Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is eager to restore his company’s leadership in the rapidly changing semiconductor industry. At Intel Innovation 2023, an annual developer conference, on Sept. 19, Gelsinger touted several upcoming processors that he claimed would outperform any rival products, including those designed by Apple (AAPL), an old client and now competitor.
The big reveal at Tuesday’s event was Meteor Lake, Intel’s 14th-generation personal computer chip packed with the company’s latest technologies, including an A.I. coprocessor inside the CPU, which enables robust processing, graphics and A.I. performance. Meteor Lake will go on sale on December 14, Intel announced.
Gelsinger also introduced Meteor Lake’s successors, including Arrow Lake and Lunar Lake, set to arrive in 2024, and an under-development chip codenamed Panther Lake, expected to be available by 2025.
What makes a chipmaker superior to others? Intel said it measures its chip performance against rivals on three speed tests within a fixed power budget: central processing units (CPUs), graphics processing units (GPUs), and neural processing units (GPUs). CPUs are widely used for general computing and the latter two are primarily used to run A.I. models.
“We look at the aggregate capability that we’re delivering between those three, and we think these platforms get very competitive, the best that Mac or anybody else offers,” Gelsinger said. “We’re feeling very, very good about the road map.”
For 15 years until 2020, Intel was a key supplier to Apple, producing chips used in Mac computers. But three years ago, Apple made the decision to switch to its own custom M series processors, which were already used in iPhones, iPads and the Apple Watch.
Apple’s in-house chips have proven to be better. Sales of Mac computers soared in 2021 following the processor update. And Apple’s M1 and M2 chips have earned praise for fast speed and long battery life. Those chips were designed by Apple engineers and manufactured by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.
There are three types of chipmakers: “You’re big, you’re niche or you’re dead,” Gelsinger said. “Intel is way too big to be niche, so we’d better be really big.”
Intel makes personal computer processors, server chips and networking products. Its computer chip revenue declined sharply in recent quarters due to a weak demand for PCs. Like many chipmaker CEOs, Gelsinger is betting his future on A.I.
At Tuesday’s event, Intel also showed off its Xeon processors designed to power data centers run by tech giants like Google and Meta. Intel said Stability AI, the company behind popular A.I. image generator Stable Diffusion, has agreed to purchase an Intel Gaudi A.I. supercomputer powered by Xeon processors.