Intel leans into Nvidia rivalry at tech showcase

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger seemed to have rival chipmaker Nvidia in mind Tuesday as he unveiled new processors for PCs and video games.

Moore’s Law is “alive and healthy,” Gelsinger declared at the Intel Innovation Conference in San Jose, confirming the maxim of company co-founder Gordon Moore, who predicted exponential growth in computing power while prices steadily fell.

Moore’s Law has always been a touchstone for Intel and its executives, but Tuesday’s comments sounded like a direct response to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. Huang declared “Moore’s Law is dead” at his company’s own tech demo last week in response to concerns about the rising cost of gaming chips.

“The idea that the chip will go down in price is a thing of the past,” Huang said after tech writers explained why Nvidia’s new GPUs cost up to $1,600 a piece.

On Tuesday, Gelsinger insisted it doesn’t have to be that way, boasting about a new Intel gaming processor that costs just $329.

Intel is headquartered in California but is Oregon’s largest employer with 22,000 employees in Washington County. Nvidia has a small engineering presence in Washington County. Huang grew up in Oregon and graduated from Aloha High School and Oregon State University.

While Intel is a much larger company than Nvidia, with sales tripled, the two companies have gone in opposite directions in Silicon Valley. Intel is losing revenue and market share as Nvidia carves its way into the lucrative data center market, an industry previously dominated by Intel.

And while Intel has lost its technological lead after a series of manufacturing delays in recent years, Nvidia – which outsources its production – has been producing increasingly advanced chips that beat Intel’s by several benchmarks.

After years of rapid revenue and earnings growth, Nvidia now has a market value three times that of Intel.

On Tuesday, however, Gelsinger seemed keen to go head-to-head with Nvidia and other tech rivals — though without naming any.

“We’re the company that’s bringing silicon to Silicon Valley,” Gelsinger said. He stated that Intel is on track to deliver five new generations of chip technology in four years and introduced a new range of desktop and laptop processors.

However, the slowdown undercuts Gelsinger’s turnaround plans. Intel slashed its revenue guidance in July amid slowing PC demand, and there are signs that both the PC and data center markets continued to cool over the summer.

Intel’s developer conference on Tuesday was an attempt to reignite enthusiasm for the company’s lineup. Former CEO Brian Krzanich scrapped the long-running Intel Developer Forum in 2017, arguing that it became obsolete as the chipmaker moved away from its focus on PCs.

On Tuesday at the revived and rebranded Intel Innovation Conference, Gelsinger had the opposite message. His presentation focused on Intel’s 13th generation of its Core PC chips, which Gelsinger described as “the fastest and best desktop processor ever built in history”.

To wrap up Tuesday’s keynote speech, Gelsinger was joined on stage by Linus Torvalds, the Portland software engineer who developed the open-source Linux operating system. The two remembered a PC Torvalds used in 1991 when he was seeding the Linux kernel, running an Intel 386 processor.

Torvalds received the first Intel Innovation Award from Gelsinger. Unsaid but not unnoticed: Torvalds is a longtime Intel ally who has harshly – and profanely – criticized Nvidia for chip designs he believes are Linux-unfriendly.

– Mike Rogoway | [email protected] | 503-294-7699 | Twitter: @rogow |

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