* Sandy Bridge chip lined up for 500 PC models
* Includes content protection
* Combines central and graphics processing
By Noel Randewich
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 2 Intel Corp's (INTC.O) new
microchips, touted as its biggest-ever leap in processing
power, include built-in content protection to make it safer for
Hollywood studios to offer premium movies to consumers over
their personal computers.
Time Warner Inc's (TWX.N) Warner Bros Digital Distribution
and other studios plan to offer high-definition movies to
consumers whose computers use the chips, code-named Sandy
Bridge, at the same time as they are released on DVD, Mooly
Eden, Intel's vice president and general manager of the PC
Client Group, told Reuters last week.
"We have been able to develop an end-to-end solution that
will allow the premium content to be streamed to (computers
with Sandy Bridge chips)", Eden said in an interview. "We are
striking all the deals with the (studios and content
distributors) to make it available."
The processors, recently shipped to manufacturers, are a
big bet as Santa Clara, California-based Intel wrestles with a
weak U.S. economy and sluggish consumer demand for PCs.
As well as protecting studios from piracy, the chips, which
Intel will showcase at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas, include improved multimedia processing.
Sandy Bridge, which will be sold under the Intel Core
brand, for the first time unites central processing and
graphics processing on the same piece of silicon, making it
faster, more energy efficient, and likely more profitable.
"The cost structure is better, the chip is smaller, all
things being equal, and performance is better. It's going to be
very important for the company," Hans Mosesmann, an analyst at
Raymond James, said last week.
Intel, whose microprocessors drives eight out of 10
PCs in the world, said Sandy Bridge's graphics capabilities are
good enough for casual computer game players.
While competitors disagree, Eden said Sandy Bridge will
make low-end graphics chips currently installed in many PCs
unnecessary, which could reduce costs for manufacturers.
"We've got more than 500 design wins in notebooks and
desktops. You'll see many of them ranging from all-in-one, to
big gaming machines, to notebooks," Eden said.
Quick to defend its territory, graphics chip designer
Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) said consumers want improved graphics
performance, and some manufacturers appear to be hedging their
bets instead of relying solely on Sandy Bridge chips.
Nvidia says manufacturers have chosen its graphics chips
for 200 new notebook models in 2011 that also feature Intel's
Sandy Bridge, compared with about 125 notebooks in 2010.
Advanced Micro Devices Inc AMD.N will show off its own
new chip lineup that also combines central and graphics
processing, at the consumer electronics show. It is unclear how
it will compare to Sandy Bridge in performance and price.
Intel is selling its Core i3 chip, with two cores -- or
engines -- to manufacturers for $117 and its top-of-the-line
Core i7, with four cores, for $1,096.
As weak consumer sentiment hurt sales of notebooks in 2010,
Intel's share of the world semiconductor market slipped to 13.8
percent from 14.2 percent in 2009, according to market research
In 2011, notebook sales may struggle again as some people
purchase Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPad or tablets being launched by
competitors like Hewlett Packard Co (HPQ.N).
While it remains by far the largest microchip maker in the
world, Intel has fallen far behind in the fast-growing market
for smartphones and tablets, which experts say could become the
main point of contact with the Internet for many people and
eventually lead to less reliance on PCs.
Intel's Atom chips dominate the smaller netbooks but
smartphone and tablet manufacturers have mostly rejected them
in favor of more power-efficient chips based on ARM Holdings
ARM.L architecture that are made by companies like Qualcomm
Inc (QCOM.O) and Marvell Technology Group Ltd (MRVL.O).
Intel is betting that other new chips due out early next
year will help it carve out a piece of the mobile market.
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)