Why one long-time industry analyst argues Intel's $2 billion purchase of AI startup Habana Labs is a direct challenge to Nvidia
- Some analysts have questioned whether Intel's $2 billion purchase of Israel-based Habana Labs means its AI-strategy is struggling.
- But one long-time industry analyst said the purchase is actually a bid to challenge the dominance of chipmaker Nvidia in building the infrastructure that powers advanced machine-learning platforms.
- The acquisition, argued J. Gold Associates founder Jack Gold, allows Intel to compete in the deep learning industry, a branch of AI that aims to replicate how the human brain works.
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Intel's $2 billion purchase of Israel-based AI startup Habana Labs is a challenge to chipmaker Nvidia's dominance in offering the processors needed to power advanced machine-learning platforms, according to one long-time industry analyst.
That market has largely been controlled by Nvidia - which makes more high-end graphics processors that work well in supporting AI applications. But the purchase of Habana Labs positions Intel to challenge that dominance, argued Jack Gold, a 25-year industry analyst who founded J.Gold Associates.
"Intel is betting big on AI's future. It's going to be a huge market in the next several years as the overall computing market is transformed by what AI can accomplish from low-end mobile devices all the way to high-end data centers in the cloud," he wrote in a recent research note.
Deep learning, or the branch of AI focused on replicating how the human brain functions, allows machines to operate essentially like a human would. The problem, however, is Intel previously did not have processors powerful enough for the technology.
Intel purchased Nervana in August 2016, a startup chipmaker that was expected to help serve as the backbone to the company's AI strategy. While some analysts argued that buying Habana Labs was acknowledgement that "Nervana is not going that well," Gold said Intel is targeting two different markets.
Habana Labs, allows Intel to compete in the high-end market, while Nervana will allow it to target the mid-to-lower-tier devices, he said. Intel used Nervana, for example, in its Neural Compute Stick - a plug-in device that powers PCs to use AI. Habana Labs, meanwhile, will allow Intel to penetrate the deep learning market.
Gold told Business Insider he sees Intel using both purchases to help support its "One API" project, an initiative to create an open-source platform that will allow developers to create programs that operate on any platform. Currently, they must build the programs to run on a specific piece of hardware - whether that be from Nvidia or another competitor.
Get the latest Intel stock price here.
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