SAN FRANCISCO Ė It was a heady week hanging out the Intel Developer Forum and covering the iPhone 5 launch a block away. At the end of it all, I am both impressed and worried about the two big ecosystems of electronics that passed within spitting distance of each other.
Riding the big escalators at Moscone West I saw Dave Ditzel. He designed a couple generations of Sparc chips at Sun Microsystems back in the day and now is working for Intel on a CPU beyond anything the PC giant is talking about publicly.
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Dave said he was impressed by Intelís long, deep pipeline of microprocessor projects and its methodical process for executing on such massively complex programs. Me, too.
While we talked, the chief technologist of Invensas, who also knew Dave, chimed in, excitedly sharing a prototype in his pocket of the companyís latest 3-D stacking technology. For a moment I felt like I was standing at Ground Zero of the future of chip design.
I had that feeling again listening to Mark Bohr present Intelís process technology road map. Bohrís been around the chip fabrication business for 30 years and unarguably is one of maybe a dozen people now at its vanguard. He talked with authority not only about Intelís next generation 14-nm process but the 10-nm one beyond it. The whole electronics industry depends on pathfinders like him.
Thereís an iceberg field ahead of the big Intel cruise ship. The lithography methods used to create chips seem to be running out of gas as we approach the atomic limits of scaling. Even Intel may not be able to stay much longer on its heady two-year cadence for new processes.
Then thereís the whole mobile thing. Yes, Intelís Atom-based SoCs now power six run-of-the-mill smartphones and four compelling Windows 8 tablets. But Appleís iPhone franchise (and the Android fleet led by Samsung) is steaming half an ocean ahead of it.
There is a huge differences between Apple and Intel. Intel selling chips to the box manufacturing while Apple selling directly to the consumers.
The great thing about Apple is the total package of beautiful hardware and software all encompass in one unit.
Intel has the best technology, but this is apparently not good enough, and has a big, big NIH. look at INTC for the last 10 years and then look at AAPL for the last ten years. I rest my case.
Did not realize Dave Ditzel ended up at Intel. I wonder if he is doing any of the code-morphing stuff he pioneered at Transmeta. In retrospect that technology was ahead of its time - and I hear there are new designs underway that are attempting it again.
Intel's deep pipeline of designs is scary but does that also make it harder for them to adopt to quickly changing trends.
Good to hear a reporter not go gaga over Apple's every launch anc call out the iphone5 for what it truly is - a me too phone!
Apple is playing to its strength which is still "visualizing synergistic systems and zen minimalism ". Samsung on the other hand seems to have consciously or sub-consciously gravitated towards leveraging their strength, namely comprehensive in-house technological capabilities ranging from transistors to chips and displays to systems and high volume manufacturng. Samsung can afford to build 50 models. Apple can't.
Okay George, here is my comment to Rick's article that was lost...
Rick, I enjoyed reading your view of the mobile technology landscape. The community benefits by having good reporting at the nexus of Apple and Intel who will continue to shape a lot of the computing experience for ordinary people and techies alike.
I think it's unlikely that Apple will miss on any of its big annual product cycles for that very reason. It keeps focus on a few products and the organization can make darn sure they don't miss. The alternative is never-ending product introductions and just hoping to get traction with one or two.
I think the shotgun is fine for some. It's the right tool if your aim isn't great, but you don't give a shotgun to a sniper.
The contrast between IDF and the iPhone 5 release was night and day. I stepped out of IDF and walked half a block to where the new iPhone was being introduced, just to see if I could get anything from the crowd or the analysts as they emerged. I'm well aware of the hysteria surrounding the cult of Apple and its products, but even I was taken aback. There were of course TV trucks, with live shots and live interviews being done right on the sidewalk. But what really blew me away were the dozens of seemingly regular people that thronged to the event, just to wait outside and snap some photos. Students, tech junkies, and even some people who showed up with their kids. Why? Most of those I talked to said they just wanted to be there because something big was happening. A cultural event.
It's amazing to me. All of this for a new model of a phone that, when you get right down to it, isn't THAT different from the previous version. If only every company could tap into this kind of momentum around its products...
Meanwhile, IDF was a first rate technology conference, heavy on the glitz, glamor and marketing. But with nowhere near the same vibe.