The Macintel Report

Transition 'On Track', Why Intel (Not AMD), Intel's $40 Chips, Lower Power CPUs, and More

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2005.09.22

This Week's Macintel News

Low End Mac has standardized on Macintel as our informal label for the forthcoming OS X on Intel Macintosh computers, although you'll probably find just as many people calling them "Mactels". Whatever we call them, Apple's decision to switch to Intel CPUs means we live in very interesting times.

PowerBook, iBook, and other portable computing news is covered in The 'Book Review. General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in The Mac News Review. iPod news is covered in The iNews Review.

The Transition

Intel Developments

Other News

The Transition

Apple's Intel Mac 'On Track' - Jobs

The Register's Tony Smith reports:

"Apple is on track to ship Macs based on Intel processors by June 2006, CEO Steve Jobs claimed today.

"Jobs' comments follows speculation aired this week that the Mac maker could ship Intel-based PowerBooks as early as January 2006, with other rumours pointing to a much later introduction.

"Speaking to reporters at a meeting ahead of Apple Expo Paris' first day, Jobs said: 'We said we'd be shipping by next June and we are on track to have that be a true statement.'"

Apple Set to Ship Intel-based Computers in June

Reuters reports:

"Apple Computer is on track to ship Intel-based computers as targeted by June 2006, Chief Executive Steve Jobs said Tuesday.

"'We are on track to do that,' Jobs told a news conference in Paris, referring to the plan the company announced in June.

"Apple said June 6 that it was severing its long-standing relationship with IBM and switching to microprocessors made by Intel, aiming to have all its Macintosh computers using Intel chips by the end of 2007. Microprocessors are the number-crunching nerve centers of personal computers.

"Apple had publicly expressed frustration with IBM for over a year prior to the decision."

Apple Bolsters Mac OS X for Intel Development Efforts

eWeek's Daniel Drew Turner reports:

"The company debuts an online resource for developers tasked with moving their applications to Apple's forthcoming Intel-based Macs. By Daniel Drew Turner Apple Computer Inc. on Tuesday boosted its commitment to Intel Corp. processors. The company debuted an online resource for programmers working on Intel-based Macs; the move follows the recent update to its operating system for Intel processors.

"The new Developer Transition Resource Center is targeted at developers who have been tasked with moving their applications to Apple's forthcoming Intel-based Macs, scheduled for release in 2006.

"The site ties together topics, resources and tutorials, some of which were previously available on other parts of Apple's site, including QuickTime archives of World Wide Developer Conference sessions. Some of the content, including the session videos, are available only to registered Apple developers."

Why Apple Picked Intel over AMD

Macworld's Laurieanne McLaughlin reports:

"Steve Jobs sent a seismic shocker across the tech landscape in June when he announced Apple would phase out PowerPC chips and put Intel processors inside Macs starting in 2006. To some, the move seemed puzzling: Why would Jobs, the king of cool design, make a deal with half of the empire that conquered the world with cookie-cutter beige boxes? Jobs had an answer at the ready during his Worldwide Developers Conference keynote - a switch to Intel chips means better Mac hardware down the line. And analysts agree that the move ensures Apple's ability to craft unique designs.

"But one aspect of the "Why switch processor suppliers?" question hasn't been answered. Intel isn't the only X86 chipmaker in town. Why didn't Jobs, ever the maverick, opt for the scrappy challenger, Advanced Micro Devices, instead of the old-money establishment, Intel?"

Intel Developments

Intel's Manufacturing Cost: $40 per Chip

CNET News.com's Michael Kanellos reports:

"Though Pentium 4s can sell for up to $637, Intel's average cost for making a chip comes to $40, according to a report from analysts In-Stat.

"The report doesn't consider expenses related to design or marketing, or the fact that high-end chips can sell for more because fewer off the production line can actually run at top speed, but it does shed light on how Intel has managed to maintain healthy margins in an era of price declines. The cost has been steady at about $40 since 2003, according to In-Stat."

Intel Developing Ultra-Low Power Manufacturing Process

PR: Intel Corporation is developing an ultra-low power derivative of its high-performance 65 nanometer (nm) logic manufacturing process that will enable production of very low-power chips for mobile platforms and small-form factor devices. The ultra-low power process will be Intel's second process based on 65nm process technology.

Intel's high-performance 65nm (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter) process provides both power consumption and performance benefits over Intel's current industry-leading 90nm manufacturing process. The company's new ultra-low power 65nm process provides Intel chip designers additional options in delivering the circuit density, performance and power consumption required by users of battery-operated devices.

"People typically embrace mobile platforms that maximize battery life," said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of the Intel Mobile Platforms Group. "Such products will be greatly enhanced by our new ultra-low power manufacturing process. We will design future mobility platforms to take full advantage of both leading-edge, 65nm manufacturing processes."

One of the factors in decreasing chip power consumption, which is important to mobile and battery-operated devices, is improving the design of the transistor. Lost electricity leaking from these microscopic transistors, even when they are in their "off" state, is a problem that is a challenge for the entire industry.

"With the number of transistors on some chips exceeding one billion, it is clear that improvements made for individual transistors can multiply into huge benefits for the entire device," said Mark Bohr, senior fellow and director of Intel Process Architecture and Integration. "Test chips made on Intel's ultra-low power 65nm process technology have shown transistor leakage reduction roughly 1000 times from our standard process. This translates into significant power savings for people who will use devices based on this technology."

Intel's ultra-low power, 65nm process technology includes several key transistor modifications which enable delivery of low power benefits while providing industry-leading performance. These transistor modifications result in significant reductions in the three major sources of transistor leakage: sub-threshold leakage, junction leakage and gate oxide leakage. The benefits of reduced transistor leakage are lower power and increased battery life.

Intel's 65nm processes combine higher-performance and lower-power transistors, a second-generation version of Intel's strained silicon, eight high-speed copper interconnect layers and a low-k dielectric material. Building chips using the 65nm processes will allow Intel to double the number of transistors it can build on a single chip today (using Intel's 90nm technology).

Intel's 65nm processes will feature transistors measuring only 35nm in gate length, which will be the smallest and highest performing CMOS transistors in high-volume production. By comparison, the most advanced transistors in production today, found in Intel® Pentium® 4 processors, measure 50nm. Small, fast transistors are the building blocks for very fast processors.

Intel has integrated a second-generation version of its high-performance strained silicon into these 65nm processes. Strained silicon provides higher drive current, increasing the speed of the transistors with only a two percent increase in manufacturing cost.

Intel Invests in 200mm-wafer Fab Capacity

The Register's Tony Smith reports:

"Intel will pump $345m into two US fabs in a bid to boost production capacity, the chip giant said yesterday.

"The two fabs targeted for investment, Fab 17 in Hudson, Massachusetts and Fab 23 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, both work with 200mm wafers.

"As such, they're used primarily to punch out chipsets, communications parts and Flash memory components. While Fab 17 will get $155m to increase overall production capacity, Fab 23's cut, $190m, will be used to kit out a second clean room which will be used to finish off processors made on 300mm wafers at other Intel facilities."

Intel Dives into the Ultra-low Power Pool

CNET News.com's Michael Singer reports:

"Intel's latest rallying cry seems to be 'Save the battery!'

"The chipmaking giant announced on Monday a new technique that it said could help cut back on wasted battery power in cell phones and mobile devices by as much as 1,000 times current levels.

"Active computing accounts for only half the power Intel processors use. The other half is gobbled up by a leakage current in transistors that exists when a machine is in a low-level sleep state, Intel said.

"The new version of the company's 65-nanometer wafer-making process, internally known as P1265, is better than Intel's current process at helping prevent the extra power from being sapped from the battery, the chipmaker said."

Intel Remixes Chips to Cut Power

eWeek's John G. Spooner reports:

"Intel Corp. plans to begin cutting the power consumption of its chips right at the factory.

"The chip giant will on Tuesday unveil a plan to create an alternate version of its manufacturing process technology - the means by which it knits together the transistors that make up the circuits inside its chips-designed to yield more power-efficient processors and supporting chipsets for notebooks, handhelds and other battery-powered devices."

Other News

Apple Files Patent for an Autonomous Thermal Management

Macsimum News' News2Me reports:

"On September 15, 2005, the US Patent & Trademark Office revealed Apple's patent application 20050204175 entitled Autonomous thermal management. The inventor listed on the application is Joel S. Burton for serial number 800258, originally filed on March 11, 2004.

"The present invention provides both a peripheral device that regulates its own temperature by adjusting its power consumption, and a method to accomplish the same. In one embodiment of the invention, the method includes monitoring the temperature of the mass storage device and reducing power consumption when the temperature exceeds a certain threshold. In such an embodiment, the mass storage device would be capable of operating while the power consumption is reduced."

Microsoft, Intel, and Apple Team Up for DigitalLife Conference

pcadvisor.co.uk's Jonny Evans reports:

"The DigitalLife exhibition in New York on 14 October will see keynote presentations from Microsoft and Intel representatives and a panel discussion featuring Apple and HP employees....

"Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice-president of iPod product worldwide marketing, will participate in a panel discussion that will 'demonstrate a number of hot new products and talk about the highlights of this year's holiday tech shopping season', according to the organisers of the show."

More Mac News

PowerBook, iBook, and other portable computing news is covered in The 'Book Review. General Apple and Mac desktop news is covered in The Mac News Review. iPod news is covered in The iNews Review.

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