Big Blue Has Intel on Its Mind

Watch stocks you care about

The single, easiest way to keep track of all the stocks that matter...

Your own personalized stock watchlist!

It's a 100% FREE Motley Fool service...

Click Here Now

It's a small world, after all -- and it's only getting smaller.

International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM  ) just produced the first SRAM chip -- a simple sort of high-speed computer memory -- on a new 22-nanometer manufacturing process. To put that achievement into perspective, you could fit more than three thousand of these minuscule chip components across the width of your average strand of human hair.

It's just a proof of concept at this point, but will translate to full-scale processor production by 2011, according to Big Blue and its research partners at Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) , Toshiba, STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM  ) , and Freescale. Before making that leap, chipmakers will make a stop at 32nm in 2009 or 2010. IBM confidently boasts that "no other company or consortium can match" its high-tech 32nm technology; that's a not-too-subtle jab at semiconductor titan Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , which has similar process improvements of its own under development.

These advances are important, because they drive the seemingly neverending progress of faster and more capable processors, lower power draws, and cheaper manufacturing. For now, we're stuck with a mixture of 45nm and 65nm microchips powering everything from Dell's (Nasdaq: DELL  ) servers and laptops to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) computers and handheld gadgets.

We've come a long way from the 800nm chip traces of the 486 era, and we're getting close to the theoretical limits of smallness. My physicist friends tell me they'd be between 5nm and 10nm, thanks to quantum effects, X-ray laser wavelength issues, the size of a silicon atom, and other really cool limitations. That's "cool" in a pocket-protector kind of way, of course, and the semi dudes are already doing an end-run around some of the problems by focusing on multicore processors, rather than just cramming more functionality and performance into each core.

It's way too early to call the race to 22nm today, even with working silicon in the IBM consortium's labs. But keep an eye on this space over the next couple of years, and we'll figure out the next-generation winners together.

Further Foolishness:


Intel and Dell are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is an AMD shareholder but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is the smallest biggest thing you've ever pointed an electron microscope at. At which you've ever ... oh, you get it.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 710818, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/23/2016 8:28:57 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 1 day ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,145.71 -16.64 -0.09%
S&P 500 2,141.16 -0.18 -0.01%
NASD 5,257.40 15.57 0.30%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/21/2016 4:01 PM
IBM $149.63 Down -1.89 -1.25%
IBM CAPS Rating: ****
AAPL $116.60 Down -0.46 -0.39%
Apple CAPS Rating: ****
AMD $6.52 Down -0.44 -6.32%
Advanced Micro Dev… CAPS Rating: **
DELL.DL $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
Dell CAPS Rating: *
INTC $35.15 Down -0.28 -0.79%
Intel CAPS Rating: ****
STM $8.06 Down -0.02 -0.25%
STMicroelectronics CAPS Rating: ****