April 16, 2007 4:04 AM PDT

Intel R&D on slow boat to China

BEIJING--Intel may be plunging ahead with manufacturing plans in China, but its research-and-development arm isn't moving at quite the same pace.

Engineers at labs in Beijing and Shanghai are working on important research into areas such as parallel programming tools and terascale computing. But no processors are in development here as of yet, and it may be some time before that happens, said Justin Rattner, who, as Intel's chief technology officer, leads its labs.

Intel is in China this week for its semiannual Intel Developer Forum. The company usually holds these conferences in San Francisco, but it moved the operation overseas this year, in part because of cutbacks to the IDF budget and in part to highlight its growing operations in China, including the recent announcement that it plans to build chips in Dalian later this decade.

Intel's China plant

In addition to chip-packaging plants in Shanghai and Chengdu, Intel currently operates research labs in Beijing and Shanghai. Much of the work there is focused on software development, which might at first glance seem a bit out of sorts for the world's largest chipmaker.

But Intel actually has loads of software developers in China working on things like a replacement for the BIOS (basic input/output system) technology that boots an operating system and compiler technology that helps programmers get ready for processors with multiple cores, Rattner said in an interview before the conference.

Some of the work surrounding Intel's so-called terascale research--most recently showcased through its 80-core chip prototype--is also being done at the company's Beijing labs, Rattner said. For example, Chinese researchers are working on applications that can harness the power of 80 separate processing cores--something today's applications and programming techniques can't handle.

Striving for parity in education
Even though the company plans to build chips in China, consumers should not expect Intel's next processor design to emerge from the country, Rattner said.

Justin Rattner Justin Rattner

"The fab announcement in Dalian is certainly an indication that we're willing to do more in China, but we're trying to pace ourselves," he said.

Part of the problem is that the Chinese educational system isn't up to par with the American university system, Rattner said. The Ph.D. students whom Intel has hired in China don't have the same level of expertise that its United States-trained engineers have.

Several engineers have gone to the United States to learn, then have returned to China to work in Intel's labs, Rattner said, but until Chinese computer science programs are as good as those in the States, Intel's research expansion into China will probably be gradual, he said.

This is something Intel is working on, said Tan Wee Theng, president of Intel China. The company is spending a lot of time and money working with the local university education system on science and technology education.

When Intel announced plans to set up a plant in Dalian, it also set up a program with the local university to focus on electrical engineers and computer science, he said.

Intel has been more aggressive with research and development in India. Much of the design work for its 80-core processor prototype was done in Bangalore, and Intel India actually came up with a processor design, called Whitefield that, while it never saw the light of day, was based on design principles that Intel plans to incorporate into its Nehalem generation of processors next year.

And the role of Intel's Israeli chip design operation in turning around the company's fortunes this decade cannot be overstated.

In the earlier part of this decade, the company's Oregon research labs had led Intel down a development path that focused on fast single-core processors. But overheating concerns forced Intel to seek an alternative path to increasing performance, and that solution came from Intel's Israeli labs in the form of the Banias design--known to the world as the Pentium M.

Still, Rattner has been impressed with the work coming out of Intel's China operation. More and more work could be headed that way, but the above concerns--plus the export controls that prevent cutting-edge chipmaking technology from being taken into China--will keep the most critical projects out of the country for some time to come.

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17 comments

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Any data
Any data sent overseas for R&D is always 100% completely compromised.

Did everyone already forget about the hughes rocket launching technology stolen in China.

Saving money over lost IP is a no win solution.
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
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History?
Are there any cases of Intel losing IP in the past?
Posted by Mekta (9 comments )
Link Flag
More lost jobs for americans
Intel ought to be called a chinese company.I refuse to buy any intel products and wont buy them in the future.All these companies should be fined for taking our jobs away.Intel forgets where it got its start and one day will pay for that.
Posted by videoluvr (5 comments )
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More Jobs Lost
Let's see I believe Intel has at least 8 Fabs in the US and R&D facilities, and AMD makes all their chips where, oh yeah I think it is Germany
Posted by LarryT2467 (2 comments )
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<3 Patriots
Right, so an international company can't decide where it wants to move one of its fabs? Sorry, but that's the way it goes. American companies such as Ford, who have bought up foreign companies and then moved their factories away from their "home" countries, thus cutting thousands of jobs in the search for cheaper labour have done that same thing; so I'm afraid your squeeky clean country is far from it.
Posted by Mekta (9 comments )
Link Flag
Eh? They're talking ab't expansion, not relocation.
Intel is a growing company, with lots of diverse projects going on at once... which means plenty of room for growth.

The China chip plant is for producing 90-65nm processors, leaving space to build all the 45nm tech here in the US. Export restrictions will keep the really high-end stuff from reaching China, and there's plenty to do w/ other projects here in the US besides.

If you're that worried about your job going overseas, then perhaps making yourself more marketable and indispensible is the answer? Seriously - nobody owes you (or me, or anyone else) a job.

Meanwhile, given the fact that more and more companies who have outsourced before are moving most of their operations back home, I believe that it's all balancing out in either case (ever try to deal with overseas contractors? a dozen timezones, cultural/language differences, negative customer base response to heavily-accented and barely understandable tech support, low QA results, plus constantly slipped deadlines are only part of the reasons why...)

[i]"I refuse to buy any intel products and wont buy them in the future."[/i]

While you're at it, throw out your iPod (made in China), any AMD processors you may have (ditto), and well... your whole computer (the RAM likely came out of either Japan or Taiwan, the hard drives from Taiwan or China, the mobos out of Taiwan, various other parts from all about the Pacific Rim... you get the idea).

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
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Not enough americans for the job
The US is not producing enough engineers or computer scientists to fill the job positions. Enrollment in electrical and computer engineering programs is stagnating.

Of course, if there were enough qualified people in the US, it wouldn't totally prevent jobs from going elsewhere. It's just a reality of the global market -- you must accept both sides of the medal.
Posted by dysonl (151 comments )
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Why is it even necessary?
This hits close to home as I live in the Phoenix area. Intel has a massive R&#38;D facility here just outside Phoenix in Chandler. Seems that Intel has been doing just fine with it's current R&#38;D setup, so why is an eventual move to China even necessary? One of the schools in Chandler has the highest math test scores in the nation because so many of the engineers and scientists have their children enrolled there. Why mess up a good thing for the benefit of China? Let them develop their own high tech. When these brilliant kids graduate, will there still be Intel jobs here for them?
Posted by C_G_K (169 comments )
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China is beccomming a force to be reckoned with and is very inventive
Yep thats why
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
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The REAL reason why Intel will move to China
All the best researchers in the top positions are Chinese. Instead of importing the talent, they can go straight to the source.

Feminists lowered standards so girls can make the grade, and as a result delivers very low quality talent.

Feminism is based on hate and is MISANDRIST!
Learn about Misandry!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misandry" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misandry</a>
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misandry" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misandry</a>
Posted by nabilzariffa2 (5 comments )
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Welcome to Walmart
Another company builds a 'super-facility' in China.

Here in U.S. - we build Super Walmarts and Mini-Malls. Where will this lead us?
Posted by theitdude (10 comments )
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