Monthly Archives: February 2012

Intel’s Foundry Business

Intel is starting to offer 3rd parties the opportunity to build chips on their cutting-edge “fabs.”  I’m not surprised to see this happening. With each new generation of fab, Intel has more transistors they have to sell in order to recoup their costs and get an ROI. Intel themselves haven’t been that great at creating products to sell those additional transistors. If they are going to keep investing in their process leadership, they have to find a way to pay for it. If they don’t keep investing in their process leadership, they are going to be disrupted by ARM and its licensees.

Intel is opening up its manufacturing facilities to third parties, as it takes the further tentative steps toward building a chip-to-order foundry business. The microprocessor giant announced last year that it would build FPGAs for Achronix Semiconductor, and on Tuesday a second FPGA designer, Tabula, said that it would have its chips built by Intel.

In its announcement, Tabula emphasized that it would be using Intels cutting-edge 22nm process with 3D trigate transistors. Intels manufacturing capabilities are world-leading, with none of the established microprocessor foundries—including TSMC, UMC, and AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries—able to match the companys process.

Compared to the 28 and 32nm processes offered by the competition, Intels 22nm process should offer higher speeds with lower power usage, at lower cost. The company will start shipping its first 22nm x86 processors, codenamed Ivy Bridge, in the coming months.

via Ars Technica.

Whether they can actually sell enough of their capacity without opening their fabs to competitors remains to be seen. At some level FPGAs already compete with Intel’s products, in that they take a different approach to creating general-purpose chips that can be used for a variety of applications.

Why I blog on

I’ve been blogging on Geekfun for a little over a decade, and from time to time I question the whole enterprise. Actually, that isn’t entirely true, sometimes it seems I spend more time questioning the whole enterprise than I actually spend blogging. Other times, I manage to do both at the same time. This post is an example of the latter.

I was again thinking about why I have this blog, and what I should do with it, and I thought I’d try and put those thoughts in writing. That is the essence of this blog. This blog is me writing down what I’m thinking about. Doing so helps me focus and clarify my thoughts.

Often, that is all it is, but sometimes, it is an opportunity to share my thinking, or what I’ve learned, with other people. This blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic, so it is a stretch to use “popular” to describe anything I post here, but the most popular posts on this blog tend to be those where I’ve shared some little practical tip.

But getting back to the role of this blog as part of my thought process, it could be even more useful in that regard if it was also a way to solicit other people’s comments. Occasionally a post will provide fertile ground for discussion, but more often than that, they are sterile islands of thought. My thinking benefits from writing them, but that is as far as it goes. I could start to remedy that by posting links to places where friends and acquaintances will find them, like Facebook, Google + and Twitter.

Mountain Lion and the Future of Apple

Johnathan Gruber has a big post today about Apple’s announcement of Mountain Lion, the next version of OS X.

My reaction to the news: “finally.”  I’ve been waiting for OS X to fully embrace iCloud since last year, when I thought it would happen with the initial release of Lion, but it looks like it will finally happen this summer, when Mountain Lion is released.

Gruber’s post is worth reading. He gives his impressions of a pre-release copy of Mountain Lion he’s been using for the past week, and also ruminates on how Apple orchestrated the announcement. They used a new technique; VP Phill Shiller did one-on-one presentations to a dozen or so tech writers a week before the official announcement.

Among other things, Gruber considers what this announcement says about the current state of the relationship between OS X and iOS

[recounts a few years ago when Apple delayed an OS X release to devote resources to iOS]


Putting both iOS and OS X on an annual release schedule is a sign that Apple is confident it no longer needs to make such tradeoffs in engineering resources. There’s an aspect of Apple’s “now” — changes it needs to make, ways the company needs to adapt — that simply relate to just how damn big, and how successful, the company has become. They are in uncharted territory, success-wise. They are cognizant that they’re no longer the upstart, and are changing accordingly.

It seems important to Apple that the Mac not be perceived as an afterthought compared to the iPad, and, perhaps more importantly, that Apple not be perceived as itself considering or treating the Mac as an afterthought.

I don’t think this goes far enough.  What stands out for me is not just that OS X is (back) on an annual release cycle, its that the cycle is in close sync with iOS’s annual release cycle; both are released in the summer, rather than at, say, a six month offset. Why?

I think the reason is obvious, OS X and iOS are part of the same product. The promise I saw in iCloud, iOS 5 and Lion last summer was the arrival of a pervasive computing environment that spanned devices. Moving between a Mac, and iPhone and an iPad was close to becoming seamless. A Keynote presentation you started on your Mac would automatically be sitting in your pocket on your iPhone, waiting for a quick review while waiting in line for lunch. Without a second thought, you could open your iPad on the bus-ride home and finish up the last few slides. And that is just the beginning.