We have been waiting a long time for Intel to finally ship its 10-nanometer processors in volume, and barring any last minute hiccups, the company is still on track to do that this holiday season. During a conference call with reporters, Intel CEO Bob Swan doubled down on his company's commitment to 10nm, and said confidence in the shrunken process node "is also improving."
"On the process technology front, our teams executed well in Q1 and our velocity is increasing. We remain on track to have volume client systems on shelves for the holiday selling season. And over the past 4 months, the organization drove a nearly 2X improvement in the rate at which 10nm products move through our factories," Swan said.
There are two takeaways from that statement. The first is that 10nm products are bound for store shelves towards the end of 2019, as Intel has been saying a for a few months now. That means we will see products based on Intel's highly integrated Ice Lake platform, which at its core consists of 10th generation Core processors based on its 10nm Sunny Cove architecture.
The other takeaway is that Intel appears to have worked out most of the kinks that led to 10nm being repeatedly delayed. Not only are 10nm parts on track to ship in volume at the end of this year, Intel is making these chips at a much faster rate than it was at the beginning of the year.
"As I shared earlier, our confidence in 10nm is also improving. In addition to the manufacturing velocity improvement I described earlier, we expect to qualify our first volume 10nm product—Ice Lake—this quarter and are increasing our 10nm volume goals for the year," Swan added.
Where does that leave Cannon Lake? That is where things get interesting. While not confirmed, a recently leaked roadmap points to Intel launching 10nm mobile CPUs later this year, while desktop parts will continue to utilize a 14nm node through 2021, with Comet Lake S followed by Rocket Lake S. Cannon Lake is not mentioned in the roadmap. Here's a look...
We are not taking the leaked roadmap as the gospel truth, though it is interesting that Swan specifically mentioned Ice Lake, and not once referenced Cannon Lake during the earnings call. For all we know, Cannon Lake could be a short lived product, replaced by other more refined 10nm parts.
While all this is going on, rival AMD is in the midst of a shift to 7nm, with its upcoming Ryzen 3000 series on the desktop (Zen 2). To be fair, Intel's 10nm node is more advanced than a glance at the number "10" (versus "7") would suggest, as there are other factors to consider, such as gate pitch. However, AMD is in a very good place right now.
What this all means is that 2020 should be an interesting year.
Top Image Source: Tim Herman via Intel