push to gain some mobile hardware wins in 2015 will be anchored in an upcoming SoC called Broxton, first announced at the meeting, which is the follow-up to Cherry Trail, and runs on the architecture called Goldmont.
Broxton is intended to fill the performance segment of Intel’s 2015 mobile lineup. Krzanich said that Broxton will be unique insofar that it has a “chassis” that can be swapped out and upgraded when Intel rolls out new features. Krzanich didn’t elaborate how exactly this would work.
In the corresponding value segment, Intel will roll out SoFIA. This chip is unique because it won’t be made on the company’s own foundries, instead manufacturing will be contracted out in “the interest of speed.”
SoFIA will come integrated with a 3G baseband when it initially ships. In 2015 this will be upgraded to LTE.
Both Broxton and SoFIA will be manufactured on the 14-nanometer process and will be 64-bit. Krzanich said they are both part of the process to make Atom an equal partner with Core.
“We still expect twice the performance from Core, but we’re not going to slow down Core to get there,” Krzanich said.
Taking on Taiwan
During the meeting Krzanich announced that Intel is planning on opening its foundries worldwide to other companies to manufacture their chips.
Currently semiconductor companies that don’t have fabrication facilities contract the process out to firms like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company or Globalfoundries. As demand for PCs shrink, Intel is looking to keep its manufacturing lines active. Intel already manufactures chips for Altera, but these are customized for Altera’s specialized servers and embedded systems — a field where Intel doesn’t compete.
Pedal to the metal
Though Intel is leading its competitors with its 14 nm process node, it wants to go even smaller. Krzanich said Intel will “not take our foot off the pedal” as it pushes for 10nm by 2015.
Bill Holt, Intel’s boss of semiconductor manufacturing, said that as Intel hits the 10nm mark the cost-per-transistor will go dramatically down. Intel’s competitors, according to Holt, won’t have the same advantage as Intel because they are not focusing on properly scaling their silicon and lack the research Intel has put in to on-chip interconnects.
Still playing catch up
While new chips, business opportunities in opening up its foundries, and advantages in process node all sound like Intel has a competitive edge, the reality is it’s still facing a slumping PC market and OEMs that are not enthusiastic about its mobile chips.
“This market is going ultra fast, and the competition is not standing still while we catch up,” Intel Vice President Hermann Eul is quoted as saying at the meeting.
Considering that sentiment, perhaps Krzanich defined Intel’s struggle the best when he referred to the new plans for Atom by saying, “Three months ago this wasn’t on the road map.”