In this first of a three-part series we talk to analysts and current and former IBM employees about the company's future as a chipmaker.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — IBM should sell its semiconductor plants and get out of the chip-making business, say a handful of analysts and current and former IBM employees, pointing to GlobalFoundries as the best potential buyer.
A senior executive in charge of the IBM group told us chip operations remain strategic and -- at least for the moment -- intact. He would not, however, comment directly on reports in February
that the company is exploring a sale of one or both of its fabs.
While IBM's role as a chipmaker is debated inside and outside the company, all sides agree on one thing: For decades the company has been a leader in semiconductors, developing technologies that gave it an edge and pushed the industry forward.
Despite its technical prowess, IBM should go fabless, some argue, claiming the company has under-invested in its two fabs for several years. The chip business hasn't fit IBM's corporate business model for years, they say.
IBM's Power server business has served as one of the main motivations for making chips, but it hit a slump last year that the company has admitted it cannot reverse. The decline came on the heels of the loss to AMD of its high-volume, high-margin business making ASICs for videogame consoles.
On a human level, employees in IBM's chip division say they are shell-shocked by multiple rounds of layoffs. They see a sale as a possible resolution after living under a cloud for years.
"Layoffs came in waves and there are rumors they are still coming -- I lived through so many of them," says a former IBMer laid off in July 2013. "It's a tough environment where people are always nervous about what's coming next. It's not fun anymore."
Next Page: Some decide to leave