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      英語世界
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      雙語:Intel: Hard Reboot
      發布時間:2021年05月10日     發布人:nanyuzi  
      來源: 英語世界
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      Intel: Hard Reboot

      英特爾:強重啟,難

       

      Can Pat Gelsinger turn the chipmaking giant around?

      帕特·基爾辛格能否帶領芯片制造巨頭英特爾扭轉乾坤?

       

      “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” So said Andy Grove, the Hungarian emigré who helped turn Intel from a scrappy startup in the 1960s into the firm that did more than any other to put the “silicon” in Silicon Valley. They will be ringing in the ears of Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s new boss, who took over on February 15th. He takes the helm of a company that looks, from some angles, to be in rude health. With $78bn in revenue in 2020, it is the world’s biggest chipmaker by sales. It has a 93% share of the market for powerful – and lucrative – chips that go into data-centre computers, an 81% share in desktop pcs, and operating margins of around 30%.

       

      “成則滿,滿則敗。唯狂者勝?!北黄葟男傺览泼竦矫绹陌驳稀じ耵敺颍ˋndy Grove)如是說。20世紀60年代,在他的領導下,英特爾這家朝氣蓬勃的的創業公司日益崛起,幾乎憑一己之力,讓硅谷真正實至名“硅”。他的這句話也將在2月15日新任英特爾CEO的帕特·基爾辛格(Pat Gelsinger)的耳邊響起。從某些角度看,帕特·基爾辛格掌舵的英特爾表現可圈可點。其2020年年收入為780億美元,是全球銷售額最高的芯片制造商。英特爾在功能強大且利潤豐厚的芯片市場中獨占鰲頭,占數據中心計算機市場份額93%、臺式電腦市場份額81%,營運利潤率約為30%。

       

      Yet Intel’s share price has underperformed those of rivals. Nvidia, a firm with one-seventh of Intel’s revenues, has a market capitalisation, at $370bn, that is half as high again. The manufacturing technology on which much of Intel’s success was built has fallen behind. It has missed the smartphone revolution. Some of its big customers, such as Apple and Amazon, are turning into competitors. Mr Gelsinger inherits quite the in-tray, then.

       

      然而,英特爾的股價卻落后于競爭對手。英偉達公司(Nvidia)收入只有英特爾的七分之一,但市值高達3700億美元,再次超出英特爾一半之多。英特爾賴以發家的芯片制造技術也遠落于他人之后。它錯過了智能手機革命,原先的大客戶(如蘋果和亞馬遜)也逐漸變成競爭對手?,F在,基爾辛格可以說是接過了這一燙手的山芋。

       

      Start with production. Chipmaking is propelled by the quest for smallness. Shrinking the components in integrated circuits, these days to tens of nanometres (billionths of a metre), improves the performance of both the components and the microchip as a whole. For decades Intel led the way, its “tick-tock” strategy promising a manufacturing revolution every other year. Now “it has lost its mojo,” says Alan Priestley of Gartner, a research firm, who worked at Intel for many years. Its “ten nanometre” chips were originally pencilled in for 2015 or 2016 but did not start trickling out until 2019 – an unprecedented delay. The technology is still not mature. In July Intel said the next generation of “seven nanometre” chips would not arrive until 2022, a delay of at least six months.

       

      先說生產。芯片制造追求產品尺寸越小越好。集成電路中,組件尺寸越小,組件和微芯片整體性能就越高,如今的組件尺寸已被壓縮到幾十納米(十億分之一米)級別。英特爾幾十年來一直穩坐行業龍頭,其Tick-tock戰略確保每兩年都會進行一次制造業革命。然而,高德納(Gartner)咨詢公司的艾倫·普里斯特利(Alan Priestley)曾在英特爾工作多年,如今也坦言英特爾“已失去了魔力”。其原定于2015或16年推出的“10納米”芯片直到2019年才緩緩問世,如此推遲在英特爾史上從未有過。該項技術也尚不成熟。英特爾公司在7月表示,下一代“7納米”芯片要到2022年才能上市,預計至少推遲六個月。

       

      Manufacturing stumbles have cost it business. AMD, its most direct rival, outsources production to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), whose technology is now ahead of Intel’s. That means AMD’s chips are generally faster, and consume less power; its market share has more than doubled since 2019.

       

      英特爾已經為芯片制造領域挫敗付出代價。其直接競爭對手AMD公司將生產外包給臺積電(TSMC),而后者的技術目前已反超英特爾。即,超微半導體(AMD)生產的芯片運行速度更快,功耗更低;該公司自2019年以來的市場份額翻了不止一番。

       

      A second challenge is the industry’s growing specialisation – a problem for Intel’s traditional forte of general-purpose chips, especially if desktop pcs continue to stagnate. Technology giants, flush with cash and keen to extract every drop of performance for their specific purposes, increasingly design their own semiconductors. In 2020 Apple said it would drop Intel from its laptops and desktops in favour of custom-designed chips. Amazon is rolling out its “Graviton” cloud-computing processors, also designed in-house and made by TSMC. Microsoft, whose cloud business is second only to Amazon’s, is rumoured to be working on something similar.

       

      第二大挑戰是芯片制造產業不斷向定制化發展,對英特爾一向引以為傲的通用芯片制造是個不小難題,臺式機市場需求若持續停滯更將令其雪上加霜。各大科技巨頭資金充裕,迫切希望榨取每一滴性能來滿足自己的特定需求,不斷更新半導體設計。蘋果公司于2020年表示其筆記本和桌面電腦不再使用英特爾芯片,轉而采用定制設計的芯片。亞馬遜推出了Gravition云計算處理器,芯片同樣由自主設計,臺積電制造。云計算業務僅次于亞馬遜的微軟據傳也有同樣的動作。

       芯片制造業

      Intel has also failed to make any headway in smartphones, the most popular computers ever made. An effort in the late 1990s to build graphics chips, which have also proved handy for artificial intelligence (AI), and to which Nvidia owes its enviable valuation, petered out. Attempts to diversify into clever new sorts of programmable or memory chips – in 2015 it paid $16.7bn for Altera, which makes them – have so far not paid off in a big way.

       

      除此之外,英特爾在智能手機(史上最普及的計算機)領域的發展也停滯不前。20世紀90年代末,英特爾開始嘗試制造圖形芯片,事實證明也可提高人工智能便捷性,英偉達由此獲得了人人稱羨的估值,但英特爾對此的激情開始慢慢退卻。公司爾嘗試豐富產品陣容,生產各類新型的可編程或可儲存的芯片,還在2015年以167億美元收購了生產上述芯片的阿爾特拉公司(Altera),但到目前為止仍未獲得豐厚回報。

       

      Mr Gelsinger has yet to say how he plans to deal with the challenges. He does not look like a revolutionary. He began working at Intel aged 18, before leaving in 2009 to preside over EMC, a data-storage firm, and for the past nine years heading VMware, a software firm. In an email to Intel’s staff after his appointment was announced he invoked its glory days, recalling being “mentored at the feet of Grove, (Robert) Noyce and (Gordon) Moore”, the last two being the firm’s founders. Like them but unlike his predecessor, Bob Swan, Mr Gelsinger is an engineer, who in 1989 led the design of a flagship chip.

       

      基爾辛格尚未透露他將如何應對這些挑戰。他不像一位革命者。從18歲起他就在英特爾工作,2009年離職后開始掌管信息存儲公司易安信(EMC),過去九年來一直擔任軟件公司威睿(VMware)總裁。在宣布就任后,他在給全體英特爾員工的電子郵件中回憶了往昔自己“在格羅夫(Grove)、羅伯特·諾伊斯(Robert Noyce)和戈登·摩爾(Gordon Moore)指導下”的光輝歲月(諾伊斯和摩爾是英特爾創始人)?;鶢栃粮裣壬退麄円粯佣际枪こ處?,于1989年領導旗艦芯片的設計,這點他與上任總裁鮑勃·斯旺(Bob Swan)不同。

       

      His first job will be to try to turn the firm’s ailing manufacturing division around. Intel already outsources the manufacturing of some lower-end chips to TSMC. Its production woes will force it, at least temporarily, to send more business to Taiwan, perhaps including some of its pricier desktop and graphics chips. Daniel Loeb, an activist investor with a sizeable stake in Intel, sent a letter to the firm’s management in December urging it to abandon factories entirely and restrict itself to designing chips that other firms, such as TSMC, would make. On paper, that looks attractive: Intel capital expenditure in 2020 amounted to $14.2bn, almost all of it on its chip factories. AMD, meanwhile, spun out its manufacturing business in 2009, and is thriving today. Nvidia has been “fabless” since its founding in 1993.

       

      他將首先著手重振困境中的制造部。英特爾已將部分低端芯片的生產外包給了臺積電。生產困境將迫使英特爾(至少暫時)將更多的業務轉移到臺灣,可能包括一些高檔臺式機和顯卡芯片。擁有英特爾大量股權的激進投資者丹尼爾·勒布(Daniel Loeb)在12月致信該公司管理層,敦促其徹底放棄制造部門,把全部精力投入到芯片設計,芯片制造可讓臺積電等公司代工。理論上來看,這項提議很有吸引力:英特爾在2020年的資本支出為142億美元,幾乎全部用在了芯片制造上。同時,超微半導體在2009年剝離制造業務后公司大有起色。英偉達自1993年成立以來從未涉足過芯片制造。

       

      Finding a buyer could be tricky, says Linley Gwennap, a veteran chip-industry watcher, precisely because Intel’s factories are now behind the cutting edge. Most of the world’s chipmakers, which might be tempted by the fabs, are in Asia. Since chips are a front in America’s tech war with China, politicians may veto a sale to a non-American bidder.

       

      芯片行業資深觀察員林利·葛文納普(Linley Gwennap)表示,英特爾正因為工廠已落后于行業前沿水平,很難找到買家。對微型芯片生產廠感興趣的芯片制造商大多在亞洲。由于芯片是中美科技戰的前沿競爭領域,出售給非美國競標者的交易很有可能遭到政客否決。

       

      In any case, Mr Gelsinger has said he will ignore Mr Loeb’s suggestion. In January the new boss said that, although the firm may use more outsourcing for some products, he intends to pursue the hard, costly task of restoring Intel to its customary position at chipmaking’s leading edge. He also seems minded to pursue his predecessor’s strategy of diversifying into new products, including graphics-to-AI chips. “Our opportunity as a world-leading semiconductor manufacturer is greater than it’s ever been,” he wrote. The direction of travel, then, is not about to change. Intel’s shareholders will have to hope that Mr Gelsinger can at least get it back on the pace.

       

      不管怎樣,基辛格先生已經表態不打算接受勒布的建議。這位新任老板1月份表示,盡管公司會加大某些產品的外包力度,他仍然有意去啃這根又貴又硬的骨頭——恢復英特爾在芯片制造行業的領先地位。他似乎打算遵循其前任的戰略,開發更多新產品,包括顯卡和人工智能芯片。他寫道:“作為一家世界領先的半導體制造商,我們今天的機會更勝以往?!币蚨?,英特爾的前進方向是不會改變的。股東們只能希望至少基辛格先生能讓公司恢復以前的步調。


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