Third Point LLC, an activist hedge fund, is urging Intel to make changes to address its falling status in the chipmaking industry.
Once the undisputed leader in chipmaking, Intel’s processors were used in everything from mobile devices to PCs to servers. Unfortunately for the company, it failed to keep up with changes in the industry, especially with the rise of mobile processing.
Designed by Arm Holdings, ARM chips are known for their outstanding performance to power consumption ratio. ARM-based chips power iPhones, iPads, Android devices and, most recently, computers. In the case of Apple’s Mac platform, the ARM-based M1 offers superior performance to comparable Intel chips while using a fraction of the energy. The result are machines that run cooler and have much longer battery life.
Intel, in contrast, has struggled to offer that winning combination of performance and efficiency. The company struggled to move to 7nm processors, has had issues keeping up with demand and been plagued with “unfixable” security issues. The company has also lost some of its best engineers, including Jim Keller and Murthy Renduchintala.
To make matters worse, AMD has been chipping away at some of Intel’s stronghold markets, especially with its Ryzen line of chips. The Ryzen 3000 took aim at the desktop, the 4000 series made headway in the mobile market and the 5000 is challenging Intel in the gaming market. Meanwhile, the Threadripper Pro is challenging Intel’s server dominance.
Intel’s issues have reached the point where the company is even considering outsourcing its chip production.
Third Point CEO Daniel Loeb wrote to Intel’s chairman, Omar Ishrak, urging the company to take action to address its issues, according to Reuters.
“Without immediate change at Intel, we fear that America’s access to leading-edge semiconductor supply will erode, forcing the U.S. to rely more heavily on a geopolitically unstable East Asia to power everything from PCs to data centers to critical infrastructure and more,” Loeb wrote.
One of the suggested remedies was “separating its chip design from its semiconductor fabrication plant manufacturing operations, according to the sources. This could include a joint venture in manufacturing, according to the sources.”
It’s unclear if Intel will respond, although Third Point’s nearly $1 billion stake in Intel could make it hard to ignore. Either way, one thing is clear: Intel must figure out a way to turn its business around before it’s too late.