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Intel’s SoC strategy strengthened by 22nm Tri-Gate technology

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Core information:

Asustek may have difficulties achieving 2011 notebook shipment goal See also: Intel: accelerated Atom SoC roadmap down to 22nm in 2 years and a “new netbook experience” for tablet/mobile PC market [April 17, 2011]

Update 5 [Ivy-Bridge related]

Intel Schedules Core i 3000 “Ivy Bridge” Desktop Processors Launch to Q2 2012 [Nov 30, 2011]

Intel Corp. has notified its partners about its decision to introduce of its next-generation code-named Ivy Bridge processors in the second quarter of 2012. Previously the company planned to release the Core i 3000-series central processing units (CPUs) for desktops in March – April timeframe, which left a possibility to unveil the chips in the first quarter.

Intel has also disclosed specifications of its next-gen Ivy Bridge chips for desktops to its partners. The initial family to be released in Q2 2012 will not include Core i3-3200-series chips and will consist of Core i7-3700 and Core i5-3500/3400 families.

Ivy Bridge will generally inherit Sandy Bridge micro-architecture and will sport a rather significant number of improvements. Firstly, it will have certain improvements that will boost its performance in general applications by around 20% compared to Core i “Sandy Bridge” chips (e.g., enhanced AVX acceleration). Secondly, the forthcoming chip will have a new graphics core with DirectX 11 and OpenCL 1.1 support, 30% higher performance compared to the predecessor as well as new video processor and display controllers. Thirdly, Ivy Bridge will feature PCI Express 3.0 x16 interconnection as well as PCIe 2.0 x4 controller. In fourth, the processor will support a number of power management innovations.

Update 4 [Cedar Trail-M related]:

Intel to ship new netbook platform in November [18 Aug, 2011]

Intel recently adjusted the launch schedule of its next-generation
netbook platform, Cedar Trail-M, from September to November because the platform has encountered some graphics driver issues and has not yet passed certification for Windows 7, according to sources from notebook players.

The Cedar Trail-M platform will include two new CPUs, 32nm-based Atom N2800 (1.86GHz) and N2600 (1.6GHz), priced at US$47 and US$42, and will replace the existing Atom N475 and N455. The CPUs will also feature an integrated GPU that supports DirectX 10.1 technology. The platform will also adopt the existing NM10 chipsets for southbridge capability.

Since netbooks are no longer a mainstream product in the IT market, while AMD also has a similar-level solution, Intel’s delay of Cedar Trail-M will not affect notebook players much, the sources added.

In addition to the netbook platform, Intel’s new CPUs, Atom D2700 (US$52) and D2500 (US$42), for nettops will also be delayed to November.

Update 3 [CULV related]:

Intel’s CEO Discusses Q2 2011 Results – Earnings Call Transcript Q&A [July 20, 2011]

Uche Orji – UBS Investment Bank

Let me just ask you about Ultrabooks. Sean was quoted at the Computex as saying that this should be about 40% of the consumer mix by the end of next year. If one were to go back and compare this to CULV from a couple of years ago, what makes you more confident that this will achieve this level of success? Do you enjoy the form factor? I think CULV also had performance issues. So if you can talk about the level of confidence you have with Ultrabooks, and how you see that ramping from now until next year to get to that 40%?

Paul Otellini

Well, as I look at this, I don’t think that the Ultrabook strategy is anywhere near equal to the CULV strategy as you call it. That was really a kind of a point product. It was focused on form factor. We didn’t really put a lot of engineering into it with our customers, and we didn’t look at other features. If you will, it’s kind of a trial run in hindsight is the way I would look at it. The Ultrabook project is much more akin to Centrino. It’s a very holistic approach to moving the entire market to a different kind of form factor, not just in terms of its thinness, but in terms of the feature set. I talked about always on, always connected. So the machine is always aware of the networks around it. I talk about instant on, instant boot capability. We talked about building in integral touch into it, another feature set. So this is as much about the features around the skin, or inside the skin, as the shape of the skin. And as we look at this with our customers, we also see that there’s a great deal of engineering that has to be done. Because one thing we know is that today, these feature sets cost more money. But we don’t think that PC prices are going to go up over time. So what we have to do is work with the ecosystem to cost engineer these features for high-volume price point displacement. And that’s the only way you can achieve sort of a 40% number as Shawn predicted in that timeframe is by doing price point replacements. And then looking forward a year later, into the next generation, silicon, it gets cheaper to do it so we could penetrate more of the market.

Update 2 [MacBook Air related]:
Asustek expects better business performance in 2H11 [Aug 17, 2011]

Asustek Computer expects its performance in the second half of 2011 to be better than that of fellow Taiwan-based companies, according to CFO David Chang.

Asustek is likely to hit record quarterly revenues in the third  quarter and is optimistic about business operation in the fourth mainly due to the launch of second-generation Eee Pad Transformer tablets and ultrabook notebooks, Chang said.

Asustek aims at a 14% market share for notebooks in China, and
became the largest vendor in Eastern Europe’s notebook market in the second quarter. In addition, Asustek is poised to make forays into Latin America, especially Brazil and Mexico.

Asustek expects to ship 14 million notebooks and 4.5-5 million Eee PCs in 2011, Chang indicated. Asustek shipped 11.4 million motherboards in the first half and expects to ship 22.5-23 million for the year.

HP to pioneer launching Ultrabook-concept notebooks, say sources [July 11, 2011] “even ahead of the planned release of the UX21 Ultrabook by Asustek Computer slated for September
Asustek may have difficulties achieving 2011 notebook shipment goal [July 26, 2011] “of 20 million notebooks and netbooks combined … the shipments may only reach 18.5-19 million units
Notebook players to mass produce ultrabooks in September [July 26, 2011]

First-tier notebook players including Hewlett-Packard (HP), Acer, Asustek Computer, Dell and Lenovo are all set to launch ultrabooks in the second half of 2011 with mass production scheduled for September.

However, due to most players still suffering from low yield rates over panel production, Asustek, which already finished developing its ultrabook, is expected to become the fastest to mass produce the ultrabook, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

For the second half of 2011, Asustek placed orders for 400,000-450,000 ultra-thin notebooks each month to its upstream component suppliers with 100,000 units being ultrabooks.

As for Acer and Dell, due to both players suffering from low panel yield rate at their partners, though the two firms plan to mass produce their ultrabook in September, the production volume and schedule may be delayed.

As for HP, although its ultrabook is rumored to be launched in August and produced by Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry), the actual release time is estimated to be in the fourth quarter or early 2012.

Update: – Acer Ultrabook pushing for September launch, says paper [Aug 19, 2011]

Acer reportedly is aiming to launch its Ultrabook in September to compete against Asustek’s UX21, which is also set to appear in the month, and has been pushing its development schedule; however, because the Ultrabook has not yet entered mass production, the plan may still be changed, according to a Chinese-language Commercial Times report.

An Acer executive also pointed out that the company has already revised the internal design of its Ultrabook twice and the company will only launch 13-inch models initially, the paper added.

Asus: Super-Thin ‘Ultrabooks’ Can Capture 50% Of Notebook Market [July 29, 2011]

Ultrabooks may have a better market than people thought,” said Asus Chairman Jonney Shih in an interview during a rare trip to New York. Shih, who was Chief Executive of the Taiwan-based electronics giant until 2008, cites internal studies as support. The research indicates consumers are willing to pay “a little higher price” than Asus’ other laptops for ultrabooks, he said.

Shih declined to comment on the UX21′s price. But he was optimistic that ultrabooks would catch on — in fact, even more optimistic than Intel. When the chip giant introduced the ultrabook concept at the Taipei Computex trade show in June, its executives said the new devices could capture 40% of the global notebook market in 18 months. Shih believes that number could reach 50% though he didn’t specify a timeframe for reaching that goal beyond “eventually”.

Shih’s enthusiasm stems, in part, from Asus’ plan to expand its ultrabook selection to include other designs and prices. Future Asus ultrabooks need not be as super-thin as the UX21, Shih explained. Perhaps they will be 18 millimeters thick and come with different — likely, cheaper — processors, said Shih.

Consumers should get more information in a few weeks. Asus is targeting an on-sale date sometime this fall. Though recent reports have pointed to HP as the frontrunner to introduce an ultrabook, Shih said he believed Asus would be first. Asus, he noted, had already designed the UX21 when Intel began approaching manufacturers about making ultrabooks. That head start helped Asus land the distinction of being the first company to show an ultrabook prototype, at Computex.

Asustek rebuts Intel forecast on low cost of Ultrabooks series [July 26, 2011]

Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), the world’s No. 5 PC brand, yesterday said its upcoming UX series Ultrabook platform would fail to carry price tags of less than US$1,000, as claimed by Intel Corp.

“Unless we use Intel Core i3 chips [the Ultrabooks will not be less than US$1,000]. The price tags will have to go beyond US$1,000 if [more advanced] i5 and i7 chips go into the notebooks,” a person familiar with UX development said.

Daiwa Capital Market’s analyst Calvin Huang (黃文堯) said on July 13 that Intel was merely cutting prices for its low-voltage processors to help thin and light notebooks make a comeback.

However, in Huang’s view, Intel’s help might not be enough because to make an Ultrabook, other more advanced and expensive components — such as ultrathin panels, solid-state hard drives, metal casings, high-density interconnect and polymer batteries — are required to make it comparable to the MacBook Air.

Don’t count on ‘ultrabook,’ says Daiwa analyst [July 15, 2011]

“While some believe ultrabooks could revive notebook growth and Asustek [Computer Inc (華碩)], the first to introduce the ultrabook, should benefit, we think the ultrabook is killing notebook contract makers’ premium lines and may dilute their profit margins,” Daiwa Capital Market analyst Calvin Huang (黃文堯) said.

We forecast zero growth for global notebook shipments for 2011 and believe the ultrabook alone may not be enough to revive notebook growth in 2012,” he said in a report dated Wednesday.

These ultrabook notebooks are intended to compete with Apple Inc’s MacBook Air, whose worldwide shipments could easily top 600,000 units per month, the report said.

Daiwa said Intel was lowering the price of its low-voltage processors to make thin and light notebooks mainstream.

“In other words, Intel is cutting prices to stimulate notebook demand,” Huang wrote.

Intel’s subsidy is not enough because to make an ultrabook, other advanced and expensive components, like ultra-thin panels, solid state drives, metal casings and polymer batteries, are required to make it comparable to the MacBook Air.

Huang said these advanced components generally cost 50 to 100 percent more than mainstream components used in notebooks.

Because of this, to match the MacBook Air’s price tag, Taiwanese notebook contract makers may have to compromise and use second-grade components in the ultrabooks, which could compromise performance, he said.

The other deciding factor is that Microsoft Corp’s Windows 8 may or may not add to the overall user experience of ultrabooks, and consumers would only be able to tell when the operating system finally comes on the market late next year, Daiwa said.

Apple Updates MacBook Air With Next Generation Processors, Thunderbolt I/O & Backlit Keyboard [press release, July 20, 2011]

Apple® today updated the MacBook Air® with next generation processors, high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology, a backlit keyboard and Mac OS® X Lion, the world’s most advanced operating system. With up to twice the performance of the previous generation, flash storage for instant-on responsiveness and a compact design so portable you can take it everywhere,* the MacBook Air starts at $999 (US) and is available for order today and in stores tomorrow.

… The 11-inch model weighs 2.38 pounds and provides up to 5 hours of battery life, while the 13-inch weighs 2.96 pounds and provides up to 7 hours of battery life. … latest Intel Core i5 and Core i7 dual-core processors … Thunderbolt I/O technology provides expansion possibilities never before available to MacBook Air users. Through a single cable, users can connect to high performance peripherals and the new Apple Thunderbolt Display, the ultimate docking station for your Mac® notebook. Thunderbolt can easily be adapted to support legacy connections such as FireWire® and Gigabit Ethernet. … an innovative glass Multi-Touch™ trackpad … supports Lion’s new Multi-Touch gestures such as momentum scrolling, tapping or pinching your fingers to zoom in on a web page or image, and swiping left or right to turn a page or switch between full screen apps. … also features a brilliant, high resolution LED backlit display that is amazingly thin yet has the resolution of a much larger, bulkier screen.

The 1.6 GHz 11-inch MacBook Air is available in two models, one with 2GB of memory and 64GB of flash storage for a suggested retail price of $999 (US), and one with 4GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage for $1,199 (US). The 1.7 GHz 13-inch MacBook Air comes in two configurations, one with 4GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage for a suggested retail price of $1,299 (US), and one with 4GB of memory and 256GB of flash storage for $1,599 (US). Configure-to-order options and accessories include a 1.8 GHz Core i7 processor, additional flash storage, MacBook Air SuperDrive® and a USB Ethernet Adapter.

Additional technical specifications and configure-to-order options and accessories are available online at www.apple.com/macbookair.

Mac OS X Lion Available Today From the Mac App Store [July 20, 2011]

Some of the amazing features in Lion include: new Multi-Touch® gestures; system-wide support for full screen apps; Mission Control, an innovative view of everything running on your Mac; the Mac App Store, the best place to find and explore great software, built right into the OS; Launchpad, a new home for all your apps; and a completely redesigned Mail app.

Additional new features in Lion include:

  • Resume, which conveniently brings your apps back exactly how you left them when you restart your Mac or quit and relaunch an app;
  • Auto Save, which automatically and continuously saves your documents as you work;
  • Versions, which automatically records the history of your document as you create it, and gives you an easy way to browse, revert and even copy and paste from previous versions; and
  • AirDrop, which finds nearby Macs and automatically sets up a peer-to-peer wireless connection to make transferring files quick and easy.

Mac OS X Lion is available as an upgrade to Mac OS X version 10.6.6 Snow Leopard® from the Mac App Store for $29.99 (US). Lion is the easiest OS X upgrade and at around 4GB, it is about the size of an HD movie from the iTunes Store®. Users who do not have broadband access at home, work or school can download Lion at Apple retail stores and later this August, Lion will be made available on a USB thumb drive through the Apple Store® (www.apple.com) for $69 (US). Mac OS X Lion Server requires Lion and is available from the Mac App Store for $49.99 (US).

The web weighs in on iOS-like Mac OS X Lion [July 21, 2011]

iOS-inspired Multi-Touch gestures, full screen apps, Mission Control, Launchpad, autosave and a brand new Mail application are just a few of the most lauded features in the eighth major release of the Mac OS X platform.

Reviews ranged from one-line tweets from early adopters to in-depth, book-length reports covering every facet of the OS.

“Apple’s Lion Brings PCs Into Tablet Era,” said Walter S. Mossberg writing for AllThingsD. His enthusiastic tone was echoed throughout the blogosphere with only minor complaints getting any airtime.

Microbloggers praised Lion’s low price, “One perk about Lion, you buy it once, you can put it on all your machines (as long as you use the same App Store login),” and posted their initial thoughts.

8 Features Mac OS X Lion Borrowed from its Little Brother, iOS [July 25, 2011]

‎Apple is slowly but surely, making the transition from iOS or the mobile world as a whole, over to the Mac. We already know that Apple is selling more iPads than Macs, but what we did not know is that Apple is replicating the iOS experience on its Mac lineup, but that is clearly the case. Much has been said about the “post PC era” and we have seen many new features over the past few months making their way to mobile first and only Web or desktop second.

The following 8 features, or should we call them functionalities, that are built into Lion are clearly taken from the iOS experience and ported over to the Mac:

1: Multitouch Gestures

… In Lion, you can swipe between desktops using three fingers, go Back or Forward in Safari using two, and activate Mission Control using three fingers. … I am now using the Trackpad on my Macbook Air exclusively.

2: Multiple Home Screens

… the new Mission Control system behaves exactly like many mobile devices do in that you can easily swipe between active applications and work in parallel on different projects. …

3: Scrolling Method

… Basically, just like on iOS, in Lion you are dragging the content and not the scroll bar. … Personally, it has completely grown on me and now my PC is what seems foreign to me.

4: The Mail UI

… the UI, which is pretty much identical to the iPad Mail app, which is one of the best email UIs I have ever used. The new Lion Mail resembles the iPad Mail app in so many ways including the simple setup, the side by side user interface, and much more.

5: Jiggling Icons and Folders

I totally missed these features until someone on Twitter pointed them out to me. When you are in your LaunchPad in Lion, a long press on an icon will cause all the icons to jiggle (out of lack of a better word) and you can then move them around or delete them from Launchpad. You don’t need a good imagination to see that this is identical to iOS. Of course, you can also drag one icon on top of another and create a folder, again, exactly like in iOS.

6: Air Drop

Of course transferring files is not something new to computers, but Airdrop enables you to share a file with another Mac in your nearby vicinity. This is of course something we were able to do for years on mobile devices with some old school devices using Infrared and the newer phones using Bluetooth to share files. Yes, computers also have Bluetooth and can share files, but if you have used Airdrop, you must have felt that the experience very much resembled that of a mobile device sharing with another one in its proximity.

7: Full Screen Apps

I have been running Safari in full screen mode for the past few days and I can safely say, I cannot go back to the non-full screen mode. This new option of running Mac apps in full screen and certain options appearing as you hover over a certain location on the screen is yet another feature borrowed from iOS. Just think about the Photos app on your iPhone and how the pictures appear in full screen until you want the navigation options to appear and bring you back to the album or onto the next picture. Not convinced? Check out the Reader option in Safari on iOS5. That is exactly the same as full screen on Lion minus the removal of ads, which is not something included in Lion’s full screen mode.

8: No Wire Download

Maybe this one should be first on the list, but when have we ever seen a computer’s operating system that the user can download from an app store on the current operating system? Just trying to wrap my head around the concept is starting to give me a headache. How can I download the OS as an app within the current OS and then install it over the current OS without an external disk or USB drive? Yet, Apple pulled it off and made the whole upgrade process as seamless as any upgrade I have ever done. The whole experience of the app store and downloading updates over the air is so mobile-like, and just a few days ago, Apple enabled OTA updates for iOS with iOS5 beta 4.

Update 1 (Computex-related):

Intel paying handsomely to attract downstream vendors into launching Ultrabooks [July 4] (emphasis is mine)

Intel has recently started planning a new marketing strategy for its Ultrabook concept and has invested heavily into the related budget and resources hoping to attract first-tier notebook vendors into developing Ultrabooks, according to sources from downstream notebook players.

Due to the failure of Intel’s Consumer Ultra Low Voltage-based (CULV-based) ultra-thin notebooks in 2009, while the notebook market has been severely impacted by tablet PCs, most notebook vendors are taking a conservative attitude toward Intel’s Ultrabook concept and Intel is hoping its heavy investment will be able to attract these vendors to launch Ultrabook products, the sources noted.

Intel announced its Ultrabook concept in June with a goal of having 40% of the global consumers notebooks using its Ultrabook concept at the end of 2012. Asustek is already set to launch its first Ultrabook concept-based notebook, UX21, in September.

Although Intel is providing a significant budget to support its partners launching Ultrabooks, the Ultrabook CPUs’ rather high prices are currently still affecting downstream vendors’ willingness to adopt as vendors are still concerned whether the Ultrabook product’s prices can reach as low as US$1,000 as claimed by Intel. Although the vendors have already started testing Ultrabooks, most of them are still conservative about opening projects for production.

Currently, most of the vendors are monitoring Asustek’s performance with its UX21 and will cut into the market when the timing is appropriate.

For the Ultrabook product line, Intel has recently launched four dual-core CPUs and is set to launch a single-core Celeron 787 CPU in September and Celeron 857 in the fourth quarter to replace Celeron 847, the sources added.

The “Ultrabook™”
(part of Intel’s Maloney Talks Mobile Growth, Industry Opportunities at Computex [May 30, 2011], emphasis is mine)

Intel’s vision is to enable a new user experience by accelerating a new class of mobile computers. These computers will marry the performance and capabilities of today’s laptops with tablet-like features and deliver a highly responsive and secure experience, in a thin, light and elegant design. The Ultrabook™ will be shaped by Moore’s Law and silicon technology in the same way they have shaped the traditional PC for the past 40 years.


[Sandy Bridge / Ivy Bridge relevance is only from 00:48 on.]

Maloney described three key phases in the company’s strategy to accelerate this vision, which begins to unfold today with the company’s latest 2nd Generation Intel® Core™ processors. This family of products will enable thin, light and beautiful designs that are less than 20mm (0.8 inch) thick, and mainstream price points under US$1,000. Systems based on these chips will be available for the 2011 winter holiday shopping season and include the UX21, ASUS* Ultrabook™. ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih joined Maloney on stage to showcase the company’s new ultra-thin laptop based on the latest 2nd Generation Intel Core processor.

“At ASUS, we are very much aligned with Intel’s vision of Ultrabook™,” said Shih. “Our customers are demanding an uncompromised computing experience in a lightweight, highly portable design that responds to their needs quickly. Transforming the PC into an ultra thin, ultra responsive device will change the way people interact with their PC.”

Building on the latest 2nd Generation Intel Core technology, Maloney outlined the next generation Intel processor family codenamed “Ivy Bridge,” which is scheduled for availability in systems in the first half of 2012. Laptops based on “Ivy Bridge” will bring improved power efficiency, smart visual performance, increased responsiveness and enhanced security. “Ivy Bridge” is the first high-volume chip based on Intel’s 22 nanometer (nm) manufacturing technology that uses a revolutionary 3-D transistor design called Tri-Gate announced in May. Maloney also highlighted complementary USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt™ technologies which are part of Intel’s ongoing work to drive the PC platform forward.

Following “Ivy Bridge,” planned 2013 products codenamed “Haswell” are the third step toward achieving the Ultrabook™ and reinventing the capabilities of the laptop in ultra thin and light, responsive and more secure designs. With “Haswell,” Intel will change the mainstream laptop thermal design point by reducing the microprocessor power to half of today’s design point.

End of the updates

Intel Reinvents Transistors Using New 3-D Structure [May 4, 2011] (emphasis in red is mine)

For the first time since the invention of silicon transistors over 50 years ago, transistors using a three-dimensional structure will be put into high-volume manufacturing. Intel will introduce a revolutionary 3-D transistor design called Tri-Gate, first disclosed by Intel in 2002, into high-volume manufacturing at the 22-nanometer (nm) node in an Intel chip codenamed “Ivy Bridge.” A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

The 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate transistors provide up to 37 percent performance increase at low voltage versus Intel’s 32nm planar transistors. This incredible gain means that they are ideal for use in small handheld devices, which operate using less energy to “switch” back and forth. Alternatively, the new transistors consume less than half the power when at the same performance as 2-D planar transistors on 32nm chips.

Just as skyscrapers let urban planners optimize available space by building upward, Intel’s 3-D Tri-Gate transistor structure provides a way to manage density. Since these fins are vertical in nature, transistors can be packed closer together, a critical component to the technological and economic benefits of Moore’s Law. For future generations, designers also have the ability to continue growing the height of the fins to get even more performance and energy-efficiency gains.

“For years we have seen limits to how small transistors can get,” said Moore. “This change in the basic structure is a truly revolutionary approach, and one that should allow Moore’s Law, and the historic pace of innovation, to continue.”

World’s First Demonstration of 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate Transistors

The 3-D Tri-Gate transistor will be implemented in the company’s upcoming manufacturing process, called the 22nm node, in reference to the size of individual transistor features. More than 6 million 22nm Tri-Gate transistors could fit in the period at the end of this sentence.

Today, Intel demonstrated the world’s first 22nm microprocessor, codenamed “Ivy Bridge,” working in a laptop, server and desktop computer. Ivy Bridge-based Intel® Core™ family processors will be the first high-volume chips to use 3-D Tri-Gate transistors. Ivy Bridge is slated for high-volume production readiness by the end of this year.

This silicon technology breakthrough will also aid in the delivery of more highly integrated Intel® Atom™ processor-based products that scale the performance, functionality and software compatibility of Intel® architecture while meeting the overall power, cost and size requirements for a range of market segment needs.

Newsroom: Intel 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate Transistor Technology, Version 29 [May 2-5, 2011]

Fact Sheets & Backgrounders

Event Replay

Photography

Related Information on Intel.com

Video Animation: Mark Bohr Gets Small: 22nm Explained [May 4, 2011]

First Demonstrations of Intel’s 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate Transistors [May 3, 2011]

This video was shot inside the Intel headquarters demo labs during preparation for the first public demonstration of a laptop, desktop and server running microprocessors built with Intel’s reinvented transistors. These new, smaller 22-nanometer transistors have been built with a novel 3-D design that significantly increases each transitor’s current flow. The better the flow, the better the performance.

FinFETs Extend Intel’s Technology Lead [Tom R. Halfhill of the Linley Gwennap Group, May 6, 2011] (emphasis in red is mine)

Cadillac introduced tailfins to evoke high-tech style in the 1950s, but Intel’s new finned transistors are far from cosmetic. Purely functional, highly efficient, yet equally brash, these fin-shaped field-effect transistors (finFETs) are sure to be copied as widely as Cadillac’s useless appendages—and they will play a similar role in defining an era.

Intel calls finFETs “tri-gate” transistors, touting them as the first true three-dimensional devices built on planar integrated circuits. A tri-gate transistor folds a conventional planar gate into an inverted U-shaped fin that protrudes above the silicon substrate. By coating all three sides of the fin with metal, Intel builds a 3-D gate structure that has much more volume than a planar gate while still squeezing into the same horizontal space.

Tri-gate transistors can handle greater drive currents, allowing higher clock frequencies. They can switch states at a lower threshold voltage without sacrificing as much switching speed, which reduces dynamic power consumption. In addition, the thicker gate leaks less current, reducing static power. As always, chip designers can trade off these factors in various ways to achieve the best balance of performance and power consumption for the target application.

Intel will use the new transistors for both logic circuits and memory arrays in all its microprocessors built in the next-generation 22nm process, which debuts later this year. The company has demonstrated PC and server processors built with the new technology and is already shipping samples to OEMs for system design. Volume production is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter and ramp quickly next year. And Intel isn’t hedging its bets: contrary to rumors, the new chips will use tri-gate transistors universally, abandoning planar transistors forever.

FinFETs reinforce Intel’s significant lead in chip fabrication. In addition to using new transistors, Intel is moving to the 22nm mode about two years ahead of the rest of the industry, which is only now beginning the transition to 32/28nm technology. The independent foundries serving virtually all of Intel’s competitors have no plans to use finFETs before the 14nm node—and adoption may be tentative even then. It appears that Intel has gained a head start of at least four years, much as the company achieved in 2007 by introducing high-k metal-gate (HKMG) transistors at the 45nm node. FinFETs could boost Intel’s position in the mobile and consumer markets, where it needs an edge to overcome entrenched competitors. —Tom

Multigate device – Varieties – FinFETS [wikipedia excerpt on May 10, 2011]

The term FinFET was coined by University of California, Berkeley researchers (Profs. Chenming Hu, Tsu-Jae King-Liu and Jeffrey Bokor) to describe a nonplanar, double-gate transistor built on an SOI substrate,[6] based on the earlier DELTA (single-gate) transistor design.[7]The distinguishing characteristic of the FinFET is that the conducting channel is wrapped by a thin silicon “fin”, which forms the gate of the device. The thickness of the fin (measured in the direction from source to drain) determines the effective channel length of the device.

In current usage the term FinFET has a less precise definition. Among microprocessor manufacturers, AMD, IBM, and Motorola describe their double-gate development efforts as FinFET development whereas Intel avoids using the term to describe their closely related tri-gate [1]architecture. In the technical literature, FinFET is used somewhat generically to describe any fin-based, multigate transistor architecture regardless of number of gates.

A 25-nm transistor operating on just 0.7 Volt was demonstrated in December 2002 by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. The “Omega FinFET” design, named after the similarity between the Greek letter “Omega” and the shape in which the gate wraps around the source/drain structure, has a gate delay of just 0.39 picosecond (ps) for the N-type transistor and 0.88 ps for the P-type.

Multigate device – Varieties – Tri-gate transistors (Intel) [wikipedia excerpt on May 10, 2011]

Tri-gate or 3-D are terms used by Intel Corporation to describe their nonplanar transistor architecture planned for use in future microprocessors. These transistors employ a single gate stacked on top of two vertical gates allowing for essentially three times the surface area for electrons to travel. Intel reports that their tri-gate transistors reduce leakage and consume far less power than current transistors. This allows up to 37% higher speed, and a power consumption at under 50% of the previous type of transistors used by Intel.[8]

Intel currently plans to release a new line of CPUs, termed Ivy Bridge, which feature tri-gate transistors. [9] Intel has been working on its tri-gate architecture since 2002, but it took until 2011 to work out mass production issues. The new style of transistor was described on May 5, 2011, in San Francisco.[10] Intel factories are expected to make upgrades over 2011 and 2012 to be able to manufacture the Ivy Bridge CPUs.[11] As well as being used in Intel’s Ivy Bridge chips for desktop PCs the new transistors will also be used in Intel’s Atom chips for low powered devices.[10]

In the technical literature, the term tri-gate is sometimes used generically to denote any multigate FET with three effective gates or channels.

Intel(‘s) Take(s) On Tablets & Other Mobility Devices [May 6, 2011]

Part of being an Intel Advisor is getting insights and information directly from inside Intel. This month’s conference call with Intel and other Intel Advisors was no different and we learned about a hot topic in the Tech industry – the tablet race. Leading our discussion was Mark Miller, director of outbound marketing from Intel’s Netbook and Tablet team. Not only did we learn Mark’s take on tablets and other mobility devices, but also he explained Intel’s vision to take ON tablets and these devices and move the space forward.

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Miller breaks down the “Mobility” category into 3 segments: Netbooks, Tablets and a new third category which they are simply calling a “Hybrid Device.”

Exploring the Categories

What’s below is obviously not an exhaustive discussion of these categories, as the specs, features, ideas and concepts are still being decided on and written. But the Advisor briefing definitely got the gears spinning.

Netbooks

… there still is demand, especially for an even lower price point…the magic number of $199 for a netbook targeted towards emerging markets, schools & education or even as a second PC. But users might not be waiting simply for a lower price, they want better performance from the CPU and more powerful graphics capabilities. To accomplish this, Intel will be introducing a new Atom processor, code named “Cedar Trail” which is expected to be released in the second half of 2011. Core to this updated netbook infrastructure will be the addition of more PC-like features like Wi-Di or PC sync. I saw Wi-Di (“Wireless Display”) in action at a couple of shows; it’s an impressive way to share multimedia content from a computer to a big screen TV. Simply start playing a movie, for example, on a Wi-Di enabled computer and then with an appropriately configured TV, your media starts streaming. It’s very similar to Apple’s AirPlay.

Tablets

… In April of this year, Intel introduced a new Atom processor for tablets, code name “Oak Trail” which should start hitting tablets in May. Most of Intel’s efforts has been around Windows 7-based tablets but there are definitely efforts underway to handle other mobile OSes like Android.

… Miller acknowledges that Intel is a bit behind the game in the tablet race. However, they do seem to also have a differentiating vision, in my opinion. With Apple, it’s pretty much one size fits all, meaning the experience is focused more around the device and less around a particular user’s use case. I think that this is fine for Apple, as this is where they want to be, providing an elegant and easy to use, but controlled environment. Intel believes, however, that tablets should be as individual as you are, meaning that you should be able to customize and tailor a tablet to better fit a given user. With the iPad, IT is the center as opposed to the person using it being the center. This concept actually is even more appropriate for the 3rd category below.

Intel will be working to make the processor technology within tablets faster, while designing their chipsets to use less power and be smaller, thus allowing for thinner tablets. Some benchmarks outlined by Miller was getting below 8mm in thickness (e.g., “thinness”) and having 10 hours active battery life with 30 days of standby – pretty much a good standard. If they can pull this off running a mobility version of Windows 7, that would be impressive.

“Hybrid Device”

This next category is really the intriguing one and represents a merging of the best features and technology available to netbooks and tablets. There are already devices like this in the market, in fact, Microsoft had supported this type of computer many years before the iPad even came out. We have seen swivel-display computer from Fujitsu, for example, that had a screen that pivots to cover a keyboard. This “hybrid” style is exactly something that Intel believes is worth investing in. Think about coupling a touch screen display (e.g., a tablet) with a keyboard (e.g., a clamshell or netbook) and you have this hybrid device. The Dell Inspiron Duois a current example of this type of form-factor.

However, Miller believes that there is much more to be done with this form-factor and the underlying OS and software driving it. Without offering many details, he did say they will be ultra thin with low power consumption, which seems to be a common thread on all new consumer electronics devices coming out these days. But what was presented was the idea of this device really meeting multiple yet individual needs. For example, you could have it so that if when you are using the keyboard and are at work, you would use Windows 7 as the OS, but when you went home and move more to a tablet-appropriate environment, the OS might shift to Android. Also, as kids are growing up using these devices much the same way we used pen and paper, there could be appropriate “user environments” within this hybrid device to satisfy their needs.

So What’s Next?

12 to 18 months ago, tablets didn’t exist (although there are plenty of people who will disagree with this statement). So, to qualify that a bit more, I would say the modern, consumer-friendly tablet didn’t exist. In another 12-18 months, the tablets (like the iPad) that we know and love currently will be long gone and replaced with devices that are more powerful, thinner, multi-function with batteries that last 20 hours of active use, and capable of powering full entertainment systems and replace computers. Well, I could be dreaming a bit.

Oh, and one more thing…on Wednesday, Intel introduced a new design to their transistor chip. Called “Tri-Gate,” this revolutionary 3-D designclearly shows Intel’s innovation at work. While the concept of this design has been discussed for several years, Intel is the first manufacturer to move this design into production. It provides not only performance improvements, but also allows for power reduction within 22nm-based devices that include the categories mentioned above.

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Above you can see an illustration of the 32nm transistor (on the left) compared to the new 22nm (on the right). The yellow dots represent how the current flows. The 32nm illustrates current flowing along a plane while the 22nm shows it flowing on 3 sides of a vertical fin.

But back to the tablet race, Apple seems to have the lead…for now. But as companies regroup and look to improve, I’m expecting some pretty innovative products coming out. I think with Intel working to drive the innovation from within, providing more powerful and smaller chipsets to power these emerging tablets, we are just beginning to see a really exciting market develop and emerge.


2 Comments

  1. […] can understand this even more when looking into: Intel’s SoC strategy strengthened by 22nm Tri-Gate technology [May 10 – Nov 30, 2011] where Intel reliance on 22nm 3-D Tri-Gate Transistor Technology is […]

  2. […] Intel’s SoC strategy strengthened by 22nm Tri-Gate technology [May 10 – Nov 30, […]

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