Vendors in the PC and chip industries moved boldly in 2006, changing the marketplace map through mergers, recalls, layoffs and lawsuits. Oh, and they launched some impressive new products too, keeping Moore's Law moving as they built smaller, faster chips and cooler, more efficient computers. Here, in chronological order, we share a sampling of the biggest events of the past 12 months.
Apple releases Macs that run on Intel chips
Apple Computer Inc. in January sells its first Mac PCs that run on chips from Intel Corp. instead of IBM Corp. and Motorola Inc. chips, fulfilling a promise made in June 2005. Apple substitutes Intel's Core Duo chip for the PowerPC and G4 chips in its iMac and 15-inch MacBook Pro, soon followed by the Mac mini and 13-inch MacBook. The move also lets Apple expand from its own operating system. In April, Apple launches its Boot Camp software, enabling Intel-based Macs to run their choice of Apple's OS X or Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP.
AMD announces ATI acquisition
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) announces a plan in July to buy Canadian graphics chip vendor ATI Technologies Inc. for US$5.4 billion. Integrating its processors with ATI's chipsets would allow AMD to sell platforms of integrated technologies, competitive with Intel bundles like Centrino, Viiv and VPro, analysts say. Another effect of the merger is to leave Nvidia Corp. as the only independent graphics chip vendor in the market. By November, Nvidia also says it will expand, paying $357 million to buy PortalPlayer, a maker of semiconductors for digital music players.
Battery recall begins
Dell Inc. recalls 4.1 million notebook PC batteries in August as a growing number of customers report they could short-circuit, causing some to overheat and catch fire. Within days, other vendors join the recall, leading to 8.1 million recalls of the lithium ion cells manufactured by Sony Corp. Other PC vendors affected by the largest recall in consumer electronics history include Apple, Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi Ltd., Lenovo Group Ltd. and Toshiba Corp.
Intel reorganizes, lays off thousands
In September, Intel lays off 10,500 workers -- about 10 percent of the workforce -- as Chief Executive Paul Otellini enacts a promised reorganization that has already included the sale of its media and signaling business, the firing of 1,000 executives, and the sale of its XScale smartphone chip division. Otellini blames slowing growth in the PC market when he predicts Intel's annual profits will reach only $9.3 billion for 2006, down from $12.1 billion in 2005. Analysts point out that Intel had also lost revenue by slashing prices on its chips in an effort to slow gains in market share by rival AMD.
DOJ investigates SRAM market