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IBM commits $3B to advanced chip R&D

Though its struggling chip manufacturing unit is reportedly on the block, IBM is committing $3B over 5 years to develop new chip technologies.

Big Blue's efforts will focus on pushing the limits of Moore's Law - whereas transistor widths are currently down to 14nm, IBM will explore ways to bring them to 7nm or less in time - and on commercializing unconventional materials and technologies.

The materials/technologies in question include carbon nanotubes, silicon photonics, graphene, and quantum computing. Intel, H-P, and Nokia are among the companies exploring one or more of those fields.

Even if its chip manufacturing unit gets sold, IBM is likely to continue designing chips for its own hardware (for example, its Power server CPUs). The company has also built up a lucrative IP licensing business that partly relies on chip-related IP.

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Comments (8)
    , contributor
    Comments (4122) | Send Message
    9 Jul 2014, 07:25 PM Reply Like
  • adkinsight
    , contributor
    Comments (8) | Send Message
    Too little! Too late! Simply CYA for the coming announcement of the sale of units/bldgs. in the company's old chip fabrication unit.
    9 Jul 2014, 09:49 PM Reply Like
  • samuraitrader
    , contributor
    Comments (882) | Send Message
    wisest thing that IBM has done in years. let's see what comes of it.
    9 Jul 2014, 07:36 PM Reply Like
  • NLTInvestor
    , contributor
    Comments (355) | Send Message
    ibm needs to put more in R&D as a tech company. like this move.
    9 Jul 2014, 08:56 PM Reply Like
  • mjb0909
    , contributor
    Comments (182) | Send Message
    "Too little too late"?? It is never too late to have your way when you are the only gorilla in the room. I'll stay long with IBM along with Warren Buffett!
    9 Jul 2014, 10:43 PM Reply Like
  • 5970131
    , contributor
    Comments (4) | Send Message
    Data center industry white box trends (Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.) are putting pressure on high end exotic hardware across the industry (not just IBM hardware). Inexpensive white box technology is a difficult value proposition for IBM's customers to justify spending on expensive IBM hardware be it chips or systems.


    IBM's HW system technology group which produces some amazingly innovative and high end technology will not be competitive with white box technology that is cheaply manufactured and increasingly deployed on a larger scale.


    There will be a industry wide large scale consolidation of HW manufacturers and costs will need to be in check as margins shrink with commodity silicon and hardware leading the costs down.


    IBM has historically been very slow to exit unprofitable HW technology businesses. For example IBM continued with ceramic packaging and PCB laminates while the industry trend was favoring cheaper organic packaging and lower cost PCB laminates.


    IBM's chip related IP is also losing steam relative to competition. IBM used to have some of the best serdes in the industry - but the latest technology node serdes offering is less competitive.


    That said, $3B is actually not that much in the grand scheme of wafer fabs below the 20nm node. given the fabrication equipment infrastructure costs. Mask sets alone are several million for a single chip design.


    Services and software will continue to be the profitable aspects of IBM. Buffett who states he does not understand technology will soon figure out the losing proposition of continuing to build high end exotic hardware given the data center industry trends with white box hardware. IBM's services and software can be done with merchant silicon and white box hardware - maybe not to the perfection with IBM's System Technology hardware, but certainly more cost effective.


    How the mighty have fallen.
    9 Jul 2014, 11:52 PM Reply Like
  • jstratt
    , contributor
    Comments (3434) | Send Message
    This is another example of an IBM Marketing strategy being presented as news.


    IBM has allowed customers to doubt whether they are going to be in this business long term and it likely is affecting orders. So PR about an advanced Chip making investment.
    10 Jul 2014, 08:14 AM Reply Like
  • chrisgar
    , contributor
    Comments (80) | Send Message
    Does anyone know if this is actually "new funding."


    IBM has always done a lot of semiconductor R&D -- is this a press announcement of the same thing they have been doing.


    IBM may get out of semiconductor production -- but continue much of the same semiconductor R&D. (at least in near future)


    14 Jul 2014, 03:05 PM Reply Like
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