Tag: chips

Qualcomm swings handbag at Apple

Chipmaker Qualcomm has replied to the fruity, tax-dodging cargo-cult Apple’s allegation that it has been playing monopoly by swinging a handbag of its own.

It claimed that the iPhone maker breached agreements with the firm and encouraged regulatory attacks on its business in various jurisdictions around the world by making false statements.

Apple had filed the lawsuit accusing Qualcomm of overcharging for chips and refusing to pay some $1 billion in promised rebates. The lawsuit came days after the US government accused the chipmaker of resorting to anticompetitive tactics to maintain a monopoly over key semiconductors in mobile phones.

In a statement, Qualcomm said that Apple has launched a global attack on Qualcomm and is attempting to use its enormous market power to coerce unfair and unreasonable licence terms from Qualcomm.

Qualcomm filed counterclaims to Apple’s lawsuit with the US District Court for the Southern District of California.

The chipmaker said in the statement that Apple interfered in its agreements with licensees that manufacture iPhones and iPads.

Qualcomm also said Apple threatened it in an attempt to prevent it from making any public comparisons about the superior performance of the Qualcomm-powered iPhones, and misrepresented performance differences between iPhones using Qualcomm modems and those using competitor-supplied modems.

Apple has filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm in Beijing, alleging the chip supplier abused its clout in the chip industry and seeking $145.32 million in damages.

A brain does not work like a computer chip

mybrainhurtsAccording to the BBC, a processor is the brain of a computer, but it seems that the hardware has neuroscientists baffled.

A paper published in PLOS Computational Biology wondered if more information is the same thing as more understanding. Eric Jonas of the University of California, Berkeley, and Konrad Kording of Northwestern University, in Chicago, who both have backgrounds in neuroscience and electronic engineering, reasoned that a computer was a good way to test the analytical toolkit used by modern neuroscience. However they had to admit that they were wrong.

They took an MOS Technology 6502 chip which was first produced in 1975 and famous for powering, among other things, early Atari, Apple and Commodore computers. It has 3,510 transistors and is simple enough to create simulation that can model the electrical state of every transistor, and the voltage on every one of the thousands of wires connecting those transistors to each other, as the virtual chip runs a particular program.

The simulation produces about 1.5 gigabytes of data a second—a large amount, but well within the capabilities of the algorithms currently employed to probe the mysteries of biological brains.

But brain science and electronic science started to diverge in the test. For example if you damage part of the brain you know what is going to be stuffed up. A chip though comes up with false positives.

Disabling one particular group of transistors prevented the chip from running the boot-up sequence of “Donkey Kong but allowed it to run other games.

If it were a brain you would think that transistors were thus uniquely responsible for “Donkey Kong” but the reality is that it is just part of a circuit which implements a much more basic computing function that is crucial for loading one piece of software, but not some others.

The bofins  looked for correlations between the activity of groups of nerve cells and a particular behavior but when they tried to apply this to the chip, the researchers’ algorithms found five transistors whose activity was strongly correlated with the brightness of the most recently displayed pixel on the screen.

Jonas and Kording know that these transistors are not directly involved in drawing pictures on the screen and they are only involved in the trivial sense that they are used by some part of the program which is ultimately deciding what goes on the screen.

Jonas said that neuroscience techniques failed to find many chip structures that the researchers knew were there, and which are vital for comprehending what is actually going on in it.

In fact, all the neuroscientists’ algorithms could detect in the chip was the master clock signal, which co-ordinates the operations of different parts of the chip.
In short, computers and brains have got as much in common as a packet of crisps has with the Empire State Building. This means that the BBC will have to find a new simile.

Qualcomm faces $854 million for anti-trust

monopoly (1)South Korea’s antitrust watchdog has bitten a $854 million chunk from Qualcomm’s bottom line claiming the chipmaker used unfair business practices in patent licensing and modem chip sales.

Qualcomm said that it will appeal the decision which would be the largest ever levied in South Korea.

The Korea Fair Trade Commission which is very nearly the unfortunate acronym of a US fried chicken outfit  (KFTC) ruled  Qualcomm abused its dominant market position and forced handset makers to pay royalties for an unnecessarily broad set of patents as part of sales of its modem chips.

Qualcomm also restricted competition by refusing or limiting licensing of its standard essential patents related to modem chips to rival chipmakers such as Intel, Samsung  and MediaTek , the regulator said, hindering their sales and leaving their products vulnerable to lawsuits.

The regulator ordered Qualcomm to negotiate in good faith with rival chipmakers on patent licensing and renegotiate chip supply agreements with handset makers if requested – measures that would affect the U.S. firm’s dealings with major tech companies including Apple, Intel, Samsung and Huawei if upheld.

The KFTC said it began its investigations into Qualcomm’s practices in 2014 following complaints from industry participants, but did not name specific companies.

Foreign companies including Apple, Intel, MediaTek and Huawei expressed their views during the regulator’s deliberation process, KFTC Secretary General Shin Young-son told a media briefing in the country’s administrative capital.

Qualcomm said it will file for an immediate stay of the corrective order and appeal the decision to the Seoul High Court. The firm will also appeal the amount of the fine and the method used to calculate it.

“Qualcomm strongly disagrees with the KFTC’s announced decision,” it said in a statement.

While the fine is big, analysts said that the KFTC’s orders for Qualcomm to alter its business practices have bigger future implications for the chipmaker. The ruling forces the company to license patents for some of its chips to rivals such as Intel, which has been competing hard to land its modem chips in mobile phones.

 

Princeton boffins come up with open source super-chip

mad scientistPrinceton University researchers have emerged from their smoke filled labs with a new open source computer chip that promises to boost the performance of data centres.

Dubbed “Piton” after the metal spikes driven by rock climbers into mountainsides to aid in their ascent the chip was shown off at the Hot Chips conference.

The Princeton researchers designed their chip specifically for massive computing systems. Piton could substantially increase processing speed while slashing energy usage. The chip architecture is scalable — designs can be built that go from a dozen to several thousand cores.

The architecture enables thousands of chips to be connected into a single system containing millions of cores.

David Wentzlaff, a Princeton assistant professor of electrical engineering and associated faculty in the Department of Computer Science said that Piton was based on a new thinking about computer architecture.  It was built specifically for data centers and the cloud.

“The chip we’ve made is among the largest chips ever built in academia and it shows how servers could run far more efficiently and cheaply.”

The current version of the Piton chip measures six millimetres by six millimetres and has 460 million transistors, each of which are as small as 32 nanometres.

The bulk of these transistors are contained in 25 cores. Most personal computer chips have four or eight cores.

In recent years companies and academic institutions have produced chips with many dozens of cores — but the readily scalable architecture of Piton can enable thousands of cores on a single chip with half a billion cores in the data centre, Wentzlaff said.

“What we have with Piton is really a prototype for future commercial server systems that could take advantage of a tremendous number of cores to speed up processing,” Wentzlaff said.

At a data centre, multiple users often run programs that rely on similar operations at the processor level. The Piton chip’s cores can recognise these instances and execute identical instructions consecutively, so that they flow one after another. Doing so can increase energy efficiency by about 20 percent compared to a standard core, the researchers said.

Piton chip parcels out when competing programs access computer memory that exists off of the chip so they do not clog the system. This approach can yield an 18 percent increase in performance compared to conventional means of allocation.

The Piton chip also gains efficiency by its cache memory management. In most designs, cache memory is shared across all of the chip’s cores. But when multiple cores access and modify the cache memory it is less efficient. Piton assigns areas of the cache and specific cores to dedicated applications. The researchers say the system can increase efficiency by 29 percent per chip.

Wentzlaff said. “We’re also happy to give out our design to the world as open source, which has long been commonplace for software, but is almost never done for hardware.”

AMD shows off Polaris-based Radeon RX 470 and RX 460

4528082378_4d5b9fb99e_zAMD has been showing off its latest Polaris based GPUs at E3 2016.

For those who came in late, Polaris is AMD’s bright new hope in the GPU world – a bit like Zen is for the CPU, only it appears to exist whereas Zen doesn’t.

THe Radeon RX 470 and RX 460  join the recently announced RX 480 as part of the company’s new Polaris family. Polaris is AMD’s newest GPU micro-architecture, which is based on the 14nm FinFet production process.

AMD is not telling us the prices of its new GPU, but it is possible to have stab at it. The  RX 480 is made for 1440p gaming, and the RX 470 will focus on delivering a “refined, power-efficient HD gaming” experience. The RX 460 will offer a “cool and efficient solution for the ultimate e-sports gaming experience.”

The 4GB version of the RX 480 will start out at $200, it’s safe to assume that these two other cards will launch at lower price points.

AMD says the chips are extremely thin, offering a very low Z-height, and will fit into thin and light gaming notebooks.

The entire new RX line will also support a wide variety of features that include DX12, Vulkan, HDR, HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.3/1.4, and H.265 encoding/decoding.

There is no release day  but since the RX 480 is scheduled to launch on June 29 the other two should be soon after. AMD is claiming that card outperforms $500 graphics cards in VR.

Intel shares expected to grow next year

alice_in_wonderland___eat_me__by_ariru_lunaticoo-d68i2fxBeancounters working for Barrons have added up the numbers and divided them by their shoe size and decided that Intel will grow like topsy next year.

Barron’s claims that Chipzilla’s shift to higher-growth businesses such as server chips and embedded chips for cars could drive a 25 increase in its shares in a year.

While there is a risk Intel could cut its financial guidance for the year when the chipmaker reports earnings on Tuesday, it is likely to return to sustainable growth by year’s end for the first time in seven years, the publication said.

Those who do not own shares in Chipzilla should wait until after the earnings call to buy shares, it added.

Intel has had a pants few years as demand for personal computer chips has dried up, Barron’s said, but growth in the company’s data centre group, which includes server chips, could eventually bring in more revenues.

The gap between the two businesses has closed over the past five years.

Last year, the data centre business’s operating profit was $7.8 billion, slightly below the $8.2 billion earned by Intel’s client computing division, which includes chips for desktop and notebook computers. In 2010, the data center division brought in just $4.4 billion, compared to the personal computer business’s $13 billion.

Meanwhile, the company’s Internet of Things division, which includes chips for cars, medical devices and factories, composed just four percent of revenue last year but is growing.

TSMC sets up advanced wafer plant in Nanjing

IBM engineers in a fabrication plant (fab)TSMC has signed an agreement with the Nanjing City Government to invest $3 billion building an advanced wafer manufacturing facility in China.

TSMC said in December it planned to set up its first wholly owned advanced fabrication plant in China with a $3 billion investment, highlighting the growing importance of the Chinese market for semiconductor giants.

Now TSMC Chairman Morris Chang has given out some details on the project saying that a 12-inch fab and our design service centre will be established in Nanjing.

“We aim to provide closer support to customers as well as expand our business opportunities in China in step with the rapid growth of the Chinese semiconductor market over the last several years,” said

The new plant will make 20,000 12-inch wafers per month.  Production will begin in the second half of 2018.

It was not that easy to get the deal past the Taiwan government. Taiwan has restricted manufacturing activities of its prized semiconductor sector in China, amid political tension between the neighbours. However, competition from China’s fast-growing, though fledgling chip industry has put pressure on Taiwanese companies to widen their mainland footprint.

TSMC had urged authorities to allow 12-inch facilities, which use more advanced technology processes than 8-inch plants, to be wholly owned out of concern for intellectual property protection. TSMC already has a wholly owned 8-inch chip making plant near Shanghai.

Toshiba flogs part of its chip biz

ToshibaJapan’s troubled Toshiba plans to sell part of its chip business as it aims to recover from a $1.3 billion accounting scandal.

Early interest in the sale has been shown by the Development Bank of Japan as the state-owned bank has already invested in Seiko’s semiconductor operations.

The sale would exclude Toshiba’s mainstay NAND flash memory operations which are still doing rather well.

Tosh is flogging its businesses that handle system LSI and discrete chips, which are widely used in cars, home appliances and industrial machinery. However they lost $2.78 billion in the year ended March 2015.

Toshiba has been focusing on nuclear and other energy operations, as well as its storage business, which centers on NAND flash memory chips.

Tosh wants to invest heavily in its flash memory production capacity in Japan to better compete with Samsung.

 

AMD finally gets its arm in

We_Can_Do_It!After more than a year of delays, AMD has finally released its ARM based enterprise server chip.

Dubbed the Opteron A1100 series these are not the X86 cores AMD has been producing for years and are designed for networking, storage, dense and power-efficient web serving, and 64-bit ARM software development.

The Opteron A1100 System-on-Chip (SoC), was formerly codenamed “Seattle” and was promised in the first half of last year and never showed up. Under the bonnet are off-the-shelf ARM Cortex-A57 processor cores, with integrated high-speed network and storage connectivity.

The SoCs have up to eight 64-bit ARM Cortex-A57 cores with up to 4MB of shared Level 2 and 8MB of shared Level 3 cache. They offer two 64-bit DDR3/DDR4 memory channels supporting speeds up to 1866 MHz with ECC and capacities up to 128GB, dual integrated 10Gb Ethernet network connections, 8-lanes of PCI-Express Gen 3 connectivity, and 14 SATA III ports.

The chip features an ARM TrustZone compliant crypto/compression co-processor, along with a Cortex A5-based system control processor. Each pair of Cortex A57s is linked to its own 1MB of L2 cache, hence the “up to” 4MB of shared L2 cache listed in the slide. Though the top-end A1100s feature eight Cortex A57 cores, quad-core models will also be offered that have a quartet of cores and their accompanying L2 cache disabled.

There will be three initial A1100-series Opterons. At the top end, the A1170 has 8 cores, with a max CPU frequency of 2GHz. The mid-range A1150 has a similar core configuration, but clocks in at a lower 1.7GHz peak. The A1120 has four cores and 2MB of cache, but also clocks in at 1.7GHz. All of the chips have the same memory limits and operating temperature range. The top two chips have higher 32W TDPs due to their higher core counts, versus the quad-core A1120’s 25W.

Pricing for the top-end Opteron A1170 will hover around the $150 mark it is not clear what the cheaper models will cost.

The Opteron A1100 series SoCs also work with both DDR3 or DDR4 memory types. DDR3 memory will be for lower-cost, and potentially lower-clocked solutions.

Samsung sings of new wearables chip

Samsung-SSD-ActivatedSamsung has told the world that it will start selling a new chip aimed at health focused wearable products.

The new chip can take multiple measurements and tell you your body fat, skin temperature and heart rate and process the information it collects.

To help clients accelerate product development using the chip, the firm said it has developed “reference platform” products such as a wrist band to demonstrate the chip’s capabilities.

Wearables are expected to be a hot ticket for tech companies, although smartwatches are proving a little slow to take off.

It is thought that health related features including data collection and monitoring are the “way forward”.

Some firms are seeking to launch sophisticated products capable of detecting and monitoring more serious diseases to tap in to a market that Soreon Research says could be worth more than $41 billion in 2020.

Samsung began mass production of the new chips in December. It said the processor will power a new device to be launched in the first half of 2016, but declined to elaborate on the maker of the device.