Engineer Behind ‘Nehalem’ First-Gen Core Processors Returns to Intel

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The Intel engineer who helped design the first-generation “Nehalem” Core processors is returning to the company as it faces an uphill battle in the processor wars. 

On Wednesday, Intel senior fellow Glenn Hinton announced he was coming out of retirement to return to the chipmaker, where he previously worked for 35 years. “What would entice me to do something like that? I will be working on an exciting high performance CPU project,” Hinton wrote on his LinkedIn account. 

Hinton also cited Intel’s decision to hire incoming CEO Pat Gelsinger as another reason he opted to come back. Gelsinger spent over 30 years at Intel, becoming its first chief technology officer before moving on to become head of cloud computing provider VMWare. 

Hinton's postdelays with its 10-nanometer and 7nm manufacturing processes has opened the door for rival AMD to win over PC consumers with the company’s latest Ryzen 5000 series chips. Meanwhile, Apple has begun ditching Intel silicon for its own ARM-based processors in the latest MacBooks

Why Intel is losing the processor wars may have to do with talent, according to the hedge fund Third Point. “The company has lost many of its most inspiring and talented chip designers and leaders, and our sources indicate that those who remain (several of whom are highly regarded in the industry) are becoming increasingly demoralized by the status quo,” the hedge fund’s CEO, Daniel Loeb, wrote in a scathing letter to Intel management last month. 

So the return of Hinton should be a good sign for Intel. He’s best known for architecting the first-generation Core processors, codenamed Nehalem, which launched in 2008. Hinton was also an architect on the Pentium 4 processors over two decades ago.  

But don’t expect any immediate changes with Intel’s chip technologies. The design process goes through years of R&D and testing. In the short-term, Intel is mulling over whether to stick with its own chip manufacturing processes or outsource the production to a third-party foundry such as TSMC or Samsung in order to stay competitive. That’s sparked rumors that Intel is already planning on using TSMC to produce upcoming Core i3 chips in 2021.

January 21, 2021
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