A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Intel's
Yesterday, company officials announced that they had created, in partnership with researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a new silicon-based computer chip capable of processing laser beams.
This might not sound like much, but it's actually a big deal. This latest development will enable lightning-fast, high-speed data communication between computer chips, and suggests the No. 1 computer chip manufacturer may be on track to get its groove back.
Although lasers are already used to transmit vast amounts of information over long distances via fiber-optic cables, problems occur when that same information must then be sent between separate chips within a computer -- a sensation perhaps not unlike slowing down on an exit ramp after speeding down a highway.
Previously, the only way it was possible to rapidly transfer large amounts of data between chips was to get a laser light from a silicon photonic chip somehow. This was no easy task because it required either aligning a pre-fabricated laser directly onto the chip or, alternatively, placing an external high-powered laser somewhere outside the chip. Both approaches were expensive and impractical for high-volume production.
This latest development -- which was achieved by bonding a special material to a standard chip that had special channels etched on it to act as light-wave guides -- makes it possible for hundreds and maybe even thousands of tiny lasers to be switched on and off billions of times a second.
The first market for these chips will most likely be high-end computer servers. Presently, Google
So far, it has not been practical for wireless devices to readily and efficiently access this data. The new silicon photonic chips overcome this shortcoming and portend a new era of high-performance computing.
For example, the new chips could do everything from seamlessly transferring large data packs of information between mobile devices to processing powerful video graphics on a cell phone. Such applications would also fuel demand.
Although Intel officials were careful to stress that the chips were "far from being a commercial product" (it's unlikely they could reach the market before 2011), the news offers me yet another reason to believe Intel remains a sound long-term investment.
It also suggests that the company is once again focused like a laser on transforming cutting-edge innovation into real, commercial products -- and that's the most important news for long-term investors.
Interested in other reasons why I'm bullish on Intel? Check out these articles:
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