AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) currently occupies second place in the PC and server processor business after Intel. The field was narrowed to two because of the enormous investment required to manufacture processors. Ten years ago, a company could build a silicon fabrication plant for $2-3 billion, but now the cost is closer to $10-12 billion. And as the lithography decreases in size, the required investment will only become larger. AMD's market share historically ranged between 5% and 20%, with many people believing that Intel refrained from crushing AMD only to avoid being charged with anti-trust violations.
But Intel is not a powerhouse in all areas of the processor business, as Qualcomm has 64% of the global cellular baseband chip market and 51% of the smartphone applications processor market. Other players in this market include HiSilicon (owned by Chinese Huawei), MediaTek (a Taiwanese spin-off from United Microelectronics Corporation), Marvell (a top supplier of SSD controllers), and Samsung. After trying and failing for a decade to dominate the mobile market, Intel is eliminating 12,000 jobs, and that in a twelve-month period which witnessed the loss of 72,333 jobs in the tech sector. Intel declared that its new focus will be on the cloud, but it's already a major player in that arena, having 95% market share in enterprise servers and more than that in enterprise cloud. Intel will also focus on the IoT (Internet of Things), the realm of chatty lawnmowers, eavesdropping televisions, come-hither baby monitors, gossipy oxygen monitors, tattletale mattresses, vincible buildings, and perceptive penis rings. AMD, on the other hand, does not intend to enter the IoT market, though it is betting heavily on corporate data centers.
The push to migrate everything to the cloud will result in Big Data firms having access to your entire online life, quite a price to pay for access to music, videos, and data via any platform around the world. You are the product being sold, not the customer.
The computer business is dog-eat-dog -- just ask CDC, RCA, Honeywell, Sperry Univac, Burroughs, and GE, all of which were former computer manufacturers -- and so AMD farmed out its fabrication business in 2009 with the creation of GlobalFoundries to manufacture its processors, making AMD a fabless manufacturer, unlike Intel which still controls its processors from beginning to end. AMD did this to obtain some much-needed cash to continue its business.
AMD filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Intel in the 2004 to 2009 time frame for Intel's monopolist behavior, along with the European Commission and graphics chip maker Nvidia. Intel eventually settled for $1.25 billion to AMD, $1.45 billion to the European Commission, and $1.5 billion to Nvidia. After GlobalFoundaries was created, Intel threatened to terminate AMD's license to manufacture x86 processors because GlobalFoundaries did not necessarily inherit the licensing agreement.
In October 2014, AMD announced that the Taiwan-born Lisa Su, who joined AMD in January 2012, would become President and CEO.
Last June AMD was reportedly considering breaking up the company. Last September, AMD split its graphics chip unit into a separate business internally called Radeon Technology Group. Like Intel, it had failed to gain a foothold in the mobile market.
One of the reasons Intel does not have a cash-flow problem is its use of H-1B visas which are used to replace American workers with cheaper foreign ones, mainly from India, with 6% of Intel's U.S. workforce being here on an H-1B visa. Intel depends on them to such an extent that it even has a Director of Immigration Policy, Peter Muller, who advocates not only for more foreign workers, but also for work authorization for their spouses to double the number of lost American jobs. Microsoft, Intel, and Facebook were three of the top-five companies lobbying Congress for more H-1B visas in 2013, with politicians such as Marco Rubio cheerleading the effort. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of H-1B visas are not used for people with advanced skills, with the exact figures being 65,000 for applicants with a B.S. and 20,000 for those with an M.S. or PhD. Not to mention that the H-1B visa program is not attracting the best and brightest workers.
Another myth regarding H-1B visas is that it is illegal to use them to replace Americans. It's not. The law “is designed to make sure you can replace American at will, while making it look like you can't,” said John Miano, an attorney for Washington Alliance of Technology Workers.
Moore's Law is often misquoted, with many people believing that it ordained a doubling of performance every 1-2 years. In truth, Intel's Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors would double every year. In 1975, he revised his estimate to cover a two-year period. The performance increase from Lynnfield (2009) to Sandy Bridge (2011) was 10-50%, hardly a doubling, with most models closer to 10-20% improvement. Moore's Law substantially slowed down with the transition to a 22nm lithography, starting with Ivy Bridge (2012). The transition to 14nm lithography, starting with Broadwell (2014), caused Intel to revise the tick-tock model into a tick-tock-tock one. The transition to 10nm lithography promises to slow it even more.
AMD just announced that it is licensing the design of its new Zen processor and SoC (system-on-chip) technology to THATIC (Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment Co. Ltd.), with little being known regarding THATIC. This is something that Intel has never done, although it has partners in China and Israel, with Intel being the top private employer in Israel with many locations there. Worldwide, Intel has fifteen fabs and GlobalFoundaries has five.
"Intel will give you a black box, but not the keys to the kingdom," Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, said.
The industry press articles that parroted the report from IDG News Service referred to the technology as x86 when in fact that particular technology is owned by Intel (the term "x86" stems from Intel's 16-bit 8086 in 1978 and 32-bit 80386 in 1986). AMD's 64-bit extension of it, x86-64, a/k/a amd64, is more prevalent given that all current PC and server processors support it. Older PCs run x86 software because they have less than 4 GB of memory. Fedora 24 Server, due in June, will drop support for x86 (32-bit) software, CentOS (essentially a less formal, free Red Hat Enterprise Linux) has already dropped support for x86, and many other operating systems are following suit. AMD and Intel are tied together with golden handcuffs given that each licenses the other's IP.
Both AMD and Intel are suffering from the shrinking PC market, though detachable tablets, i.e. tablets that double as laptops, may offer growth in the low single digits. Many people are still using five-year-old Intel Sandy Bridge or AMD era-equivalent Bulldozer and Piledriver processors with an SSD, with the days of PCs being overwhelmed by software a short time after sale long behind us. Intel has not done itself any favors with its naming scheme that mainly insiders appreciate. AMD reported that its Q1 2016 operating loss was $70 million, compared with a Q4 2015 operating loss of $99 million.
One curious thing regarding the licensing arrangement is that Q1 2016 revenue was lower than expected due to lower demand for its graphics chips used in consoles and reduced demand from China. China accounted for 42.2% of AMD’s revenue in 2014. AMD may be betting on past behavior.
The administrations of Bush the Younger and Obama gave hundreds of billions of dollars to ensure that pampered Wall Street executives could continue to purchase luxury cars, yet they failed to see the strategic importance of having the processor business centered in the U.S. and Europe. Having multiple, reliable sources for processors and chipsets is necessary to guarantee that our military and infrastructure hardware does not contain backdoors, whether in the firmware or baked into the silicon.
Another issue regarding the announcement is that it claims that AMD is only transferring high-performance processor technology, but x86-64 architecture is used in servers, desktops, and laptops. Intel licensed x86-64 technology, but now the floodgates will be open for Chinese makers to enter the fray in all price-points of the market. Intel will probably want its day in court regarding the licensing, especially since it dominates the lower end of the market, exactly where a Chinese company would jump into.
The technology transfer to THATIC will actually be under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a national research institution, which means it could be shared with any Chinese company.
AMD should have done its due diligence.
China announced trial runs of its own magnetic levitation train less than two years after the opening of Shanghai's German-designed Transrapid system. The technology required for magnetic levitation trains could not possibly have been developed independently in a two-year period. Chinese engineers were filmed breaking into the Transrapid maintenance room in the middle of the night and taking measurements of the new train.
"Dozens of Chinese manufacturers are shamelessly copying our machines," said Rainer Hundsdörfer, the CEO of Weinig AG, a German company that manufactures machine tools. "And when I point this out to the Chinese in their booths, they're not even embarrassed. On the contrary. They're proud of the quality of their copies and want to know how they can improve them even further," he added, referring to his discovery of copies of his company's products at trade shows.
All of the leading railway companies wanted to do business in China which demanded cutting edge technology to be licensed to Chinese companies. Not surprisingly, China aggregated all of the various technologies to create its own world-class railway company. The Western companies received only a token amount of business, but now, not only are they locked out of the Chinese market, they have to compete world-wide with a company which has better technology.
As Siemens and the other companies discovered, China plays by very different rules. As Der Spiegel noted, "zizhu chuangxin," or "independent innovation," is the Chinese way of describing how Chinese firms further develop foreign technologies.
"Deutsche Bahn thinks first and foremost about Deutsche Bahn, and Siemens first and foremost about Siemens," explained deputy chief engineer of China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock, Lu Renyuan. "But, in China, each person thinks about how we can all advance our nation together."
My first project at Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin, was Autonomous Land Vehicle (ALV), an eight-wheeled truck chassis controlled by artificial intelligence (AI). The government agency sponsoring the work was Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the lead R&D agency for the U.S. military. My task was to write the main real-time control loop which I will refer to as RTCL because I don't remember its official name. All equipment on the vehicle would be controlled by RTCL in a binary sense, i.e. either on or off. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that it had to include a dead man's switch, a mechanism to stop the vehicle if things ran amok, even though the concept was not mentioned anywhere in the requirements handed down by systems engineering. My dead man's switch was actually quite simple; if RTCL ran through a small number of cycles without receiving input from Navigator, the project's name for the AI which would decide in which direction to point the vehicle, it would stop and safe the vehicle. The dead man's switch wasn't strictly necessary for the first test because a safety officer would walk alongside ALV holding a kill-switch attached to the vehicle via a long cord, but it would be essential for subsequent work when the vehicle was truly autonomous.
At the design review, I noted that the dead man's switch was indispensable, as it would be the only thing preventing an out-of-control vehicle from going on a slow-speed rampage. The systems engineering manager -- a jovial fellow who once remarked that none of the women he dated in Colorado knew how to give a proper blowjob -- exclaimed, "Boy, we sure put the right person on this task," with his group having missed such an important requirement. I joked that the vehicle should talk, like the 1928 Porter touring car in My Mother the Car.
The dead man's switch was not the only surprise. The first time the vehicle traveled down the test track of slightly greater than one mile, it ran right off the road and onto the grass, forcing the safety officer to kill the engine. We quickly realized that there was very little contrast between the well-worn road, the dirt shoulder, and the brown grass. So management decided to oil the asphalt to make it as black as possible and paint the grass green. This gave Navigator sufficient contrast so it could determine where the road ended. Besides, Martin Marietta and the Air Force had already dumped so much hydrazine and other noxious chemicals into the ground that a little green paint wouldn't make any difference (the water taps in the small building next to our mobile homes up the hill from the main buildings had signs reading "not potable," with the area being a SuperFund site).
Later I was told that RTCL had been used throughout the life of the project, the only software to do so.
Perhaps others on the project did, but I never dreamed of autonomous cars similar to how Philip K. Dick's androids dreamed of electric sheep. But Google did. Autonomous vehicles, now often called self-driving vehicles, still have many of the same problems.
Volvo's North American CEO, Lex Kerssemakers, became angry as his company's self-driving prototype occasionally displayed recalcitrance during a press event at the Los Angeles Auto Show, saying: "It can't find the lane markings! You need to paint the bloody roads here!"
That's because its AI and associated sensors have trouble distinguishing between the road and the shoulder, and between the various yellow and white painted stripes and dashes. It's not a trivial problem. On a freshly paved and painted road, humans can easily drive down the center of the lane, but as the road wears, even they sometimes have trouble. An estimated 65% of U.S. roads are in poor condition, according to the Department of Transportation, with many parts of the country experiencing snow which temporarily obscures the road, not to mention snowplows which mar the surface by removing lane markings and other road indicators. Ford is testing its self-drivers in snow for these reasons, while Google's next testing venue is in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.
Most of the self-driving has occurred in California, where snow is a rarity, so Google and the other companies have not really tested their vehicles in real-world conditions. That has not stopped some people from making outrageous comments, for example, Chris Urmson, director of self-driving cars at Google, who wants his 11-year-old son to never have to take a driver's test, which is a lot like saying that his son should not learn to swim because he'll probably never be thrown into deep water. But then again, given the high percentage of young people who think nothing of texting while driving, perhaps it is a good idea that the next generation never drives a motor vehicle.
I want to see a self-driver running in one of Denver's summer hailstorms, when the pavement is a mix of water and ice, with visibility for man, beast, and beastly inventions sometimes dropping to just a few meters, not to mention the noise and damage that large ice particles can cause. The sensors of a human are protected by the car's exterior, but a self-driver's sensors are at the mercy of the elements. Not to mention the LIDAR sensors having an electronic cow with thousands of small, constantly changing reflections per second.
An uncommon, but nonetheless possible scenario would be if a criminal or terrorist steps in front of your car holding a weapon pointed your way. With a normal car you can stomp on the gas and aim directly at him. If he moves out of the way, he'll be too busy to shoot at you. If he doesn't move out of the way, well, he knew the job was dangerous when he took it. But with a self-driver, the car will stop and allow him to shoot the passengers and/or carjack the vehicle. The day the car stood still, if you will, when it becomes your ex-machina.
Some people suggest that cars should surrender control to the human in ambiguous cases, but that person will usually be taking a nap, texting, reading, watching a movie, or having sex. People riding mass transit already do these things. Good luck obtaining a quick, lucid response.
But the real issue here is money. Google wants to eliminate drivers because it intends to use passengers to feed Google AdSense. The combination of smart phone data, verbal conversations, and destinations will be a goldmine for Google's advertisers.
In 2012-13, Google was caught red-handed capturing Wi-Fi transmissions as its Google Street View cars traveled around the world. This was not done by accident, it was done intentionally, collecting so-called payload data, which includes names, addresses, telephone numbers, URLs, passwords, e-mail, text messages, medical records, video and audio files, and other information from Internet users. Google paid just $7 million for its actions. It was fined $25,000 by the FCC for "willfully" ignoring subpoenas and delaying investigations.
All of these fines are a slap on the wrist given Google's 2013 earnings of $57.86 billion, the second consecutive year that Google earned over $50 billion in revenue. Leibowitz must not be good at math.
In 2013-14, it was revealed that Google was reading and mining user emails even before users had a chance to read them. Google's legal team desperately wanted to avoid having a single class action suit because then it would be Goliath v. Goliath, instead of mere individuals taking on the 124th largest corporation in the world. Judge Lucy Koh -- the same one who handles Apple v. Samsung lawsuits and LinkedIn lawsuits (here's one regarding excessive emails and here's one regarding blind references) -- eventually gave Google what it wanted and dismissed any notion of a class action lawsuit. Koh, who controls much of the Internet via her rulings, has been nominated to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by Barack Obama
Later in 2015, despite publicly promising not to do so, Google mined the emails of 40 Million K-12 students, collecting the browsing history and other data for use with Google AdSense. This episode proved just how low Google would sink, given that students are often required to use school-approved services. Google knew its actions were unacceptable because it had signed the Student Privacy Pledge, agreement signed by 254 technology companies. The pledge begins with: "We Commit To: 1) Not collect, maintain, use or share student personal information beyond that needed for authorized educational/school purposes, or as authorized by the parent/student. 2) Not sell student personal information."
It's safe to say that the conversational tidbits Google collects in vehicles won't be limited to, "Are we there yet?"
It started in July 1971 with National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger's secret visit to China. Later that month, Richard Nixon wanted to grease the rails for his reelection and announced that he would visit China the following year. Shortly thereafter, in October 1971, we threw Taiwan under the bus and neglected to veto the UN resolution which replaced Taiwan with the PRC. Then in February 1972, Chairman Mao Zedong welcomed Nixon to China, with every president since Nixon stopping by, from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama. George W. Bush was the most frequent traveler, with visits in October 2001, February 2002, November 2005, and August 2008.
The first economic sucker punch to strike was NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which, contrary to popular belief, was created by George H. W. Bush who signed a draft of it in October 1992, but he had to leave it to Bill Clinton to finalize, which he did in two stages, in September and December 1993. Clinton slickly promised: "NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't support this agreement." Daniel Griswold of the libertarian Cato Institute breathlessly declared in July 1998 that NAFTA "has been a success by any measure."
Griswold also opined that "NAFTA and other market reforms softened the severity of the crisis and spurred Mexico's recovery," but to paraphrase from Genesis 4:9, are we our neighboring country's keeper?
Giving PNTR (permanent normal trade relations) to China was next. PTNR, also known as most favored nation status, is a required element of free trade. It was passed in October 2000, almost at the end of Clinton's reign. Once again the Cato Institute stood on the wrong side of the American worker, with Deroy Murdock professing that PNTR "will pressure China from inside and out" and that "Americans will enjoy more Chinese-made apparel and appliances at reasonable prices if PNTR passes." Of course the question we should have asked was, would Americans still have good jobs to purchase those low-quality imports from Walmart, Home Depot and other firms?
The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow cajoled: "The silliest argument against PNTR is that Chinese imports would overwhelm U.S. industry. In fact, American workers are far more productive than their Chinese counterparts ... Moreover, Beijing's manufacturing exports to the United States remain small, about half the level of those from Mexico."
The knockout blow came when we allowed China into the WTO (World Trade Organization) in December 2001. Clinton had disingenuously pledged that granting PNTR to China would "increase U.S. jobs and reduce our trade deficit." George W. Bush refused to slow the WTO train even though a Chinese military pilot had intentionally directed his aircraft into a U.S. EP-3 spy plane in April 2001, forcing it to land on Hainan Island where the plane was reverse engineered by Chinese intelligence personnel and the crew interrogated for ten days. Bush was so concerned that the incident might derail China's WTO membership that he wrote a personal letter to the widow of the Chinese pilot who caused the crash. Then one month after 9/11 he flew to Shanghai to work on the Doha Development Agenda in Shanghai to facilitate even more free trade.
The Cato Institute's Daniel J. Ikenson promulgated in 2006: "In fact, since China joined the WTO in 2001, U.S. exports to China have more than doubled." He went on to avow: "And the notion that importing from and offshoring to China is hollowing out American manufacturing is not supported by the facts."
Not according to CNN which recently reported that manufacturing jobs in the U.S. actually increased from 1994 to 2000, but then sank like a stone after that, with a loss of five million.
Pat Buchanan astutely noted in February 2007: "To the devout libertarian, free trade is not a policy option to be debated, but a dogma to be defended. Nowhere is this truer than at that lamasery of libertarianism, the Cato Institute." He went on to say: "For contrary to free-trade mythology, every nation that has risen to pre-eminence and power -- Britain before 1860, the United States from 1860-1914, Germany from 1870-1914, postwar Japan, China today -- has pursued a mercantilist or protectionist trade policy ... It is no accident all four presidents who made it to Mount Rushmore were protectionists."
1985 was the year that Chinese imports into the U.S. became equal to U.S. exports to China and also the first year Census Bureau trade data is available. The below graph depicting trade with China from 1985 through 2015(see Census data here) depicts a lopsided trade relationship, good for China and multinational corporations which import goods, but not so good for the average American workers who witnessed their jobs being whisked away to foreign lands.
The below graph depicting trade with Canada from 1985 through 2015 (see Census data here) is interesting, especially for 2015 when it dropped below the level of that for 2011-14. The U.S.-Canada trading relationship was until recently the greatest the world had ever seen, but now China has taken Canada's place. The balance of U.S.-Canada trade really hasn't changed much since 1985.
The below graph depicting trade with Mexico from 1985 through 2015 (see Census data here) clearly shows the effect of NAFTA, as in 1994 exports pretty much equaled imports, but that's not true any more. Note that, contrary to Bandow's assertions, imports from Mexico are only about 3/5 those from China.
The below graph depicting trade with Central America and the Dominican Republic from 2005 through 2015 (see Census data here) via CAFTA-DR (Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement) illustrates a fairer agreement. Neither party dominates the other, though the U.S. has benefited the most for eight out of the eleven years the treaty has been in effect. Most Americans would probably not mind if most years were similar to 2013 given the abject poverty in these regions. That said, we cannot say that it has been a roaring success given the unprecedented levels of gang and drug-related violence.
The below graph depicting the overall balance of trade from 1960 through 2015 (chart uses Balance of Payment basis; see Census data here) shows a number of things, but keep in mind that the graph is inverted, in other words, the more negative our balance of trade, the higher the graph rises. Perhaps I should have referred to it as the imbalance of trade.
First, it hints at economic problems of the times. From 1972 to 1975, the trade balance went from -6,416 to 911 to -5,505 to 8,903. Your author suspects this blip originates in the 1973 gas crisis, when for the first time Americans started buying more gas-efficient foreign cars. At first people stopped driving, which slowed their buying, but after the gas crisis departed, many returned to purchasing gas hogs. There is no comparable blip for the 1979 gas crisis, but that was not nearly as bad as the first, not to mention that many people had already bought a foreign car.
Second, it shows a clear correlation between the entrance of China upon the world stage and our increasingly negative trade balance. Our last positive trade balance was in 1975, with the value of 8,903 being the highest figure supplied by the Census Bureau (the second-highest was 7,006 in 1964). But then the trade balance went negative for good and almost quadrupled between 1976 to 1977, from 7,820 to 28,352. In 1982, the trade balance was 27,510, about average for the period of 1977-82. But in 1983 it jumped to 52,409, in 1984 it jumped to 106,702, and in 1987 it jumped to 152,119.
And third, it indicates a precipitous rise just after the passage of NAFTA. The trade balance rose at a downright disturbing pace until 2006, when it leveled off just in time for the Wall Street crash. The trade balance became much better because many people lost their jobs and did not buy anything, foreign or domestic. The trade balance has mostly regained its depressing volume, but it has not climbed back to the level of George the Younger's final ruling days because job growth has been pathetic.
At this point you might be thinking that employment moves in the same general direction, so it's all a wash. Not hardly.
The ever-increasing trade deficit with China cost 3.2 million jobs between 2001 and 2013, with job losses in every state.
As the below BLS graph (duplicate it yourself by visiting the BLS website and setting the starting year to 1948) indicates, the labor participation rate has dropped ever since the late 1990s. Currently it is equal to the rate for 1978, coincidentally when the balance of trade was just starting to become overt.
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch savaged NAFTA on its 20th anniversary and documented that it has been an unmitigated disaster, comparing it to the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) which has been rather difficult to kill. Public Citizen noted: "The reductions in consumer goods prices that have materialized have not been sufficient to offset the losses to middle-class wages under NAFTA. U.S. workers without college degrees (63 percent of the workforce) have likely lost an amount equal to 12.2 percent of their wages under NAFTA-style trade even after accounting for the benefits of cheaper goods."
Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have called for the end of free trade and the beginning of fair trade because the former benefits mainly multinational corporations. Countering them are Ted Cruz who recently announced that Phil Gramm would be his economic adviser, with him being one of the people most responsible for the 2008 crash, Hillary Clinton who previously declared the TPP to be the "gold standard," and the Cato Institute which doubled-down on its previous statements, maintaining that opposition to the TPP is based on "nine myths."
Remember Einstein's definition of insanity.