The Register Email Newsletter from July 1994 – forerunner of TheRegister.co.uk

The Register
Number 1 25 July 1994
Edited by John Lettice & Mike Magee
email: [email protected]
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DISPLAY’S COLOUR FLAT PANELS SET TO DOUBLE
Display Technologies, the IBM-Toshiba joint venture company set up to
produce flat-panel colour displays, is to double production to 200,000
units a month. Production at an IBM plant in Shiga, Japan is being
switched over from semiconductors at a cost of $400 million. In the past few
months several companies, including Hyundai, Samsung and Matsushita,
have said they will ramp up production, but total world capacity for
large active matrix TFT displays, which on manufacturers projections
will reach six million units in the next six to 12 months, still
looks unlikely to keep pace with demand from the portable computer
market.
The critical shortages of the 10.4in units used in IBM’s ThinkPads,
however is likely to ease with the introduction of new plant. Most of
this will be designed to handle larger pieces of glass which can
produce four 10.4in panels; older plant can only produce two, plus a
considerable amount of waste. The increased volume of 10.4in is likely
to alter the mix of portable sales, with 10.4in becoming the de facto
standard for power user portables.

INTEL DROPS JAPANESE FLASH FOUNDRY
Intel’s strategy on flash memory looks in disarray after its
decision to stop production of products at its NPNX (formerly NMB)
Semiconductor plant in Japan.
After the shortfall in production during late 1992 and 1993, Intel
invested many millions of dollars equipping the NBM fab plant, which
produced .8 micron wafers.
Bernie Perrin, European marketing manager of non-volatile memories at
rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) told The Register: “I think they
[Intel] are still committed to flash. Intel spent a lot of money
bringing up NMB and found technology has moved away from that range of
products.’
He said that customers were demanding 5volt flash memory and Intel,
with its SmartVoltage technology had probably not even sampled yet.
“From our point of view, we are winning designs everywhere with 5volt
technology,” he claimed. “Intel has realised there isn’t the huge
market out there for older products they’ve got.”
He said Intel was “depressing the market” for flash memory and
projecting prices people “would find it difficult to live with.
He claimed AMD was meeting the market demand on flash products. “Our
joint venture [with Fujitsu] comes on stream at the beginning of next
year and our current lead times are 12 weeks,” he said.
Perrin claimed Intel now found itself with only two major product
areas, processors and flash memory. “Intel may have been caught,” he
said. “A lot of the fabs aren’t being built to make flash memory and
I’d question how long they will be in flash. It will become a
commodity and they’re not very good on commodities.”

ARM CLOSER TO CONSUMERS
A licensing deal with Asahi Chemical’s semiconductor division, Asahi
Kasei Microsystems (AKM) is likely to increase Advanced Risc Machines’
chances of success in consumer markets. ARM was founded four years ago
by Acorn, Apple and VLSI technology, with the brief to produce cheap,
low-power Risc processors for a range of applications, including
hand-held units and embedded controllers.
The deal allows AKM to combine the ARM7 processor with its own CMOS
mixed-signal LSI technology to produce high speed,
communications-aware silicon. AKM already uses this technology to
manufacture components for mobile phones and other communications
devices, supplying most of the major Japanese electronics companies.
ARM already does business with Cirrus Logic, GEC Plessey
Semiconductors, Samsung, Sharp and TI, and its products are used in
the motor industry, handheld devices and peripheral controllers.

IBM SELLS ARDIS TO MOTOROLA
As has been expected for several months, IBM has agreed to sell its
stake in the US Ardis wireless communications system to Motorola.
Ardis, which covers 400 cities and 10,000 smaller towns, span out of
an internal IBM communications system, and was set up as a joint
venture by the two companies in 1990. Selling out to Motorola is not a
case of IBM losing interest, but is intended to help the company avoid
charges of favouritism. The deal increases Motorola’s strength in the
wireless market, but the company will need to invest substantially in
the coverage and design of the network in order to beat-off new
rivals. Motorola is also likely to expand Ardis’ use out of the
business market, using devices like its Envoy PDA/telephone to pick up
customers in the consumer market where mobile phones left off.

MOTOROLA CLAIMS PRIZE IN AIM BENCHMARK TEST
The Motorola Computer Group claimed victory last week over four
processor offerings from AST, Data General, Digital, Sun and Unisys.
The MCG Series 900 M963 was first in two categories — best price
sustained performance and best price/peak performance.
The results were as follows:

Best price/sustained performance $50-$100K

List price AIM PR $/AIM
900 Model 963 $64773 1129 œ37
DG AviiON 8500 $77945 1271 $61
AST Manhattan SMP-4 $68757 998 $69
PARCcenter 1000 4CPUs $80500 1149 $70
DEC 3000 Model 500S $53088 649 $82
Unisys U6000 65 5CPUs $83950 960 $87
Unisys U6000 65 4CPUs $74950 826 $91

Best price/peak performance $50-$100K

List price AIM PR $/AIM

900 Model 963 $64773 1162 $557
SPARCcenter 1000 4CPUs $80500 138.2 $582
DG AviiON 8500 Quad $77945 132.2 $590
AST Manhattan SMP-4 $68757 114.1 $603
Motorola 8000/8540 $55967 87.6 $639
DEC 3000 Model 500S $53088 82.9 $640
DEC 3000 Model 800S $93844 119.3 $787

DIGITAL DEVISES SALES CHANNEL FOR DEVICES
Involuntary downsizer Digital Equipment Corporation is putting new
sales channels in place in a bid to increase sales of its Alpha AXP
Risc procesor and PCI chipsets. The company is to push semiconductor
sales under VP of semiconductor marketing Arthur Swift, and worldwide
sales manager Richard Riker. The company will appoint area sales
managers for North America, Europe and Asia, who will work with
application engineers, distributors and manufacturer’s
representatives.
Digital has so far been relatively unsuccessful in establishing the
Alpha as any kind of a serious Risc standard, but is nevertheless
refusing to admit defeat, sees it as its major strategic line of
business, and is selling off other, more profitable operations in
order to dig itself out of its current crisis. Life could however get
better for Alpha, as the arrival of serious mass-market Risc machines
later this year will encourage down-the-line Intel supporters to look
at Risc alternatives. Rumour has it that, as and when Dell decides to
jump, it could well jump to Alpha.

RAMBUS AND NINTENDO STRIKE DEAL OVER FAST MEMORY
Nintendo claimed last week its 64-bit Ultra 64 video game system –
slated for autumn 1995 — will give 500MHz processor to memory
performance by using technology from Rambus Inc.
According to Nintendo America chairman Howard Lincoln, the adoption of
Rambus technology will be affordable and provide the procesing speed
required to create ‘a totally new’ video game experience.
The Ultra 64, a joint development by Silicon Graphics (SG) and
Nintendo is likely to cost less than $250, the company said. Rambus
uses a new type of DRAM architecture coupled with high processing
speeds, according to Geoff Tate, Rambus Inc’s president.
Other companies incorporating the Rambus interface include NEC and
Toshiba, while another eleven companies are thought to be close to
signing deals for licences.
Rambus Inc. is the world’s leading developer of high speed interface
technology, which the company licenses to semiconductor manufacturing
companies. The publicly announced companies developing or delivering
components that comply with the Rambus interface standard include
Toshiba Corporation, NEC Corporation, Oki, Hitachi, Goldstar and
others. NEC and Toshiba already offer 0.5u CMOS ASIC technology and
RISC based memory controllers based on Rambus technology.

INTEL SELLS PLD BUSINESS TO ALTERA
Intel has sold its PLD (programmable logic device) business to San
Jose company Altera for $50million. Intel will retain a 5% stake in
the company and will transfer its licences and product to the company,
as well as supplying it with silicon wafers.
Bernie Perrin, European marketing manager of PLD products at AMD
described the decision as “quite amazing.” He said Intel had told
customers and the press this year that they would become big in the
market.
“Certainly they’ve been quoting aggressive pricing,” he said, “and
really making their presence known. Quite suddenly to reverse out of a
market seems strange to me and shows very little regard for
customers.”
He though the reason for the Intel decision was that the company would
have to spend a lot of money to “claw their way up the ladder.
“Looking at all the reversed decisions they’ve made over last few
months there must be some thread running through it,” he added.

SAMPLE RATES INTRODUCES AUDIO DSP MODULE
Finnish company Sample Rates has launched a DSP module — the
M4-0202-A, which uses the 56004 signal processor and includes a stereo
audio pre-amplifier, 18-bit A/D and D/A convertors and a processor
controllable output level control.
According to the company, the module can either operate as an
evaluation platform or independently by botting up from on-board
program memory.
Input gain is adjustable up to 60dB, with sample rates running between
32 to 48KHz. It uses the 40MHz version of the 56004 processor,
provides 32K of program memory and can use up to 4MB of data memory
with a standard SIMM. It includes an expansion connector for the user
interface, and costs $1995 with additional modules costing up to $695.
Sample Rate also offers development tools for its systems.
Phone + 358 31 3165 045 or e-mail [email protected]

SUN-MITSUBISHI RAM DEAL
Sun and Mitsubishi have developed a form of graphics RAM that
increases video performance tenfold. wD RAM is expected to sample late
this year, and go into production in early 95. It uses a new frame
buffer technology to render 100 pixel triangles at around 1.8 million
triangles per second, compared to 210,000 per second with 2M VRAMs.
The technology will appear first in high performance 3D workstations,
but as its cost will ultimately be comparable to VRAM, it ought to
gravitate to arcade machines, desktops and ultimately, to games
consoles. Current PC processor technology is however a tad too slow to
be able to use 3D RAM, so it’s unlikely to make an impact in the
mass market much before the arrival of the P6.

FIGHT ON FOR PC POLE POSITION
The battle for the top slot in the PC market is on with a vengeance,
according to prelimary figures for second quarter PC sales from
research outfit IDC. Compaq managed a 65 per cent increase in its
sales, up to 1.15 million units, while IBM, which is usually weak in
Q2, managed only a one per cent rise to 900,000. Apple shipped
855,000. The figures should not entirely be viewed as an indicator of
how the market will go over the whole of 1994, although IBM’s obvious
screw-up indicates that the company still has a lot more work to do
before it can categorically be described as ‘fixed.’
Despite finally starting to produce machines the market is actually
impressed by, the company has been plagued by shortages and has
confused the market with multiple models and brands. And if it doesn’t
get its act together fast, it is in danger of being entirely overtaken
by Compaq in 1994. In 1993, IBM sold 4.4 million machines, Apple 3.6
million and Compaq 3 million. The prospect of a slugging match in Q3
and Q4 may well suggest where Intel’s large inventory is going to
go…

WAFER STANDARD SET TO RISE
Where do we go after 8in? The cost of trading up the standard silicon
wafer size is probably too great now for any one company to
contemplate, but a summit attended by companies from the US, Japan and
Europe at the Semicon/West show in San Francisco earlier this month
has agreed to settle on 300mm, or 12 inches as the next standard size.
Some matters still have to be settled, but they are thought not to
include the vexed metric/imperial question.
A global task force in two segments, US/Europe and Japan/Asia Pacific,
will be formed to determine how the switch will be made, and will be
coordinated by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International
(SEMI), which sponsored the show. The summit included representatives
from Sematech of the US, JESSI from Europe and EIAJ (Electronics
Industry Association of Japan).
The next scheduled meeting for the task forces will be held at
Semicon/Japan in Tokyo in December 1994. A timescale for the
production of 12in wafers should be established by Semicon/Europa in
April 1995.

CHICAGO, CHICAGO — MY KIND OF TOWN?
What kind of hardware will your customers need to run Chicago? The
same as before? Well, up to a point, because although for obvious
reasons the manufacturers who’ve figured this one out are keeping
pretty quiet, Chicago appears to need substantially increased cache
memory in order to maintain the kind of cache hit rates you’d get
under Dos/Windows. One major manufacturer which has Chicago-optimised
designs waiting in the wings figures that the size of cache needed for
Chicago will actually be one to two megabytes, (two to be on the safe
side) and that machines with 512K cache are going to look pretty sick.
Microsoft is apparently aware of the problem, but you can see why the
subject’s a little ticklish – the OS is after all intended to just
install onto your existing hardware and magically not break anything.
Maybe it’s best to think of Chicago as vastly improving the
performance of existing machines, but with a little more work on the
design of new machines, capable of even more vastly increasing
performance. Right?

PENTIUM PRICES PLUMMET AS GLUT HITS MARKET
Intel’s aim this year to ramp up production of the Pentium has
resulted in a glut and led to massive price cuts over the last month.
At the beginning of July, a 60MHz Pentium cost $675 per unit but on
the 1 August its price will be $418, with further cuts expected as
Intel attempts to shift stocks.
The price of the 60MHz is eventually expected to fall to $400 or
perhaps lower as Intel prepares to start a worldwide advertising
campaign to promote the use of the processor.
Cuts on the 90MHz and the 100MHz are expected too. The 90MHz processor
will cost around $600 at the beginning of next year while eventually
the 486DX4 is expected to replace the currently popular DX2, according
to Intel insiders.
The price slashes mean better deals for PC buyers. Gateway 200 and
Dell have already started a price war which has resulted in large cuts
on their 60MHz systems. Compaq, according to an insider, is attempting
to stay aloof from the fray but will inevitably be drawn in.
Both Compaq and AST have the advantage that they second source
processors, in Compaq’s case Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and in AST’s
case Cyrix chips. This makes Compaq less vulnerable to price war
pressure. Meanwhile AMD is expected to introduce 80MHz and 100MHz
versions of its 486 chip in early Autumn.
Rumours that takeup of the Pentium processor is slack are consistently
denied by Intel but the company acknowledges that so far public
perception of the chip is low — hence the huge advertising spend.
While the advertising campaign is primarily intended to promote the
Pentium processor, Intel is also interested in damaging the
credibility of the PowerPC processor as far as possible.

INTEL SETS PACE ON MP SYSTEM SPEC
Intel is attempting to set the agenda on multiprocessor (MP)
specifications for hardware vendors and has revealed MP Spec 1.1.
While Compaq officials said last week that they would support the MP
spec, one insider said that its own specification had existed since
the launch of the first SystemPro. ‘We’ll support the standard when it
is released,’ he said.
According to Intel, the high cost of supporting multiple versions of
different operating systems and platforms means it’s uneconomical for
MP vendors to make their products widely available using heir own
proprietary system designs.
The Intel Architecture Labs (IAL) has developed version 1.1 in
conjunction with different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and
software and BIOS vendors. Intel claims the MP spec will bring the
same “shrinkwrap” benefits of the desktop market to the MP market.
A system is MP Spec-compliant, according to Intel, when it uses one or
more Intel Architecture processors of at least 486 class, including
Pentium 735\90 and 815\100 processors, includes an MP Spec compliant
BIOS, operating system, and AT, EISA, PCI, VL and MCA buses.
Compliance testing is to be performed by operating system vendors and
system manufacturers.
Compliant systems can have from 2 to 256 processors and the MP Spec,
Intel says, is royalty free and doesn’t require a licence. (See
diagram at end of file, uue-encoded).
System manufacturers which have already said they will support the
Spec include ALR, AT&T GIS, AST, Collorary, Dell, HP, Intergraph,
Micronics, Olivetti and Unisys. BIOS support comes from AMI, Award,
Phoenix and System Soft. Meanwhile on the operating system side, IBM,
Microsoft, Nowell, SCO and SunSoft are partners.
However support for SMP on NetWare is not expected to be available
before the end of this year. A spokesman for the company said it would
be built into NetWare 4.1.
The MP spec is available from Intel sales offices and literature
centres (in the US 800-548-4725).

WHAT’S HOT ON THE USENET
COMP.ARCH
There’s an ongoing discussion about the relative merits SMP and MPP
contrasting the merits of Cray versus Pentium based systems.
One contributor from NASA said that while the Cray was ‘magnificent’
when it was first launched, they are not improving at the same rate as
micrprocessors. However another contributor from Tandem points out
that while that’s true on a CPU by CPU basis, Cray now has a low end
series which is more cost competitive, with EL systems starting at
around $125K. The concensus appears to be that Cray needs to move to
MPP or die, with the market so small that most vendors won’t support
them.
A professor at Purdue University says that the peak of CPUs is
progressing faster than current memory bandwidth can handle.
A contributor from Tandem (again) provides an interesting table which
shows the ratios for sustainable memory bandwidth on long vector
kernels.
——————- ——– ———–
Machine Bandwidth Ratio to
(MB/s) Cray C90/16
——————- ——– ———–
Cray_YMP/C90_16_cpu 105497.4 1.0 Cray C90
series
Cray_YMP/C90__8_cpu 55071.9 1.9
Cray_YMP/C90__4_cpu 27610.3 3.8
Cray_YMP/C90__2_cpu 13866.0 7.6
Cray_YMP/C90__1_cpu 6965.4 15.1
Cray_Y/MP_8_cpu 19291.6 5.4 Cray Y/MP
Cray_Y/MP_4_cpu 9685.8 10.8
Cray_Y/MP 2426.4 43.4

Cray_T3D_256_PEs 66106.2 1.6 Cray T3D
Cray_T3D_128_PEs 32973.0 3.2
Cray_T3D__64_PEs 16520.9 6.4
Cray_T3D__32_PEs 8264.9 12.8

IBM_RS6000-990 663.4 159. IBM RS/6000
IBM_RS6000-590 600.0 176.
IBM_RS6000-580 275.9 382.
IBM_RS6000-560 228.6 461.
IBM_RS6000-950 193.9 544.
IBM_RS/6000-250 71.1 1483.
IBM_RS/6000-250 58.2 1812.

HP_9000/755 68.6 1537. HP 9000
HP_9000/730 53.3 1979.
DEC_4000/710 84.6 1247. DEC Alpha
DEC_4000/710 80.4 1312.
DEC_3000/500 100.4 1050.
DEC_3000/300 33.4 3158.

SGI_Challenge_150_MHz 58.2 1812. SGI
R4000/R4400
SGI_Crimson 61.5 1715.

Sun_SparcClassic 57.6 1831. Sun SPARC
Sun_SparcCenter_2000 34.4 3066.
Sun_SS10/41_1_cpu 48.0 2197.
Sun_SS10/30 42.1 2505.
——————- ——– ———–
COMP.SYS.INTEL
A contributor asks whether he should buy a PowerMac 6100AV with a
PPC601/60. It’s the only PowerMac he can afford, he says, but has
noticed that the Dell 90MHz Pentium costs around the same as the
6100AV with cache card. He asks about the performance difference
between the machines and poses the question whether PowerMacs are
superior as graphics workstations to PCs.
A correspondent points out video/sound in, dual monitor support,
Ethernet and speech recognitionare bundled with the 6100/66AV compared
to the P5/90. He says that the PPC601/66 compares in floating-point
performance but not in integer performance.
Another correspondent says that the 6100 has plenty of expansion
capability using the SCSI and ADB ports.

UUEencoded diagram: MPSPEC.GIF
Caption: The MP Spec is scalable from DP to MP.
The Register
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All rights reserved. The Register is (c) 1994 Situation Publishing.
snail address: 18 Grafton Road, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 4QT, UK

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Magee Fax: (44)81 424 8400
Magee preferred email: [email protected]
Lettice Tel: (44)81 809 0948
Lettice Fax: (44)81 800 3561
Lettice preferred email: [email protected]

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The Register

Fortnightly newsletter

edited by John Lettice & Mike Magee

email: [email protected]

phone: 081 248 2800
fax: 081 424 8400