Intel has had a rough go of the last couple of weeks. Following its April 19 earnings report, Intel announced a plan to lay off 12,000 workers, representing about 11% of its workforce. The company also said it would be re-aligning its operations as it transitions from "a PC company to one that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices." We now have word about the product lines under the axe, as well as some clarification of those that aren’t, courtesy of a Forbes.com report.
According to Patrick Moorhead from Forbes, the biggest takeaway from his conversations with Intel is that the company is continuing its focus on the products that TR gerbils will be most concerned with. Moorhead says the company’s bread-and-butter processor lines are not going to feel the cuts very much, as Intel plans to continue focusing on these high-profit products despite slowing growth. This includes desktop and server CPUs, as well as low-power PC parts in the Atom family.
In a statement to Anandtech, however, Intel confirmed that its Broxton SoC is one of the up-and-coming products that's getting the axe. This tablet and smartphone chip would have replaced the Moorefield line of smartphone SoCs released in 2015, most prominently in the Asus Zenfone. ARM processors are playing with home-court advantage in low-power moderate-performance devices, and have put up fierce competition in this space. It is important to note that the cancellation of Broxton doesn’t affect the relatively higher-power Atoms in the Cherry Trail family, Anandtech reports. Those parts power devices like Microsoft's Surface 3 tablet.
Anandtech also got confirmation that Intel’s SoFIA (Smart or Feature Phone with Intel Architecture) SoC is also getting the axe. SoFIA is a heavily integrated x86 SoC that included a 3G radio. It was intended to compete with very low-cost SoCs made for entry-level smartphones and feature phones. Those ecosystems would have been a new market space for x86, and an unusual move for Intel. Even more unusual for Intel, these SoCs would have been fabricated not by Intel in its own fabs, but by TSMC.
Not all of Intel's lowest-power parts are getting cut, though. Forbes reports that the company has reaffirmed its dedication to its Internet of Things efforts. While PC and data center processors are a steady profit center for the company, growth in this space has been slowing for quite some time. Intel told Forbes that it sees the budding IoT market as a potential growth space for a few reasons. The company says the IoT lacks established players, unlike the smartphone and feature phone markets. Intel also figures it has a platform advantage in this space, thanks to the ubiquity of x86 PCs as endpoints and servers.
All told, this news sounds like a silver lining for enthusiasts. While job and product cuts are never good news, we're cautiously optimistic to see Intel's continued commitment to the server and PC CPU space.