AMD, longtime second fiddle to the unopposed leader in microprocessors, Intel, has finally given up the goat. They announced, late last week, that they are leaving the desktop computer market for processors, and are going to focus on mobile devices. This means laptops and smaller. Tablets, phones, and other small computers are included.
What does this mean for the computer industry? More than likely, price increases, in both the long term and the short term. AMD desktop processor prices are going to rise, because people will want to grab upgrades for their current systems before they stop being available. In the long term, this takes all the pressure off of Intel to push the envelope at every turn, and they can then take their time in releasing their new lines, and charge whatever price they see fit for them.
Now, this was looking like it was going to happen anyway, because with Intel’s soon to be released Ivy Bridge processors, a new technology was going to be released that, according to some, would put Intel a decade ahead of AMD as far as the technology inside the processor was concerned. This tech, called the Tri-Gate 3D Transistor, is a huge change in the actual silicon of the chip.
The traditional flat two-dimensional “planar” gate is replaced with a thin three-dimensional silicon fin that rises up vertically from the silicon substrate.
What’s a fin?
The gate wraps around the fin (see image below). The current is controlled by using a gate on each of the three sides of the fin–two on each side and one across the top–rather than just one on top, as is the case with the 2D planar transistor. Intel’s explanation here is simple and clear: “The additional control enables as much transistor current flowing as possible when the transistor is in the ‘on’ state (for performance), and as close to zero as possible when it is in the ‘off’ state (to minimize power), and enables the transistor to switch very quickly between the two states (again, for performance).”
This tech could have very well buried AMD anyway, but now we will never find out.