Intel Now Behind IBM When It Comes To Small But Fast Chips

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Intel, which is already struggling with its mobile performance, now has one more reason to worry. In the race to come up with the microchip of the future, IBM is now ahead of Intel, a name that was once synonymous to computer chips.

7 nm to be reality soon

On Thursday, IBM announced that it has built the smallest transistors ever, well before Intel. IBM has come up with a “test” chip that is 7 nanometers thick, says a report from The New York Times. To give an idea about the size, the width of a DNA strand is 2.5 nanometers, while a human hair is 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers wide.

Presently, most of IBM’s manufacturing is done at the 14 and 22 nanometer nodes, while the 10 nanometer node is in works. However, researchers are still figuring out a way to make 7-nanometer chips. Now it appears that IBM has found out how to do it, but it will take some time to come up with commercial chips to be used in phones, tablets and other gadgets.

Crediting only IBM will not be right, as many others have also contributed to the “test” chip, including IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, New York State, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung.

What it means for Intel

Intel, which is considered a master in chip technology, has made no comments as of now about IBM’s achievements. But previously, the chip maker said that its scientists are working on a path to a 7-nanometer chip.

Richard Fichera, a semiconductor analyst with Forrester Research, said, “Intel might have these working in their labs, but they haven’t shown anybody.” Calling IBM’s triumph “a smart use of technology and partnerships,” Fichera said that there is “no guarantee” that what IBM has done is the only and the best method to develop 7-nanometer chips. But it is not good news for Intel, as now there is “somebody breathing down their neck,” the analyst noted. Nevertheless, experts note that the competition is just starting.

In a deal that was revealed last week, IBM sold its production capabilities to GlobalFoundries. The tech firm came up with a chip in partnership with GlobalFoundries, Samsung and New York State. The research, which is a part of the company’s $3 billion chip research program unveiled last year, was carried at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. According to the tech firm, it sidelined regular methods to come up with its new chip.

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