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Intel exec responds to Nvidia smear

Intel and Nvidia exchange sharp words about smartphones as their rivalry intensifies.

Intel and Nvidia are exchanging barbs (again), after Nvidia's CEO made disparaging remarks about Intel processors in a recent interview.

The tension between the two companies has been heating up as the rivalry intensifies. The Silicon Valley neighbors are now competing on a growing number of fronts: laptop graphics chips, smartphone silicon, and supercomputing processors. Intel and Nvidia are also in the throes of a legal dispute that bars Nvidia from building chipsets for Intel's latest generation of processors.

The latest tiff began when Nvidia's CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, was asked about the prospects for Intel's new "Moorestown" Z6 series of Atom processors in a recent interview with His response was not pretty. "You could give an elephant a diet but it's still an elephant," he said, implying that Intel Atom processors are too big and too power hungry to be viable in smartphones.

On Wednesday an Intel executive shot back. Anand Chandrasekher, a senior vice president, speaking at a Barclays Capital conference that was streamed on the Web, cited Huang's comment, then said: "The famous Jen-Hsun...needs to get his facts straight and he needs to get his math checked."

Chandrasekher continued. "(Intel) can hit the power consumption of a smartphone. It's not a matter of a physical limit. It is not a matter of a lack of design ingenuity. It is simply a matter of focus and psychology. Up until now, we didn't target the power levels of the smartphone using x86," he said, referring to Intel's chip architecture. And he added that Intel had achieved a "50X" reduction in power with Moorestown.

Chandrasekher, however, admitted that the Moorestown chip is just a starting point for Intel. Along these lines, he addressed the chip that follows Moorestown called "Medfield." Chandrasekher expects Medfield to be more viable because it is based on Intel's advanced 32-nanometer technology. (Moorestown uses the less-advanced 45 nanometer technology.) "Thirty-two nanometer is the one that we think will have more designs than our current 45 nanometer offering. Forty-five nanometer will open the door and get the door swinging, if you will," he said, adding that Medfield will be more integrated than Moorestown.

Intel is also weighing its option in "baseband" chips, he said. Baseband chips are currently made by companies like Qualcomm, ST-Ericsson, and Infineon, and deliver the 3G capability in smartphones. Intel does not currently make baseband chips and therefore cannot integrate this feature into its processors or chipsets. "The approach we're taking to baseband is partnering with Infineon and ST-Ericsson," Chandrasekher said. Intel has also licensed 3G technology from Nokia but has not decided how it will implement that yet, he said.