Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Applied Materials on 45 nm

Intel, locked in a battle-to-the-death with AMD, recently announced it had won the 45 nm war. Within hours the same day IBM announced that Intel's accomplishments, even if real, were no big deal because IBM has the same capabilities. That is good for AMD, which is partnering with IBM.

45nm means that semiconductors are constructed on a grid with cells 45 nanometers wide. Right now the most advanced silicon actually being sold is 65 nm, which Intel started selling mid-2006 and AMD started selling in January 2007. Smaller sizes mean more gates and computing power in a given area. You can, of course, waste those extra gates with a bad design.

Applied Materials executives, in the February 13th analyst conference (see my summary), which makes equipment that any (with billions of dollars) can buy to create a semiconductor fabrication plant, said they are well-prepared for 45nm and have done their own research.

All this says that 45nm processes are mainly a red herring. One process may be better than the other on one parameter or another, but any company wanting to move into 45 nm production will be able to license the technology.

Intel is much better at announcing that it has won battles before they have begun, and at taking out ads in publications that actually review products, than it is at putting out products designed to meet its customers needs. No wonder people continue to shift to AMD processors.

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