Intel/Altera deal is done

June 01, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
In contrast to certain other recent merger-and-acquisition activity in the semiconductor sector – where it might well have been said, "we didn’t see that deal coming," the very public negotiations between Intel and Altera have now been concluded and Intel is to acquire Altera for $54 per share.

In recent years FPGA has become the lead technology for foundries to drive forward advanced process nodes – an exception being Intel with its aggressive push into finfet technologies. Altera has been outlining product plans at 20nm and delivering product at 28nm; Intel is some way ahead of that timeline, with product being delivered at 14nm. Which makes the phrase about “design and manufacturing improvements” in the following paragraph from Intel’s statement, of some interest.

“The acquisition will couple Intel’s leading-edge products and manufacturing process with Altera’s leading field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology . The combination is expected to enable new classes of products that meet customer needs in the data center and Internet of Things (IoT) market segments. Intel plans to offer Altera’s FPGA products with Intel Xeon processors as highly customised, integrated products. The companies also expect to enhance Altera’s products through design and manufacturing improvements resulting from Intel’s integrated device manufacturing model.”

Offering Xeon cores as - presumably – hard (diffused) cores on Altera devices will be in addition to the existing offerings of ARM cores - and Altera’s own Nios IP. It has been known that the two companies have already been cooperating on incorporating programmable functionality closely coupled to Intel’s processors – for example, to flexibly accelerate specific algorithms in the data centre domain. The announcement hints that product along those lines may not be far away. The combined company will also allow Intel to continue its push into the communications space, out of its strength in the data centre/server market: into an area in which the programmable logic makers have enjoyed considerable success.

Less commented on is Altera’s Enpirion power business – Altera regarded the aspect of supplying power to the FPGA core as so key that it bought a company specialising in that area. The same sector is also dear to Intel’s heart, a factor that may be alluded to when the companies’