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Intel makes its next big bet

July 27, 2021, 12:22 AM UTC

On Monday, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger revealed new technology plans and partnerships intended to help restore the company’s reputation as a cutting-edge semiconductor titan.

Gelsinger detailed the initiatives during a virtual press conference and said that Intel has a “clear path for the next decade of innovation,” a comment likely directed to technology observers who are concerned that Intel has ceded ground to competitors like Nvidia and AMD. Intel has recently suffered manufacturing issues that have led to the delay of a couple of long-awaited computer chips. Additionally, competitors like Nvidia have made a big business selling specialized chips tailored for A.I., leapfrogging Intel’s own efforts. 

To show the technology industry that Intel is planning for its future as it faces tough competition, Intel executives revealed new methods, to debut in 2024, for designing upcoming computer chips.

The company’s RibbonFET technology is Intel’s first new transistor architecture in a decade that’s intended to help computers and corporate servers process data faster than current methods. Intel’s PowerVia technology, on the other hand, is intended to help computers more efficiently conserve power by the way energy is routed throughout a computer chip.

Intel plans to eventually use those recently developed chip-design technologies, which are part of Intel’s new 20A semiconductor designing process, in its newly created foundry business. Companies like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and GlobalFoundries run foundry businesses that build computer chips for clients based on their custom designs. Intel has been challenged by these foundry companies with businesses like Apple increasingly using their chip-manufacturing services. 

Gelsinger did not comment about reports that Intel may be looking to acquire GlobalFoundries for nearly $30 billion as a way to kickstart its nascent foundry business.

But, the Intel chief said that rival Qualcomm will be an Intel foundry customer and will eventually use Intel’s upcoming 20A semiconductor designing process to develop future unspecified chips. Gelsinger noted the significance of Intel working with Qualcomm, saying that the mobile chip maker was “somebody that we wouldn’t have partnered with in the past.”

Amazon Web Services will also be an Intel foundry customer, Gelsinger said. 

Intel also renamed its chip-design processing methodologies, referred to as nodes, to be more comparable to industry standards and those of competitors. 

David Kanter, an analyst at Real World Technologies, noted the significance of Intel’s announcements as a way to combat the perception that the company has lost some of its momentum as a semiconductor leader.

“What these announcements collectively paint a picture of is a trajectory for Intel to resume its position as the preeminent developer of new technologies for semiconductor manufacturing and being in the driver’s seat for performance,” Kanter said.

Although Kanter expressed enthusiasm for Intel’s new developments, he also noted that the company may face some skepticism after years of corporate missteps.

Indeed, Intel shares were down 2% to $53.19 in after-hours trading, suggesting that investors are still waiting on Intel to deliver on its plans.

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