Intel Under Assault

From all sides, can they fight back?
Intel battles AMD with new data centre chips
TAIPEI: Intel launched its next generation Xeon server processors on Tuesday (Jun 4) in a bid to regain data centre market share, and revealed that its Gaudi 3 artificial intelligence accelerator chips would be priced much lower than its rivals’ products. The sixth generation Xeon chips are crucial for Int

Intel is under assault from all sides. From AMD (and others) on servers. From Qualcomm (and others) on PCs. From NVIDIA (and everyone) on AI capabilities. Their COMPUTEX talk was an attempt to swing back on all three, but it feels like they still haven’t regained the market trust to do so credibly. We need to see it all, to believe it. On the other hand, such a precarious position gives you the leeway to say things such as:

On a briefing call with reporters, Intel said that a Gaudi 3 accelerator kit, which includes eight of the AI chips, sells for about US$125,000, and the earlier generation Gaudi 2 has a list price of US$65,000.

Speaking in Taipei, Gelsinger said the prices looked "pretty compelling", especially compared with competitors.

"In other words, it crushes the competition."

I believe he’s technically talking about the relatively low prices versus, say, NVIDIA (and AMD). Still, “crushes the competition” is big company anti-competitive no-no lesson number one, always. The sad fact is that Intel simply hasn’t been that competitive in recent years. So no one, let alone regulators, are likely to care too much.

Also on Tuesday, Intel said its next generation laptop chip, called Lunar Lake, uses 40 per cent less power and has more a powerful AI processor in it. Intel said it will ship the chip in the third quarter.

Gelsinger said he was "just thrilled" at seeing so many new PCs using Lunar Lake.

"It will power the largest number of next gen AI PCs in the industry," he added. "We are committed to the AI PC."

That’s undoubtedly true simply because Intel still does far more PC volume than Qualcomm which is just entering the space in a real way (with many of the same OEM partners that Intel has long counted on — not to mention, Microsoft). Meanwhile, the “Lake” codenames Intel uses are fine, but I’m surprised they’re not considering a complete overhaul of their chip branding when it comes to consumers. Presumably, thee “Lunar Lake” chips will still be branded as “Core Ultra” or the like — same with “Arrow Lake” and “Panther Lake” (okay, now we’re pushing the “Lake” thing) in 2025 and 2026, respectively.

“Core” is beyond boring. “Core Ultra” is beyond silly. While I recognize that Intel is trying like hell to move forward, fast, I can’t help but wonder if in resetting the branding, they shouldn’t try to call back to the halcyon days of the company by resurrecting the “Pentium” brand, or something similar. While that brand undoubtedly means nothing to young people, it would evoke strong nostalgia in my generation, who would immediately remember Intel as the powerhouse chip maker. The NVIDIA of its day, as it were.

Instead, the company seems caught in the past in other, weird ways:

“It’s x86 power like you’ve never seen it before,” claims Intel technical marketer Rob Hallock, who says Intel tweaked every part of the chip to make it happen. He says it’ll “definitely” beat Qualcomm, too.

While I remain somewhat dubious of Qualcomm’s claims (versus Apple Silicon) until we see the chips and performance in the wild, I would be beyond dubious of Intel’s claims here. The last time I was using an Intel chip in a laptop, it was cooking my legs like sausages on a skillet. Maybe Intel has miraculously solved such heating and power issues with x86, but I doubt it. And maybe that’s fine if they want to be desktop-only, but of course they don’t. It’s a laptop world now.

Intel says a big wave of Lunar Lake laptops will arrive later this year, with 80 different designs across 20 hardware partners at launch, including all the biggest PC vendors — though not Microsoft, which chose to go with Qualcomm’s chips for its Surface Laptop and Surface Pro instead. Intel’s client chip boss Michelle Johnston Holthaus says all 80 designs should be available ahead of the holidays this year.

“Though not Microsoft” is a big, big, big ouch. Nor Apple, of course 😉.