Focus: Processor makers' flippin' genius, Part II

The transition to flip-chip contributed to early manufacturing problems
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

AMD has used flip-chip with older processors such as the K6 line, but Intel first introduced the packaging with the "Coppermine" Pentium III, launched last Autumn. The transition to the FCPGA design is believed to have contributed to early manufacturing problems. Intel has admitted supplies of Pentium IIIs will continue to be "tight" through the second quarter.

At the time of the Pentium III launch, Intel told reporters the new packaging was made possible entirely by the new 0.18 micron manufacturing process. "It's a technology-driven transition," said Pat Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of Intel's Desktop Products Group. "If we could, we would have placed the L2 cache directly onto the die... But at 0.35 micron and 0.25 micron, we didn't have the transistor budget to allow us to do that."

FCPGA will be used with all AMD's new chips, including the budget-oriented Duron (formerly code-named Spitfire) and the chips code-named Mustang, Thunderbird and Corvette.

AMD may have more difficulty than Intel in establishing its "Socket A" package. It is currently whipping up the enthusiasm of chipset manufacturers for introducing "Slot A"-compatible chipsets, and now will have to bring them on board for the new socketed parts.

But AMD says the move to Socket A will be less challenging than the switch to Slot A was. "There are some compelling cost and technology reasons to move to the socketed architecture, and our infrastructure partners are behind us in doing that," said AMD's UK marketing director, Robert Stead.

Microprocessors will continue to integrate more and more components onto the die, leading to simpler and faster PCs, say industry analysts. For example, Timna, the code name for Intel's next-generation low-cost chip, will integrate the CPU, graphics controller and memory, creating what has been called a "system on a chip".

"In five to seven years, there will be much simpler devices than what we have on the market today," said Sami Pohjolainen, analyst with Dataquest. "They will be even more highly integrated, driving the price point down, and making products simpler to use."

Take me back to Part I

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