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Intel Businesses The Almighty Buck Technology

Intel's Expensive Disco Ball 324

Re-Pawn writes "From the NY Times: The Disco Ball of Failed Hopes and Other Tales From Inside Intel (Registration Required.) Seems like Intel is losing market share to other chip makers - this article highlights a few problems that Intel has had including one very expensive disco ball made from a failed attempt to produce projection televisions."
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Intel's Expensive Disco Ball

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @07:29PM (#10947926)
    Intel has 2 shocking policies: bell-curve grading system and preferential hiring of H-1B workers from China (which includes Taiwan province and Hong Kong) [] and India.

    More than 50% of Intel's workforce in the USA (not China) is current or former H-1Bs. Intel claimed that it absolutely needs Chinese workers in order to build a competitive product: e.g. Itanium. Then, IBM proved Intel wrong by producing the Power5, which is mostly built by American engineers.

    Further, Intel has a brutal job evaluation policy: strict bell curve. If an employee falls in the bottom 25% more than once, then the manager shows her the door. Exceptions are made when there is a labor shortage, but officially, the 25% rule is strictly enforced.

    I, for one, am glad that Intel is losing. I hope that IBM beats the pants off of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @07:30PM (#10947948)
    Have you noticed that all of the NYT article summaries have the same writing style? Have you also noticed that the Slashdot User Info pages of all submitted NYT articles have an odd posting history? My guess is that someone financially interested in NYT's success has been writing and submitting these article summaries for the past few years.
  • Re: disco ball (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @07:33PM (#10947982)
    This thing about the disco ball made out of discontinued microchips makes me think of something I've been wondering. Microchip fabrication involves a LOT of defective chips, right? Like chips that burn but then fail the tests. What happens to all those chips? Are they just melted down for metal? Are they thrown away? Can you buy them?

    I would just love to have some earrings made out of broken G5s.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @07:37PM (#10948009)
    Whatever! The FOCAL process (as it is called) may seem brutal to outsiders, but you have be pretty lazy and completely incompetent to lose your job...and it is more like the bottom 10% that fall into the category that get put on corrective action plans.
  • Re:Article text (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PhotoGuy ( 189467 ) on Monday November 29, 2004 @07:39PM (#10948027) Homepage
    "What was wrong was that I made the decision to go public on it at the Consumer Electronics Show," he said in a recent interview in Intel's Santa Clara headquarters. "Error of judgment. Mea culpa. I learned a lesson."

    I like this statement. And I think it's consistent with what I've known of Intel first hand. A corporation this large and leading-edge, needs to dabble and branch off in "researchy" ways to test out areas of new market potential.

    I was involved in a company whose seed money came from a sizeable (to us) contract from Intel, to license our technology in the digital imaging space. They were a great company to work with, talented people, good executives, and they got their demonstration technology, based upon our code, up and life in a respectable time.

    The site was never marketed and never took off, but I believe it served their purposes in exploring this potential area of technology. It's a good thing to see a company like Intel taking part in this type of thing.

    The only story here, as in the quote above, is that they made a bit of a visible statement about where they were headed, before knowing for sure. Minor mis-step, if mis-step at all.


  • by Suburbanpride ( 755823 ) on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:01PM (#10948217)
    I submitted this story too, and I can promise that I don't work for the Times. I do happen to spend at least 30 minutes a day reading it tough. I think it is one of the best sources of news out there

    I don't normaly read the times for tech news though (that's what slashdot is for). But it certainly rather see this posted than a nother article about the guy who made a working death star out of old shampoo bottles and ber cans in his parents basement :)

  • Intel's focus areas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by chiph ( 523845 ) on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:01PM (#10948223)
    Mr. Otellini will tell analysts that he plans to focus on four areas for growth: international markets for desktop personal computers, mobile and wireless applications, the digital home, as well as a new initiative aimed at large corporate computing markets that Intel is calling the Digital Office.

    International markets are more price-sensitive than the US, so they'll go with the cheapest CPU they can find, which ain't Intel.

    If they think that the PC market is fast moving, wait until they see the mobile market. We're talking a 6-9 month obsolesence cycle and incredible price pressures. There's also lots of established players, so Intel had better offer something special that the others don't have (and can't easily duplicate).

    So far as a "digital home" -- most people (meaning non-developers and non /. readers) are happy with a single PC to surf, get email, etc. The gamers are a viable market, but the under-24 folks don't have the money for media-center PCs, as they can barely afford to buy new GForce cards and purple case lamps every few months.

    The corporate market is the one place that Intel has a chance of succeeding. Most IT departments won't buy anything unless it has "Intel Inside" because they're so conservative. The areas for Intel to focus on there are increasing power density, reducing heat, and improving system managability.

    Chip H.
  • Re:come on (Score:2, Interesting)

    by itwerx ( 165526 ) <> on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:02PM (#10948236) Homepage
    What you all don't realize, is that Intel is the #1 manufacturer of NOR based flash memory.

    And the portion of Intel's profits stemming from this doesn't even warrant a line item in their financial breakdown. STFU troll!
  • by Sai Babu ( 827212 ) on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:05PM (#10948263) Homepage
    Wallmart dragged it down though.

    AMD is making that spiffy flash too.

    I'm a fan of whoever makes the best stuff the cheapest. Right now I'm a Athlon 64 fan and will be happy if Intel can compete with the Opteron.

    re: Dell. They areall over the place on this AMD switch. I rad someplace that Dell is holding off because the design their own boards and adding the AMD will mean adding a new design team. Not familiar enough with Dell costing to knwo it this is a significant problem or if it;s just more smoke and mirrors. Any of youy /. guys know what it costs to bring a server design tem on line? After all, the ultimate goal of any business is to make $ and beating Intel up on price with AMD noise may pay better than actually bringing AMD based Dell product to market.

    I can tell Intel there are only two ways to make $ in manufacturing. 1)Be the only guy who CAN make something. 2)Be the guy who can make it the cheapest.
    Trying to compete in projection TV which is pretty mature is NOT gonna make you $ unless you've got a spiffy atent likr TI and mirror arrays used for DLP. Of course that patent will expire so if you can beat TI, and everyone else waiting in the wings, handily on the cost/unit front...when that day arrives, you'll clean up.

    Manufacturing is all about cost/unit which is all about cycle time, yield, and amortization of the plant. Chip manufacturers would do well to study other USA industries. Excepting the guys who are the only guys who can make the stuff, most stuff that anyone can make is moving offshore. Some exceptions. My brother told me of a 5 pan&pot stamped steel cookware set selling for $4.99 at BrandSmart. Made in USA. It costs less to make here and ship domestic than to ship steel to china and the shp the pots back.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:06PM (#10948269)
    If you notice the posting history of the article submitters, you will notice some pattern such as:
    • None of the users have their emails shown publically
    • None of the users bothered to fill out their description fields
    • All have similar posting histories, about a message a month, and you may also notice that the message postings for each user have similar dates (i.e. if a message was posted from one account in May of last year but didn't have any other postings for the next month, then the other NYT user accounts will show the same pattern)
    • Many of the accounts have similar creation times (and thus have a similar number of message postings)

    Those are just a few of the things I can think off the top of my head that have looked awful suspicious.

    Not all postings are made by this finicially interested individual or group. There are some exceptions, such as a professor who once posted a link to an article about his research, and maybe one or two other people who were genuinely bored, found something the liked, wrote a summary, and submitted it to Slashdot. However, I think those submitters are in a minority.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:12PM (#10948315)
    P4s have thermal protection built in, if you remove the heatsink (not just the fan), P4s will throttle down their speed immediately in order to cope, and will speed back up again when the heatsink is replaced. Tom's Hardware did an article about this a couple years ago, and even made a video of them removing the heatsinks of various processors. The P4 throttled down, a P3 locked up (but the chip survived), and an AMD Athlon XP and an MP both burnt up (one of them even produced a small fire).

    I agree that AMD's chips are a good value: I own a dual AMD box, and it's great. Spreading lies because you are a fanboy won't win AMD any new customers, though. Let the merits of a company's products speak for themselves.
  • by Frogbert ( 589961 ) <[frogbert] [at] []> on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:17PM (#10948350)
    My bet is that 95% of consumers will not go with the expensive Apple option while there are much cheaper options that will do almost everything the apple option will do.

    Also you can get an Xbox and put XBMC on it right now.
  • by Tihstae ( 86842 ) <> on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:21PM (#10948381) Homepage
    Using Firefox?

    Try BugMeNot []. It is also available by doing Tools --> Extensions --> Get More Extensions in the browser.

    I am in no way related to this extension. I just love it.
  • by jedaustin ( 52181 ) on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:23PM (#10948402) Homepage
    Granted, I didn't go buy another one to see if my P4 failure was a fluke, I popped it in a friends board.. it was dead. The cpu fan was burned out, I made the connection.

    I bought an Athlon board and CPU to replace it.
    From what you say about Tom's Hardware article I hope the fan doesnt go out :)

    Do you happen to have a link to that article? It sounds like an interesting read.

  • by Colonel Panic ( 15235 ) on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:25PM (#10948412)
    As someone who has contracted at Intel, believe me I'm not a fan of the company.

    However, many companies now practice the rating and ranking system you describe. And it's not the bottom 25%, it's the bottom 10% from what I've heard.

    As for H-1B workers: When I was last contracting at Intel (June 2004) the policy was that all permanent hiring was to be done outside of the US. In the US they could only hire contractors unless there was some very special skills needed. I suspect that this policy is still in place. This is of course worse than your claim that they only hire H1B workers - at least an H1B worker would be paying taxes in the US and contributing to the economy here. Many of Intel's former permanent employees in the US have now become contractors (via layoffs) which means that they can only work for the company for 12 months out of every 18 months (but look on the bright side, you get a six month vacation after contracting there for a year!) and no health benefits.-
  • Re: disco ball (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:32PM (#10948475)
    They make nothing but the top of the line chips. That's all they ever try to make. They don't set out to make a Celeron or a 2.4G chip (at least, not anymore.)

    They test all the chips, and the ones that pass enough tests at a certain speed are rated for that speed. The ones that fail are tested at slower speeds until they get to the threshold.

    That's why some people have great luck overclocking a system and some don't. They folks who picked up a 2.0 GHz chip that barely failed the 3.0 GHz tests will be able to make a reasonably stable 3.0 GHz chip because it worked okay for most of the tests. Others get something that barely passed the 2.0 GHz tests.

    You've heard that Celerons are great for overclocking, right? Well, yeah, of course they are - they're faster chips than what's stamped on them, albeit with a cache wasn't working right at the target speed.

    If they fail every test, they send it to VIA to make chipsets. ;) No, seriously: very few chips made with modern techniques fail every test, and those that do are recycled if possible.
  • Re:come on (Score:2, Interesting)

    by suckmysav ( 763172 ) <suckmysav@ g m a i> on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:42PM (#10948569) Journal

    There is no such thing as a "Centrino". It is nothing but a marketing label, pure and simple. It applies to any laptop that has a Pentium M AND an intel wireless chip.

    Neither of these devices alone are a "Centrino", but if you put them together you can slap a "Centrino inside" sticker on your laptop and sell it to suckers who think it means something.


    If getting your customers to accept a marketing label as if it were a real product can be called a success, then I guess this has been a success for intel.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday November 29, 2004 @08:52PM (#10948630) Homepage Journal
    Their hiring practices leave a lot to be desired. They prefer contractors to employees, but won't hire a contractor for longer than a year, and there has to be something like a 6 month break before re-hiring. This means there is zero incentive for contractors to do anything worthwhile (they're not going to be around for long, no matter what) and there's no continuity when something does go right.

    Then, there's their design strategy - lock everyone else out. By making it damn-near impossible to use a standardized processor socket, anyone who currently uses some other chip-maker is essentially locked out of buying anything Intel. In other words, about now, they're locking out nearly half their potential customers. I'm sorry, but that's just plain dumb.

    Their near-violent reactions against people making support chips for the Intel processors means that competitors are going to have to be based on AMD or some other x86 clone, for the most part. A few (eg: Via) will work with Intel, but I've also seen plenty of Intel docs on what breaks when you use Via with some Intel processors. Compatibility sells more products than coercian.

    True, most of Intel's competitors aren't too smart on these points, either. But that simply means that the first seriously open competitor is likely to wipe the floor with the lot of them. Transmeta could have. In fact, they could have crushed most of the 32-bit market, if they'd provided people with the means to upload different instruction sets. That capability becomes a liability (it impacts performance and reliability) if nobody can actually make any use of it.

    None of the current chip manufacturers has opted to move the southbridge or northbridge into the CPU, despite the fact that this would improve performance, without having to speed the chip up.

    Intel moved to copper from aluminium for chip interconnects, because it reduced power consumption. If they moved to silver, they could reduce it further, so the chips could run cooler and/or faster, with no additional work. There's no evidence they're even looking at that.

    Instead, Intel are working on projects such as TV decoder boxes running on low-end hardware. This isn't their field. They can't seriously compete in that market, because it's too crowded as it is. There's no money in it.

    And now we're told they're going to do MORE of this generalization into markets about which they know nothing, have no solid expertise, no history and no track-record of getting projects complete. They're killing themselves.

    What would I do, if I were in their shoes? Easy. I'd shore up the core products, by putting R&D cash into better product differentiation. In other words, cloning AMD's 64/32 is not good enough. That makes them equal to their competitors. Those who need that tech will already be with AMD, so why would they switch?

    Intel needs to play the one-upmanship, if they want to survive. The Itanium has been a disaster, so they would be far better off dumping it than continuing to invest in a sure-fire loser.

    Right about now, I'd be pushing for a 128/64/32-bit system, that can do everything AMD's chips can do AND support some limited 128-bit operations. Solaris 10 supports a 128-bit filing system, so a 128-bit processor isn't entirely stupid. If they added 128-bit support to controllers, they'd be able to get much smoother dataflow and a much higher throughput. Nice selling points, for servers.

    Multi-cores are good, if you have enough processing elements, sharable, and distributed right to maximise what you can push through. Intel are looking at 2. Why, when most multi-processor needs are alread met with 2-way through to 8-way SMP? To compete with Intel's own products, you need to start at 8-core CPUs, or there just isn't any point.

    Intel's operations are sluggish, compared to AMD. In fact, they're sluggish compared to anyone. Always have been. Anyone who

  • by philipgar ( 595691 ) <{ude.hgihel} {ta} {2gcp}> on Monday November 29, 2004 @09:04PM (#10948716) Homepage
    What could make for a very interesting move on IBMs part would be to make a power5 x86 processor. Of course the idea initially sounds crazy, but how much extra work would it be. Sure adding the emulation and x86 decode layer to the chip would make the chip larger and make it a bit slower (say 10%), but the core of an opteron and the core of a ppc aren't incredibly different. Its just that the opteron does extra work to decode the x86 instructions.

    If IBM wanted to play hardball on their processors against Intel and AMD they could make a competing product. Sure it would take a few years to get to market, but when it did. . . However IBMs business is primarily in the high end server field where they don't want to lose the 10% efficiency (or whatever it is) and add to the already massive die area. Would be fun to see though, then maybe i could have the power of a power chip on my pc (of course seeing as I run linux on my pc desktop which also runs on ppcs).

  • by SirDaShadow ( 603846 ) on Monday November 29, 2004 @09:29PM (#10948907)
    Copying the URL into google search and clicking on the first search item usually works too.
  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Monday November 29, 2004 @09:47PM (#10949019)

    The strategy is a significant shift - a "right-hand turn," as Mr. Otellini likes to say - from Intel's long-term obsession with making ever-faster computer chips. Instead, the company is now concentrating on what he calls platforms: complete systems aimed at both computing and consumer electronics markets.

    What's that sound? That's intel. Flushing itself down the toilet. Hello, you're INTEL. You make CHIPS. Long term obsession? That's what the company DOES! I haven't checked this guy's past out - but something tells me engineering is not in his blood.

    If I had intel stock - I'd be twitching to get rid of it in a hurry. I do, however own AMD stock. I rather like their long-term obession with making ever faster chips, and I expecially like the single-minded focus at doing it better and better and better.

    It's going to be fun to watch this one.
  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @12:04AM (#10949788)
    You simply can't crank the average power consumption of a PC beyond 200W before people start rejecting them because of power bills and excess heat.

    Based on current designs, yes. Power consumption is not a function of MIPS, it is a function of process size and clock rate, and the existing architecture. Much of the power consumption is a function of intel's shortsighted push of higher clock rates as a marketting ploy and not an engineering decision. That's when I stopped using their chips on the desktop.

    There are many applications for much faster processors than we have now; just as there are many existing design models that haven't been investigated, and whole new architectures and applications to discover.

    What Intel's announcement says to me is they no longer want to be part of that, and that's fine and dandy. I interpret it as a signal to move my money elsewhere because I think those things will be very important in the future. YM(and money)MV.

  • by Firehawke ( 50498 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @02:20AM (#10950416) Journal
    It's probably scary to contemplate that the Z-80 still gets a ton of use even today. The Gameboy/GBC/GBA have a slightly modified (not much; it's only one or two added instructions IIRC) Z-80 in them. That chip really did get a lot of use over the years; I can think of only one other CPU that got that kind of widespread use and that would be the 68000.

    I confess to still being fond of the 6809, though. My first computer ran off one.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer