Intel teases microarchitecture collaboration with Samsung

The two companies have formed a joint team committed to developing components for future Samsung devices

Intel and Samsung stickers on a desktop PC

Intel and Samsung will establish a joint engineering team to collaborate on components to be fitted into future Samsung hardware, including a new form of microarchitecture reliant on different kinds of "XPU cores".

This co-engineering partnership is an extension of the existing collaboration between the two firms and will foster the development of unique PC designs that fall under the Samsung Galaxy branding. This comes as Samsung has launched two new enterprise-grade devices, including the Samsung Galaxy Pro and Samsung Galaxy Pro 360.

The team will work on “more personalised computing” by integrating artificial intelligence (AI) technology, as well as building a better capacity for users to work and share content across all kinds of devices.

Intel also plans to build a microarchitecture that makes use of “multiple types of XPU cores”. Although specific details are scarce, we do know the microarchitecture will fall under Intel's previously established XPU strategy, meaning the new component would likely manifest as a combination of various other core units, including CPUs and GPUs, as well as FPGAs, bundled into a single architecture.

“The level of engineering vision needed to convert such ideas into actual products is only possible through collaboration,” said Gregory M Bryant, Intel's executive vice president and general manager of the client computing group.

“Intel’s ability to scale and create with innovative partners like Samsung is what excites our teams. Match that excitement with the wave of digitization we’re all experiencing, and I cannot wait to see how we make computing even more purposeful.”

The references to working across multiple devices also raise the prospect of Intel developing chipsets for future Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Samsung currently uses custom Arm-based Exynos chips for devices such as the high-end Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, as well as mid-level Samsung Galaxy A90.

The partnership is certainly a win for Intel following news that Alienware is launching AMD-powered gaming laptops for the first time in over a decade. While Intel chips are still embedded across the broader Dell portfolio, for the most part, it’s still a bruising blow for the industry giant. Apple, too, distanced itself from Intel last year after committing to manufacturing iMacs fitted with its own custom Arm-based CPUs.

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Intel, for years, retained an effective monopoly over the CPUs fitted into mainstream devices. After years of this near-exclusivity with a number of device manufacturing partners, however, viable alternatives are emerging and many are looking elsewhere, whether this comes in the form of components made by its competitor, AMD, or in-house designs.

This extended collaboration with Samsung will be seen as a win for Intel's new CEO Pat Gelsinger, as the firm tries to turn around what has been a rocky 2020. Beyond a significant delay to its 7nm CPU and departure of its chief engineering officer, Dr Murthy Renduchintala, Nvidia overtook the firm as the most valuable US chipmaker last year.

 The engineering collaboration, however, represents an opportunity for Intel to stay relevant and stake its claim once again to be the go-to manufacturer for core computing components. This is true especially in light of the launch of its ‘IDM 2.0’ strategy, which is now underway as Gelsinger attempts to revitalise the business.

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