The Battle Between ARM and Intel Gets Real

ARM servers and Intel smartphones are coming soon

4 min read

There are two giants in the computer processor industry. One is Intel, which builds most of the processors in today’s PCs and servers. The other is ARM Holdings, in Cambridge, England, which thanks to its vast ecosystem of partners has established near-complete dominance of the market for the core logic inside smartphones and tablets.


But the demand for energy-efficient chips is reshaping the industry. As the PC market flattens, Intel aims to capture a sizable chunk of the rapidly growing mobile market, which rose to nearly half a billion smartphones in 2011. And chip designers in ARM’s camp are eyeing a US $50 billion server market, fueled by the rise of social networking and cloud computing. 


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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.

Avicena

If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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