EU Raids Intel Offices

EC investigators Raid IntelEuropean Commission heavies made an unscheduled visit to Intel offices in Europe today as the chip maker’s offices were raided in connection with suspected anti-trust violations.

The European antitrust regulators started booting in doors two weeks after rival U.S. chip-maker Advanced Micro Devices filed a lawsuit claiming Intel used its market dominance to coerce computer makers away from using their AMD chips.

European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd explained, ‘Directorate General Competition officials, accompanied by officials from national competition authorities, are conducting inspections of several premises of Intel in Europe as well as a number of IT firms manufacturing or selling computers.”

A statement from the European Union head office added, “Investigations are being carried out in the framework of an ongoing competition case.”

Intel spokesman Chuck Malloy confirmed that the raids took place, adding that his company was cooperating fully while insisting that it was “all a stitch up and society’s to blame” (or words to that effect).

The EU has been investigating claims about Intel using unfair business practices to persuade clients to buy its chips to the exclusion of rivals’ chips for some time.

An initial investigation was demanded by Advanced Micro Devices several years ago, but in 2002 EU antitrust regulators reached a preliminary conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges.

AMD kept up the pressure, nagging regulators into looking into Intel’s business practices again, with the commission sending out formal notices to France, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Italy and Germany last year.

EC investigators Raid IntelThese requested information on government procurement tenders for computers containing requirements that they specify Intel chips or request a chip speed exclusive to Intel.

Late last month, AMD sued Intel for billions of dollars in a Delaware federal court, insisting that Intel bullied 38 computer companies into buying Intel chips.

Intel told them to stick their allegations when their chips don’t shine, suggesting that they were just whining away like a big girl because of their secondary market position (we’re paraphrasing slightly here).

Much as we enjoy corporate fisticuffs, we reckon that the issue would be best resolved without assisting zillions of smarmy lawyers to get even richer.

We reckon a playground fight would be far more fun.

Fight Fight!


Apple To Use Intel Chips

Apple To Use Intel ChipsThe rumours have been floating around the Internet for weeks, but it now seems certain that Apple will announce later today that it will be switching its computers to Intel’s.

The move, certain to get some Mac diehards crying into their single button mouses, means the end of Apple’s partnership with IBM, whose PowerPC processors have powered Macs since 1994.

Insiders report that there will be a phased transition to Intel’s chips, with Apple planning to move lower-end computers like the Mac Mini to Intel chips in mid-2006 with beefier models like the Power Mac moving over in mid-2007.

The story first surfaced last month in the Wall Street Journal, but many analysts laughed it off saying that the move would be both difficult and risky.

But the rumours persisted, fuelled by comments by Anand Chandrasekher, VP and GM of Intel’s Mobile Platforms Group at the Computex trade show in Taipei last week.

Apple To Use Intel ChipsWhen asked about the deal he said that the company has long pursued a deal with Apple, adding, “We always talk to Apple. Apple is a design win that we’ve coveted for 20 years and we continue to covet them as a design win. We will never give up on Apple.”

This isn’t the first time that Apple have shifted processors, with the company successfully changing over from Motorola’s 680×0 line of processors to the Power line (jointly made by IBM and Motorola) in the 1990s.

The switch seems to be have been prompted by several factors. IBM had previously been publicly slapped down by Apple for their chip delivery problems, and Apple’s plans for a wide variety of PowerPC processors wasn’t going down well with the Big Blue, who harboured doubts about the profitability of a low-volume business.

Although the loss of the Mac businesses is something of a slap in the face with a wet fish to IBM, shareholders can be consoled by the fact that the Power family processors will be used in future gaming consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

Intel remains the Big Cheese of the PC processor business, hogging an 81.7 percent market share in the first quarter of 2005, compared with 16.9 percent for Advanced Micro Devices, according to recent research.

PowerPC processors aren’t included in these numbers, but Apple only have around 1.8 percent of the worldwide PC market.

Steve Jobs will be making his announcement at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference later today.

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference

Centrino Chips Get Updated by Intel

Today Intel release information about their new Centrino range of chips, aimed at notebook computers.

The release of the code-named “Sonoma” chip has been delayed for several months as Intel ironed out some problems they had been having with the chips. Intel hopes it will further bolster their current 85% dominance of notebook chips.

Such is the keenness of the laptop manufacturers to bring the machines to market that Sony have already released their FS range and Toshiba the less than catch-ly named Dynabook VX 470LS notebook. It is understood that 80 laptops with the new chippery will be available from today, with that number growing to 150 by the end of the year.

Intel have been very crafty with the Centrino range, which includes microprocessor; wireless; and supporting chips providing sound and graphics, as the Centrino brand cannot be used unless the entire bundle of chips is bought from Intel.

As is always the case with the introduction with a new range of chips, the new models will come in at about the same price of the previous high end chips and the current offering will slide down in price. Expect some bargains.


Intel Reshuffle Around Platforms

Sensing the changes in the micro-electronics industry, with the growth of tech/media convergence, Intel are to reorganise themselves around Platforms.

The new groups of interest are Mobility; Digital Enterprise; Digital Home; and Digital Health.

Mobility will deal with, surprise surprise, portable devices such as notebook PCs, handhelds and communications devices. A major focus will be getting the expanding numbers of mobile devices working better together using, we assume, wireless networking.

Focused on living room entertainment applications and consumer electronics devices, the Digital Home group will focus on developing computing and communications platforms for consumers.

Digital Enterprise Group will cover end-to-end solutions in businesses. With digital delivery of content, this is becoming more and more important to content owners/current broadcasters and an area that IBM is putting a lot of effort into try to capture.

One of the big areas of excitement for the connected home is its use of health sensing. Intel are jumping on this with the Digital Health group.

This is a clear illustration of the growth of the electronics business away from its business focused roots, maturing in to a new phase, one where technology will be everywhere.


East Fork: Media Chipset for Home PC’s from Intel

A chip set focused on providing home users with the ability to capture, manipulate and distribute digital audio and video content around a home network wirelessly is running through the rumour mill. It has been long anticipated.

Intel recently dropped the launch of the 4GHz version of their P4 processor. Many commentators had been wondering what people were going to use all of that processing power for after chip speeds have spiralled upwards in the last few years. In discussion that we’ve had with senior Intel people, it has been clear that they don’t really know what to do with all of that power.

Their new approach is to develop ranges of “platforms” – Centrino, the chipset designed for laptops being a good example. It has low-power use and WiFi built in.

Reuters are reporting on project name “East Fork” will focus the power of the chips on providing and distributing and manipulating Audio and Video (AV) content around peoples home. Playing back AV content doesn’t take a huge amount of processing power, but capturing video and real-time encoding it, to distributed around the household does. The problem Intel faces with that is the media companies don’t want their content digitised, but they are addressing this with content protecting schemes.

The Korean DigiTimes has information that the complete setup will be called “DH EF PCs”. Not too catchy, and we assume an internal name only, that stands for Digital Home East Fork PC.

Intel Move in to STB Chips

Intel is preparing a family of consumer electronics processors based on the company’s IA-32 architecture, the design underlying the vast majority of Intel’s desktop, laptop and server processors. The new chips are designed for running digital video and audio content while providing a robust, fast and transparent method for transmitting and receiving digital content between a variety of products including PCs, high-definition televisions, set-top boxes, digital VCRs and DVD players.

The benefit of faster processors that consume less power is that they offer new ways to view high-quality digital pictures and sound. Streaming content from mobile devices is also a major component in the digital transmission proposals that the entertainment industry is reviewing, regarding delivery of video and audio content.

It’s almost certain that the Intel chips will run at slower clock speeds compared to their desktop counterparts, as the processing power of consumer boxes is not as critical as desktop computers, laptops and servers – frankly for the replay of video, photo and audio, you don’t need that much power. The chips will also likely have a slower bus and smaller cache, as this is an easy way to reduce power consumption and costs. Slower processors leads to less power consumption, less heat generated, therefore less need for noisy cooling fans. Silent or near silent machines are vital in the lounge setting.

Set Top Boxes (STB’s) have until now been built to a low price, so they have been pitifully under-powered. This has lead directly to the interactive TV (iTV) applications that they can run frankly not looking that much better than an Atari 2600. New mass-produced powerful chips  are the first step towards changing this.

Intel already produces processors designed for low-power consumption and high performance processing for a wide range of wireless and networking applications and rich services. Based on a new core devised by England-based ARM, the XScale chips are currently used in both smartphones and PDAs, but it’s looking to offer faster processing power with the new IA-32-based parts.

It’s quite clear that Intel is a chip company focused solidly on its core business, regardless of where it takes it. The company is building up support for its new chips among consumer electronics manufacturers by developing reference designs, or blueprints, for various products. The next step will be establish well-known, robust public and symmetric key cryptographic technique that will provide manufacturers with a simple and inexpensive implementation, while allowing protect digital content in transit quickly and easily – something that Hollywood is very keen on, to say the least.


Intel’s hand-held audio and video player

Intel’s Emerging Platforms Lab have designed a paperback-sized platform that will be used to play back digital audio and video content. Although always based on Intel chips including the XScale processor, the manufacturers, who will be announced later in the year, have freedom over display and storage. The initial pricing is thought to be around $500 then later moving to $399.

The device has to be loaded with content from the owners PC via USB 2 or WiFi and won’t be able to access content direct from the Internet. This give two benefits, Intel can’t be accused of promoting piracy and they ensure a PC is also needed – which will most likely have an Intel processor inside.

What isn’t clear is how much DRM software will be forced into the device. [CNet video]