SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Despite a significant increase in its average die size for microprocessors, Intel Corp. is expected to remain ahead of its rivals in the market. But the company could widen its lead as its chip die sizes shrink, thanks to an aggressive 300-mm fab ramp, according to a report from In-Stat/MDR here today.
With the introduction of its Pentium 4 processor, Intel's average die size increased starting in 2001. The market research firm estimates that Intel's quarterly wafer-area production will double by the end of 2003 over the first quarter of 2001. By the end of 2004, the company should be producing more than 700,000 (200mm-equivalent) wafers per quarter, according to In-Stat of Scottsdale.
In-Stat analyst Kevin Krewell said that larger cores and die sizes will continue to push Intel's average die size higher, that is, until the company ramps up its 0.13-micron process in 2002. Intel's average die size should stabilize and drop with the introduction of its 90-nm process in the second half of 2003, Krewell said.
The shift towards 0.13-micron, 300-mm wafers will also help lower the costs of all Intel products, especially server processors, he said.
A key to reduce costs is Intel's capital spending efforts. The company's expenses grew to $7.5 billion in 2001, from $6.7 billion in 2000. In 2002, Intel will spend some $5.5 billion, mostly on 300-mm fabs.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant is slowing spending, because the new 300-mm wafer plants are more efficient, as compared to the older 200-mm fabs.
The move towards 300-mm fabs is expected to lower the cost for its 32- and 64-bit processors. For example, the average die size for the current 130-nm Pentium 4 processor line will be below 140-mm square. By the end of 2004, average die size should be nearing 122-mm square.
Intel plans to migrate the McKinley 64-bit core into a lower-cost product called Deerfield. Deerfield is a 0.13-micron chip with an average die size of 180-mm square, making it suitable for the workstation and dual-processor server markets.
The four-way and above server market would then be offered a 64-bit chip called Madison, which has 6-MB of cache. Even with the 6-MB cache, Madison should be about 380-mm square, according to In-Stat.