It's a big day for Intel, but the black clouds, in the form of ongoing anti-trust allegations continue to swirl.
CEO Paul Otellini is accentuating the technology right now during his Intel Developer Forum keynote but the elephant in the room comes in the form of front page news about new disclosures about that huge European Union anti-trust case that has already determined Intel broke the law, and resulted in a $1.4 billion fine that Intel's already paid, but is appealing.
Intel got some good news earlier in the quarter when an independent EU investigator determined that prosecutors broke the rules in its case against Intel.
But new documents made public yesterday paint a far deeper, far more compelling case against Intel than merely circumstantial, inconsistent anecdotes that we've been hearing about. Rival Advanced Micro Devices is cheering the new releases of these documents, and we'll be hearing a lot more about this as the appeals process continues. And I'll have more to say about this after my one-on-one interview with Otellini later today.
Meantime, Intel is showing off some slick concept PCs, including Lenovo's new ThinkPad with a big laptop screen, and three smaller, smart-phone sized screens above the keyboard, and a sleek tablet PC from Archos that runs Windows 7 from Microsoft .
Intel continues to ride the success of the Atom microprocessor which drives the lion's share of netbooks and tablets. The chips are cheap but the margins are fat.
But Intel is driving innovation, already shipping 200 million chips on the 45 nanometer architecture. Today, for the first time, Intel showed the first chip running at 32 nanometers, the so-called "Sandy Bridge microarchitecture. Better still, Otellini unveiled the world's first 22 nanometer wafer, where yields are strong and they actually work. The company claims 364 million bits of SRAM memory and 2.9 billion transistors "into the area the size of a fingernail." Production will begin in the second half of 2011.
"At Intel, Moore's Law is alive and well," says Otellini.
The thing about the EU case: it's a PR nightmare for Intel, and while the fine is the largest ever levied, it might just be a cost of doing business for the world's biggest chipmaker.
Intel has made the case that it competes hard, but competes legally. The evidence now seeping out from the EU may suggest otherwise. But the EU case isn't doing much for AMD either in the sense that while there might be pressure exerted from Intel, there don't seem to be a bunch of PC makers out there claiming they got pressured to use sub-standard technology. Quite the contrary in some cases.
Still, today is about technology for Intel and the best point might be this from Otellini: those 200 million chips at 45 nanometers sold is impressive, but even more so when measured against how many 45 nanometer chips the competition has sold: None.
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