News Bits: Intel in Trouble, iBook for June, New Microsoft Mice, MacBook Pro Problems

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Intel in Trouble

Intel is in big trouble and it doesn’t seem like it knows how to get out of it. What’s the problem? AMD. It’s tearing huge portions out of Intel’s formerly most profitable areas. Intel is firing back, or at least trying to, but their strategy isn’t working because they’re shooting at the wrong target.

Right now, Intel is frantically issuing price cuts, recently a “spur of the moment” 10% kickback to distributors was enacted. However, it was too late to make much of a difference, as many didn’t get time to act, and it targeted the wrong components.

Intel’s new focus is on the low-end market, cutting its Celeron processors from a $50 chip price to $40, and soon $35. There’s a problem here too — although this strategy has worked against AMD in the past, it isn’t working anymore because the low-end is no longer the primary focus of AMD — it’s the high-end. Intel is shooing and hitting AMD but not doing any damage.

The reasoning behind Intel forcing distributors to get products out the door and cutting prices is due to market share — they’re flooding the market so they don’t have to announce huge market share drops during the next quarterly conference call.

Inventory buildup is yet another problem facing Intel. They’re throwing Celerons out as fast as possible, but it can’t do the same to the Pentium 4 and M because that would destroy its margins.

Intel’s problem is, basically speaking; it has to keep its profit margins up, market share up, and has to look good doing so in the process.

Q2 isn’t going to improve Intel’s state of disarray. Would starting a price war help? No, that would hurt Intel. AMD has taken over as the leader in server parts and is raising prices on them because they know people will pay a premium. Low power/high performance = AMD.
Next-gen server chip Woodcrest to the rescue or not? Intel expects it to ramp up to 20% of sales by the end of the year, but there’s one small problem — 80% of Intel’s market is still vulnerable, and that’s with the best-case scenario.

Although Intel’s bleeding will lessen for a time, it won’t be for long because AMD’s upcoming K8L is going to close the gap again, and AMD will most likely hold onto any gains they’ve made for a while.

Several problems need addressing — Intel needs a comprehensive technical plan, less distractions, and a new management team that listens to its engineers.

The platform is the real reason AMD is kicking Intel around — not the chips. They’re doing it in a cohesive technical manner, not the “happy people” marketing sense of Intel. AMD has a complete system approach that works together as one, and gets the right job done for the right reason.

Another problem with Intel is that they don’t focus on the part as a whole — rather, to make something better, they focus on one component — FSB, cache, etc.

Intel will continue to have problems until it comes out with a HyperTransport-like technology. Over the last few years, Intel has cancelled over a half dozen projects, including its own version of HyperTransport, “CSI.” Their attempts have been blurred by poor decision making and bad management.

In Q4 2008, there might be some hope for Intel, but until then, in this authors opinion it will continue to lose market share.

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Part 2

Apple iBook Core Duo 13.3″ Notebooks to be Made by Asustek and Available June

According to reports from the AFX Asia news agency Asustek has won the contract to manufacture an upcoming 13.3″ screen Apple iBook powered by the Intel Core Duo processor.  Availability is expected in June according to the news report.

Read More . . .

‘Vista Ready’ PCs – be careful

Even though Vista has been delayed and delayed, Microsoft has started slapping ‘Vista Ready’ labels on new PCs.

What exactly does this mean? The stickers are going on PCs that have enough RAM and other specifications to run — read this carefully — Vista Home Basic. There’s a slight problem here — Vista Home Basic can’t run the graphical section of the OS. So basically, a good amount of the ‘Vista Ready’ labeled machines won’t be able to run Vista in any meaningful way.

The lesson here is don’t believe everything you read — Vole has not even announced what is needed to run the real version of Windows Vista,. Be wary of the ‘Vista Ready’ sticker.

Read More . .

ATI R600 postponed due to Vista delay

With the recently announced Vista delay, graphics companies have some time to rearrange their road maps.

Why postpone the chips? Well, without Vista, there’s no DirectX 10, and thus if the graphics companies release the chips, there won’t be any DirectX 10 API to run the hardware.
The R600 was originally scheduled to be released in Summer 2006, but it appears that they will now just shrink the current R580 to an 80nm part, now scheduled for a late summer release.

ATI has no plans to release any high-end chips within a month to two months, so it is a given that ATI will use the R580+ to provoke Nvidia’s G80, and will launch the R600 afterward.
ATI couldn’t release the R600 anyway, as DirectX10 will only be available for Vista, not XP. ATI had to do this before with its R300 chips in August 2002, when it had to wait months for DirectX 9 to be officially released.

The release date will probably be Q4 2006, but nothing is official yet.

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Three New Wireless Microsoft Optical Mice — Wireless Optical Notebook Mouse 3000 for Laptop users


Wireless Optical Notebook Mouse 3000 with High Definition technology (view large image)

Microsoft is best known for its Windows operating system, but they also produce pretty popular mousing devices as well.  Microsoft announced today they will be releasing the Wireless Optical Notebook Mouse 3000 with High Definition technology (for improved mouse responsiveness and smooth tracking on uneven surfaces) in April for about $29.  The new 3000 model is supposed to be more portable, easier to stow for laptop users and improved mousing in cramped spaces such as coffee shop tables and airplanes. 

Microsoft is also releasing two non-notebook mice, the Wireless Laser Mouse 5000 and the Wireless Optical Mouse 2000.  Pricing is below:

  • Wireless Laser Mouse 5000: $49.95 (U.S.)
  • Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000: $29.95 (U.S.)
  • Wireless Optical Mouse 2000: $29.95 (U.S.)

Read Microsoft Press Release . . .

Acer’s 2005 Financial Results

Acer’s 2005 financial results have been approved by their board of directors. Results for 2005 are as follows:

  • Consolidated Revenue: $9.69 Billion — 41.4% year on year growth
  • Operating Income: $232.95 Million — 00.9% year on year growth
  • Profit after Tax: $258.15 Million — 20.9% raise from last year
All of the above figures surpassed the 2005 target. Acer’s financial forecast for 2006 is as follows:

  • Consolidated Revenue: $12.42 Billion
  • Operating Income: 334.75 Million
  • Profit after Tax: $311.12 Million
If Acer achieves those results, it will have another record high in its 30-year history.

Apple MacBook Pro Problems

Apple has been doing well lately. The MacBook Pro has been flying off the shelves and has recieved praise from numerous publications. However, it’s not a notebook without issues. Many users are reporting issues such as (to quote the article source):

  • “AirPort does not automatically rejoin a preferred network after waking up from sleep mode. This does not happen with my PowerBook. Settings are the same.
  • AirPort would drop down to nearly 1 block randomly once in a while. This also does not happen with my PowerBook.
  • At the lowest screen brightness setting (one block), the LCD’s backlight flickers noticeably. This is pretty annoying.
  • Heat is a big issue. The MacBook Pro gets so hot that I cannot place it on my lap if I’m wearing shorts. And even if I am wearing pants (instead of shorts), it’s still very uncomfortable. Using the AC power, the palm rest area becomes very warm, and the area above the F keys is very hot. I do not notice this with the PowerBook.”

These aren’t just isolated issues, it’s actually quite common with MacBook owners.
Apple is apparently well aware of the issues, and they have started addressing them in the updated MacBook Pros. To start, they have been replacing the motherboard with a new revision. It can be identified by the product serial number.

“Revision D” MacBook Pros have many improvements and issues fixed, including the above.
Another complaint with the MacBook Pro is that it gets extremely hot, especially on the underside. Sometimes, placing it in your hands can be unbearable. Apple’s response is “that should not happen. If it is, bring back your Macbook pro and we’ll give you and updated version.”

Yet still more issues exist – some users are hearing an ‘uncomfortable whining noise,’ which is mysteriously fixed by launching a widget or by using PhotoBooth. This solves it until the next reboot.

If you’re having issues with your MacBook Pro, check the serial number first, then contact Apple.

Read More . . .

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