Intel rolls while Rambus and MIPS reel

Intel processor shipments surge, while Rambus and MIPS--which don't have their own chip fabrication facilities--restructure.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Being fabless isn't so hip these days.

Rambus and MIPS Technologies are both chip companies that don't have their own chip fabrication facilities. Intel does. Perhaps not coincidentally, Rambus and MIPS are restructuring, while Intel's business is coasting on top of surging processor shipments.

Both Rambus and MIPS, which make a living off licensing intellectual property for chips, announced layoffs this week. Intel, meanwhile, is selling lots of its tiny Atom processors and seeing processor shipments surge overall.

Rambus said Thursday that it will reduce its workforce by approximately 90 positions and will take a restructuring charge of approximately $4 million in the next two quarters. Earlier in the week, MIPS announced a restructuring charge it estimates at between $4 million and $5.5 million, and layoffs of its own: 15 percent of its 512 employees. "We believe the market continues to show signs of softness," MIPS said in a statement.

Don't tell that to Intel. IDC released a report this week showing that Intel processor shipments were up 20.8 percent in the second quarter over the same period last year. Intel market share also crept up by 0.9 percent in the second quarter, bringing it to 79.7 percent, according to IDC.

And sales of Intel's Atom processors are exceeding expectations, according to Reuters. The report quotes Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith, who said that "Atom is off to a very, very rapid start, far exceeding our expectations when we started the year."

The Atom processor is used in high-profile products such as the Asus Eee PC and Acer Aspire.

Barring major strategic blunders, Intel appears to be on course to make gains in other markets. The company will preview its next-generation "Nehalem" Core i7 chip architecture at the Intel Developer Forum next week. Core i7 processors are due to ship in the fourth quarter.

And Intel is ramping up production of its latest generation of 45-nanometer mobile processors now. New ultra-low-power chips (rumored to appear in the next-generation MacBook Air, among other ultraslim notebooks) are due in September. Also, the chipmaker's first quad-core mobile processor debuted this week in laptops from Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard.