Intel vs AMD: battle spills over into battery life

(Posted by Clare Baldwin)

Advanced Microchip Devices Inc is arguing that laptop battery life should be measured the same way as cellphone battery life: in terms of idle time and talk time.

AMD first raised the issue in a blog post in March, but is again making the rounds to convey its message that current standards, which it says measure the equivalent of standby mode in a cell phone, is misleading consumers.

Why exactly is this issue so important to AMD? Because under current standards, laptops based on arch-foe Intel’s chips demonstrate significantly better battery life. Under alternative standards, their battery life is roughly equivalent to AMD’s.

“Twenty-dollar cell phones give better information to the consumer about battery life than a $799 notebook,” AMD vice president Patrick Moorhead said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.

Moorhead said the current standard is based on dim screens (20 percent brightness), miniscule microprocessor loads (7 percent usage) and has WiFi turned off.

Netbook name game

Netbook is a remarkably clear and memorable terrm as far as most computer industry jargon goes. Which is why, as with any hot product category, it’s hard for the computer industry to agree on exactly what it means.

Most people who started using the term over the last two years say it refers to a new class of tiny, low-cost, Web-connected computers.  That’s at least what Intel thought when it adopted netbook last year as a generic term.  

For this simple act of clarity, Intel must be punished. The ghost of Psion, the old handheld digital organizer maker, sued Intel for trademark infringement. It turned out Psion trademarked the term as far back as 1996 and sold a line of computers it called netBooks earlier this decade before discontinuing the line.

AMD gains on Intel as intrigue swirls

New data from research group IDC shows Advanced Micro Devices gained on arch rival Intel in the first quarter PC microprocessor market. There is of course still a huge gap between the two — Intel earned a 77.3 percent unit global market share, a loss of 4.7 percent, while AMD held 22.3 percent, a gain of 4.6 percent — but it’s all the more interesting given the intrigue swirling around the two companies.

EU antitrust regulators are expected to issue a ruling Wednesday that Intel illegally paid PC makers to postpone or cancel the launch of products using chips made by AMD, sources have told Reuters. The European Commission believes the violations occurred during a period stretching back eight years, the sources said. Intel could be hit with a sizable fine.

Intel, with revenue of $37.6 billion in 2008, dominates the microprocessor market. AMD posted revenue of $5.8 billion in 2008.

Intel CEO uses the B-word

Intel’s first-quarter results may have topped Wall Street’s expectations, but it was CEO Paul Otellini’s use of the B-word–as in “bottom”– that seemed to generate the most excitement. Although shares fell when the world’s top chipmaker chose not to provide a formal forecast for the current quarter, Otellini’s words on Intel’s conference call should provide some much-needed cheer for the IT sector:******”In terms of demand, we saw a few important trends play out this quarter. First, we are seeing signs that a bottom in the PC market segment has been reached. I believe the worst is now behind us from an inventory correction and demand level adjustment perspective. We saw order patterns strengthen throughout the quarter. Desktop sales appear to have hit bottom first and have followed a normal — more normal — pattern since early February.”******”In terms of end-user consumption, the consumer segment has held up much better than the enterprise. This is particularly true in consumer notebooks, which continue to be the volume driver in this segment. Netbook sales continue to grow as anticipated, and are clearly incremental volume for us in a difficult market.”******He continued: “We expect business conditions in Q2 to mirror those of Q1, with some gradual recovering of demand and replenishment of inventories occurring as the industry sees increasing signs of stabilization and a return to more normal seasonal trends.”******Of course, no one is yet expecting a full bounceback. The plunge in PC demand was too swift and precipitous for that sort of talk.******When asked about a possible timeline for recovery, Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith told Reuters:******”Part of the lackof visibility going forward is what does the shape of this look like … over the next few quarters. The first step was to work through the excess inventory that was out there. I think that happened, it actually happened a bit more quickly then i was anticipating, that’s why my gross margin [45.6 percent} is a little better than what we forecast.”******”We’re watching carefully to see what the shape of this looks like as we get into the second half.”******The company forecast continued weakness in the enterprise market, which some say could be a roadblock to recovery.******”From the standpoint of profitability, the quicker enterprise recovers, the better,” said David Kanter, an analyst with Real World Technologies. “But from the standpoint of volume they are both are pretty important.”

Acer, Nvidia unveil pint-sized desktop PC

Nvidia and Acer on Tuesday unveiled a low-cost, full-featured desktop computer the size of hardback book, the first device based on Nvidia’s Ion platform.

The new Acer AspireRevo features an Nvidia graphics processing unit along with Intel Atom microprocessor. (Although they might sit comfortably together in the new PC, Intel and Nvidia continue to be bitter rivals in the chip world and battle each other in court.)

Nvida says the AspireRevo uses one-quarter the power of standard desktops and is 10 times faster than comparably priced PCs.  The system can do most things a full-sized PC can, including play high-definition video and games, share digital pics and Web surfing.

Intel boosts share, thanks to netbooks

The rise in popularity of netbooks last year helped boost Intel’s already dominant position in the global microprocessor market, according to fresh data from iSuppli. The research group said Intel gained share in every quarter of 2008, partly due to the success of its Atom chip in netbooks, the small, inexpensive, stripped-down PCs that have become hugely popular with consumers.

Intel held a an 81.8 percent revenue share in the microprocessor market in the fourth quarter, up from 78.4 percent a year earlier, iSuppli said. AMD, Intel’s main rival, accounted for 10.6 percent of microprocessor revenue in the period, down from 14.1 percent a year earlier.

“Intel grew its share of microprocessor in every quarter of 2008 on a sequential basis, effectively using each quarter as a building block for the next,” said iSuppli analyst Matthew Wilkins in a statement. “During this time, Intel’s low-priced Atom has become increasingly popular as the netbook market has gained steam.”

Economy check

It’s the question of the moment in the technology world: have we hit bottom?

Tech execs appeared at a bunch of investor events this week and gave their best guess on what’s going on in this murky economy of ours. Some said things seemed a bit better, while others said visibility is as bad as ever. Here’s a collection of their comments:

Yahoo Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen, who is leaving the company, said advertisers are “in shock” at the moment because of the economy, but cited the superior return on investments that they get online compared with traditional marketing mediums.

Tech earnings: Up, down and all around

This is turning out to be an earnings season when all bets are off on how technology giants will perform. With tech earnings taking the market on a roller-coaster ride, it wouldn’t be surprising if investors are a little sick in the stomach already. 

The hits and misses so far among the biggest and brightest:

Intel: Missed expectations, profit fell 90 percent and they said they wouldn’t give a detailed quarterly forecast due to the economic uncertainty.

IBM: Beat expectations and gave an outlook above Wall Street estimates. Not only did IBM shares surge on the news, it even lifted major U.S. indexes.

CES: “Green” envy on Day 2

Fuji EnviroMAX batteries

Several exhibitors took up the “green” theme at CES 2009 as the “Pre” party continued. Any chance Dell had to upstage Palm disappeared in a cloud of secrecy with the “Adamo” laptop it briefly presented, but gave no details about.

Fuji said its EnviroMAX alkaline batteries were made of more than 90 percent recycled materials, had no mercury, cadmium and were PVC free.

Singapore-based Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies said their “HydroPack” water-activated and portable power system HydroPak could provide 4 to 5 hours of 50 watt emergency power without pollution or noise.