Date
16 January 2017
With its acquisition of Altera, Intel becomes the second largest maker of chips that can be programmed after they leave the factory. Photo: Bloomberg
With its acquisition of Altera, Intel becomes the second largest maker of chips that can be programmed after they leave the factory. Photo: Bloomberg

Intel wraps up acquisition of rival Altera

Intel Corp. has completed its biggest acquisition with its US$16.7 billion acquisition of rival chip maker Altera Corp.

The deal is past of a plan by Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich to use new tactics to expand the chip maker’s business.

It makes Intel, known for microprocessors used in computers, the second largest maker of chips that can be programmed after they leave the factory.

Altera’s chips are used in an array of devices that include networking equipment, a field that Intel recently has targeted.

But Intel’s more pressing priority is continuing to serve the computing needs of giant Web services such as Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. that rely on the company’s Xeon processors, The Wall Street Journal reports.

That is becoming more difficult to do through Intel’s traditional practice of squeezing more transistors on each piece of silicon.

Microsoft and others, seeking faster performance for tasks like Web searches, have experimented with augmenting Intel’s processors with the kind of chips sold by Altera, known as FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays).

Intel’s first product priority after closing the Altera deal is to extend that concept.

The Santa Clara, Calif., chip giant, which announced the Altera deal at the end of May, has said it plans in 2016 to begin selling products with a Xeon chip and an Altera FPGA in a single package.

But Krzanich has promised to pack a traditional processor and FPGA circuitry onto one chip, bringing still greater performance benefits.

Wendell Brooks, Intel’s vice president in charge of mergers and acquisitions, estimated that the first approach could bring a 30 percent to 50 percent speed improvement over using processors and FPGAs separately.

Integrating the two functions, which won’t occur until after 2016, could double the performance, he said.

That combination, he said, should bring dramatic benefits for jobs like facial recognition, which might require computers to search through hundreds of millions of images to find matches.

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