Published in PC Hardware

Altera deal might bite Chipzilla

by on28 January 2016

Analyst warns

Technology analyst Ashraf Eassa is getting a little worried about Intel’s $16.7 billion Altera deal which he thinks could end up being a huge flop.

Eassa warned that when Intel first wrote the cheque it argued that transitioning Altera's existing stand-alone FPGA products to Intel's chip manufacturing technology, could improve Altera's competitive positioning in the market for such products. Intel could then take Altera's FPGA technology and integrating it into its server processors for significant performance/power gains.

But what worries Eassa is that Intel’s stand-alone FPGA claim that it can gain a manufacturing advantage over rival Xilinx which builds its FPGAs at contract chip manufacturer TSMC is looking shaky now.

Xilinx has beaten Altera to the punch by creating a 14/16-nanometer class stand-alone FPGA and started shipping samples in late 2015. Meanwhile Altera/Intel have not started sampling their own 14-nanometer FPGAs.

It is looking even bleaker now that Xilinx wants to skip TSMC's 10-nanometer technology and create its next high-end FPGA on TSMC's 7-nanometer technology. This should give Xilinx better transistor density than the Intel 10-nanometer technology that Altera's next high-end FPGA will be built on.

In fact it is looking like Chipzilla is making the same mistake it did in 2010 when it bought the struggling wireless division of Infineon in a move which should have made it a major player in the market for cellular modems and system-on-chip designs.

Chipzilla planned to build Infineon Wireless modems on its in-house chip manufacturing technology, integrated onto the same piece of silicon as the company's low-power Atom processors.
It only managed to do that by moving its Atom processors to TSMC's older 28-nanometer chip manufacturing technology. It is late with its plans to put out an integrated Atom and modem on its 14-nanometer technology.

Eassa makes the point that history is repeating and Intel/Altera have yet to ship the first 14-nanometer FPGAs for revenue. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich will only say that Intel is still working on its roadmap for when it integrates the full IP into its silicon

But Intel's previous track record of integrating major third-party technologies into its own chips is pretty rubbish he said and this deal could start to look a bit shaky.

Last modified on 28 January 2016
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