The Kaby Lake fraud

Do not buy a computer this year.

There it is. You can stop reading now. That’s the conclusion of this post, which I publish with outrage after seeing how the presentation of new Kaby Lake CPUs from Intel is an absolute disappointment. Marc Whalton expressed it well at the beginning of his analysis in Ars Technica (emphasis mine):

The Intel Core i7-7700K is what happens when a chip company stops trying. The i7-7700K is the first desktop Intel chip in brave new post- “tick-tock” world-that means that instead of major improvements to architecture, process, and instructions per clock (IPC), we get slightly higher clock speeds and a Way to decode DRM-laden 4K streaming video. Huzzah.

That first sentence is sadly true, and in fact you would not need to read much more than that. Just having a look at some of the graphs that show its performance in synthetic benchmarks makes everything clear again:

This is just one example of how Intel has managed to fool the entire industry and become a lazy company. One that lives on past glories. Like Apple, I’d say.

That review of the Intel Core i7-7700K at Ars Technica is by far the best you can read about this microprocessor. It is, in fact, the only thing you should read about it, and here I include reviews done in Spanish and in English that are a real shame. They are because they stick to the message that Intel wants to offer, and they close their eyes to the obvious criticism. Intel has become confortable with itself. I am especially surprised and disappointed by the short-sighted review at AnandTech, a tech site I normally revere but that in this case has published its review with a misleading headline and conclusions. They even criticized in the text the ability to overclock (“our CPU sample is somewhat average to poor in terms of overclocking performance“) and then end up with a section where they crowned it as “the new champion”. Wrong.

Why has Intel settled for this? I would say they did this for a simple reason: they could. At the moment there is no competition in the market, and unless AMD Ryzen tells us otherwise – and the leaked evidence does not point to it – it will not be there for quite some time. It seems that Intel will be able to continue in lazy mode, accommodated and without really innovating.

The situation is worrying and sad, especially beacuse Intel has been on this path for a long time. His old tick-tock philosophy amazed us and made us enjoy an astounding pace of innovation, but between the reality that physics imposes —Moore’s law has an expiration date, if it is not already expired— and self-imposed Intel, we end up with a regrettable strategy. The one of the delays and rehashes, that is what is Kaby Lake. A 14 nm rehash.

I would say more. It is a fraud.

Save your money and wait for Cannonlake. Maybe the 10nm are worth it, because Kaby Lake does not.

Intel: if we can’t defeat them, we’ll join them

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Intel lost a recent opportunity to save itself from the mobile disaster, but there’s still hope for them. Not as makers, though: the recent deal made with ARM will allow other microprocessor designers to take advantage of Intel’s resources in the production process.

That could be a good way to leverage the technology and experience Intel has accumulated through all this years, but it’s also another sign -we didn’t need much more of these- of an Intel that threw in the towel long ago in the mobile space.

AMD made a similar move when GlobalFoundries spun off, and it went pretty well for them. We’ll see what happens with this new strategy from Intel.

ARM, Softbank and Intel’s lost chance

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There was a time when Intel dominated the world. That time passed and the company is one of the biggest examples of ‘The innovator’s dilemma’. They were too confident in themselves, as many others -Nokia, Blackberry- and they failed to see what the future was going to be.

Intel could have made a smart move, but again they didn’t probably even consider it, and now Softbank has done something that could be a really future saver: they’ve made a whopping buyout offer to acquire ARM for £24.3 billion (~$32 billion).

Apparently the reason is Softbank’s interest in IoT. I’d say that’s only a marketing trick to add some hype to the headlines. ARM dominates the world now thanks to their smartphone chip design business, and it will be interesting to see what this Japanese giant does with this kind of power.

In case somebody didn’t notice, it’s a good time to acquire British companies, ahem Brexit ahem.

Source: ARM legs it to SoftBank in $32 billion buyout

Goodbye, Atom: you won’t be missed

Vlad Savov writes about Intel and its smartphone strategy: Goodbye, Atom:

Late on Friday night, Intel snuck out the news that it’s bailing on the smartphone market. Despite being the world’s best known processor maker, Intel was only a bit player in the mobile space dominated by Qualcomm, Apple, and Samsung, and it finally chose to cut its losses and cancel its next planned chip, Broxton. This followed downbeat quarterly earnings, 12,000 job cuts, and a major restructuring at a company that’s had a very busy April. Intel is still one of the giants of the global tech industry, but it’s no longer as healthy and sprightly as it used to be.

I would say one of the biggest mistakes of Intel was XScale: giving up on ARM chips could be seen as logical back then, but it was also a little bit arrogant.

Intel had to fight from the top down and that bet never worked out. History has shown us that ARM and its bottom-up strategy has clearly had much more sense in the mobile space.

When Otellini confessed that he passed on that agreement with Apple and their future iPhone -knowing nothing about Apple’s product- it became clear that he was not considering the long term. The company was doing really good back then, so a risky move like that was out of the question.

The situation was exactly the opposite for Andy Grove back in the 80s: the memory business was a road to nowhere, so he had to risk everything, and he made the right decission with his bet on microprocessors. He was looking for a solution on both the short and the long term, and he was lucky. Otellini wasn’t, of course.

Sadly for Intel, this is another example of the innovator’s dilemma. Atom -ahh, those netbook times- won’t be missed. It’s wise to accept defeat.