Top articles in October
Intel has of course been a resurgent force in the electronic industry in recent months with plans for fabs in Europe, but it was its move to an alternative instruction set architecture that was the leading article on eNews Europe in October.
Intel has previously used the ARM instruction set architecture for chips such as StrongARM acquired back in 1997 from Digital Equipment and subsequently used in the X-Scale processor, and acquired the NIOS processor technology as part of FPGA maker Altera in 2015. Now Intel is using the open source RISC-V instruction set for the latest version of the NIOS soft processor core for its FPGAs at the same time it backed off moves to acquire RISC-V pioneer SiFive.
That StrongARM design team ended up as the core of P.A. Semiconductor, bought by Apple in 2008 with a direct heritage to the latest Apple chips, the M1 Max and M1 Max Pro. With 57bn transistors in the largest version on TSMC’s 5nm process technology, Apple has stepped up the design challenge of leading edge chips.
Back in Europe, Raspberry Pi has been navigating the challenge of the chip shortage. The founder, Ebon Upton, apologised for putting prices back up on the latest board and for allocation, and is encouraging IoT designers who were also interested in the latest programmable IO module, to move from the 40nm Pi3 family to the latest 28nm Pi4 boards.
It’s not just chip in short supply. Mobile phone operator Vodafone is spinning out its technical operations into an IoT giant that is looking to double in size by hiring 7000 engineers across Europe. The growing importance of the IoT is also shown by the interest in ST’s deal with Sierra Wireless and by ARM’s launch of Project Centauri and a IoT development tool chain based around virtual models running on the Amazon cloud.
Intel is also making further in-roads in Europe, providing its first discrete graphics processor, codenamed Ponte Vecchio, to supercomputer developers. The integration with the ARM-based Rhea supercomputer chip from SiPearl will also include Intel’s oneAPI, which leaves key software being developed outside the European region,
The challenges of ARM’s acquisition by Nvidia continue. After an initial assessment, the European Commission has now launched an extended investigation into the deal. That investigation will report back by March.
Meanwhile Europe’s position as a leading supplier of quantum technologies is highlighted by work at Toshiba’s Cambridge labs with the first systems based around int4egated photonic chips for quantum key distribution.
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