Intel to acquire small chipmaker eASIC

Intel said on Thursday that it plans to acquire eASIC, a small chipmaker that will help further Intel’s efforts to diversify away from CPU chips.
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Intel did not disclose financial terms of the deal for eASIC, which is based in Intel’s hometown of Santa Clara, California.

About 120 people would join Intel’s programmable solutions group as a result of the acquisition, said Daniel McNamara, corporate vice president and general manager of the Programmable Solutions Group at Intel Corporation.

Reuters reported that the programmable chip group grew out of Intel’s $16.7 billion acquisition of chipmaker Altera in 2015, one of Intel’s moves to expand its revenue base as the market for personal computers, and Intel’s best-known CPU chips, declined.

Altera specialized in field programmable chips, which aim to solve one of oldest problems in computing – the balance between carrying out computing operations in software running on top of a general-purpose chip like Intel’s CPUs, versus baking those operations directly into the silicon of a custom chip.

With the eASIC deal, Intel will have yet another option. If a customer has a favorite way to set up Intel’s programmable chips, that program can be frozen into the chip at the factory, getting a little closer to the benefits of a fully custom chip but without much extra cost.

“Instead of getting programmed in the field, it gets programmed in the factory. It still costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you get it done in four months as opposed to two years,” Dan McNamara told Reuters.

While Intel designs all of current programmable chip lineup, it uses its own foundries to physically manufacture the most advanced models but Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co for lower-end ones.

TSMC and GlobalFoundries are currently manufacturing the chips from eASIC. Intel said it has not yet taken any decision about whether Intel will start manufacturing eASIC’s chips.