Intel teaches IBM how to reveal chip breakthroughs

Long learning process

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Big Blue heard of Intel's plans to announce the High-K + metal gate transistors. It managed to secure a pre-press version of Intel's news release, which was originally scheduled to hit the news wires on Jan. 29. So, IBM quickly wrote up a news statement of its own and handed it out to reporters under what's known as an "embargo" where reporters promise to release all of their news stories at the same time. (The "embargo" is an archaic technique used by vendors to control coverage of their announcements and get the most possible press at one time. It also gives print publications a chance to include fresher stories in their pages by getting "news" ahead of time. Most reporters hate embargoes but always agree to them.)

You can tell that IBM was under serious time and creativity constraints with its news release because its language is not all that fresh.

For example, Intel's press statement notes that the transistor breakthrough "also ensures Moore's Law, a high-tech industry axiom that transistor counts double about every two years, thrives well into the next decade."

IBM glommed right onto that fancy 'axiom' talk.

"As a result, the use of this material could allow the industry to continue on the path defined by 'Moore's Law,' the chip industry axiom that predicts a doubling of the number of transistors on a chip every 12-18 months, thereby allowing chip performance and function to increase as well."

Intel's pushed out its news release under the headline - "Intel's Transistor Technology Breakthrough Represents Biggest Change to Computer Chips in 40 Years."

IBM went with "First fundamental change to basic transistor in forty years."

Unfortunately for IBM, the company eventually had to stray from Intel's language by admitting that it's not quite as far along as Intel with the new transistors. IBM would only commit to shipping products with the new transistors "starting in 2008."

Somehow, IBM doesn't see Intel's clear lead as a lead.

IBM's VP Bernard Meyerson told the New York Times "that industry analysts who have asserted that Intel has a technology lead are not accurate and that I.B.M. had simply chosen to deploy its new process in chips that are part of high-performance systems aimed at the high end of the computer industry."

As far as we can tell, that means IBM will use the technique first with its own Power chips or with AMD's Opteron chips. So, IBM has either screwed partners/customers AMD, Toshiba and Sony by giving preference to its own chips or is in fact well behind Intel's 45nm Xeon chips.

In its rather short news statement, IBM declared that it would share more information about its High-K + metal gate transistor breakthrough by "publish(ing) the summary of this final achievement" at an industry conference sometime this year.

Well, wouldn't you know it, we just happen to have acquired a rough version of that very presentation. Geeks out there can read up on IBM's breakthrough ahead of time via this PDF - a Register exclusive.

Doesn't it suck when someone messes with your timing? ®

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