AMD v Intel: Oil money and hafnium

New twists in the long-running battle between the two biggest chipmakersFaster chips are the fuel of the computer industry. So the announcement on November 16th that Mubadala Development, an investment arm of oil-rich Abu Dhabi, would pay about $622m for 8.1% of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), a leading maker of microprocessors, seems somehow fitting. The deal is an unexpected twist in the race between AMD and Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, in which Intel is again making the running.For a while it seemed that AMD had pulled ahead of Intel in chip design. It devised a clever way to enable chips to handle data in both 32-bit and 64-bit chunks, which Intel reluctantly adopted in 2004. And in 2005 AMD launched a new processor that split the number-crunching between two “cores”, the brains of a chip, thus boosting performance and reducing energy-consumption. But Intel came back strongly with its own dual-core designs.This month Intel began shipping its new family of “Penryn” processors, some of which have four cores.

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