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CEO says next generation 14 nm "tock" architecture refresh (Skylake) will not be delayed

Intel Corp. (INTC), which reported its earnings yesterday, gave investors an unwelcome surprise as well when it announced its first 14 nm chip, codenamed Broadwell, is being delayed by a quarter.

I. A Minor Slip

Intel was supposed to start shipping Broadwell chips to OEMs in Q4 2013 (this quarter) giving them time to integrate the chip into their new notebooks, laptops, desktops, and tablets.  Instead the new chips will start shipping in Q1 2014.

Currently, Intel's premium Core Series-branded Haswell chips are produced on a 22 nm process.  But moving from 22 nm node to 14 nm has proved trickier than Intel expected.

IDF 2013
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC]

Normally a die shrink involves years of prototyping technologies.  When a production process is mature enough to come out the laboratory, it's installed at the fab.  Equipment must often be updated or replaced to handle the new process once it's moved to a full-scale fab on its final path towards production.  At that point tests runs are executed to study the efficacy of the fab hardware and methodology for the node, typically at lower volumes that the final production runs.

It is typical to find problems with the process at that stage, and it is up to the engineers to institute a set of process method and hardware changes to minimize those defects.  When the fixes are in place, a semiconductor manufacturer crosses its fingers, metaphorically speaking and moves to volume production.
Haswell shot
Intel currently owns 95 percent of the server market (Haswell is pictured).

This approach typically works out for Intel, but this time something went wrong.  The fix failed to minimize the number of wafer defects to the extent expect, and as a result a relatively high percentage of Intel's CPU were turning out dead on arrival.

Intel's new CEO Brian Krzanich insists this is not uncommon stating, "We have confidence the problem is fixed because we have data it is fixed.  This happens sometimes in development phases like this. That's why we moved it a quarter.  We have a strong desire to get Broadwell to market. If I could, there'd be nothing slowing me down. This is a small blip in the schedule, and we'll continue on from here."

In Intel's internal jargon, Broadwell is a so-called "tick" release, which involves simply shrinking the previous processor architecture (Haswell, in this case), while possibly adopting some minor tweaks/improvements based on lessons learned.  By contrast, the next generation after Broadwell will be a new architecture, called a "tock".  That "tock" release -- Skylake – will not be delayed, Mr. Krzanich stated, from its prospective 2015 ship date.

II. Intel Enjoys Healthy Process Lead, but Its Chips are Slower than Samsung's

The delay of Broadwell is a bit of bad news, but it could be much worse; the earnings report for Intel was otherwise better than expected.  And while Intel has yet to establish a strong presence in the smartphone and tablet markets (unlike the server and traditional PC markets that it dominates), it is starting to attract interest in the mobile space, thanks in part to its process lead and the intrinsic power savings that lead provides.

Intel 14 nm fab
Intel is producing 14 nm chips at three key fab facilities. [Image Source: Intel]

Despite the setback, that lead remains relatively large.  International Business Machines, Inc. (IBM) in August soft launched 22 nm Power8 architecture high-end server chips and licensable architecture.  However, it's still working with partners to try to bring that chip to the market in physical form.  Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Comp., Ltd. (TPE:233028 nm process -- a top third party manufacturer for ARM chips (the mobile industry's dominant architecture), has taped out 16 nm chips.  It's attempting to jump directly from 28 nm to 16 nm.

16 nm is still a larger node than 14 nm, but TSMC didn't seem to have the same problems with its die shrink, opening the floodgates to production with the release of design flows for common chip types (including various ARM CPUs) last month.

On the other hand, Intel's new Bay Trail Atom Z3770 chip faces stiff competition from a 28 nm Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) produced chip -- the A7 processor Apple, Inc. (AAPL) uses in its new iPhone 5S.  The performance of the A7 shows that while process provides some advantages power and processing wise, those advantages may increasingly be unable to overcome the inherent architectural baggage that x86 brings to the table.  

Apple's A7 managed to beat Bay Trail chips, despite a slower clock and larger node size.
Samsung's process is 28nm LP (Gate-First high-κ metal gate (HKMG)), while Intel's 22 nm process is Gate-Last HMKG.  This is a huge win for Samsung as it means that it's producing a better chip on a cheaper mature process -- the best possible scenario.  By contrast, Intel's still fresh 22 nm is not only slower -- it also costs Intel more to produce.

In other words, don't bet against Intel's ARM rivals, even if they're a bit behind on process technology.

Source: CNET via Intel

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By rippleyalienshakd on 10/16/2013 9:33:37 PM , Rating: 0
Ironically, people always forget the simple things. YES your phone, is powered by an ARM, processor. In Apple's word, it is 64 bit (who cares).

This argument, is WELL over 25years old. I Only got into the game, 20 years ago. There was PowerPC, Cyrix, Amd, and Intel. What Intel Has in its advantage, is CASH,lots of it. Apple, pays someone else to make it. Samsung can, but has wayy to many other products to 100% Focus on. Amd, can barely keep up with Video cards, let alone Processors.

Intel owns 95% of the Server Market.. HUGE- Every little app powered, on any smartphone, chances are when connected to a server, it is Intel Inside. The Absolute thing Intel has, is manufacturing, Engineering, R\D. No other chip company can do all 3 effectively. Intel will catch up with the Tablet markets.. No other choice will soon present themselves.

Shrinking down, the ALA "Tock", is what makes all our devices, Last longer, yet higher performance. Samsung buy's SnapDragon, WHOEVER else's IP. Intel Uses their own. Apple, Same thing, cept it only makes 1 Chip.- for use in their Tablet\Phone.. THat is only reason Apple is so Dominant, is 1Generation Cpu\Gpu per phone\tablet refresh. Keeping it very simple.
Android is experiencing Phone Sprawl, to which 10 new Mega phones per years, and 8 Different versions of Android.

It is only a matter of time, before a full powered Wintel Tablet, will be here. Powred by Intel. Tablet is crucial for Business's.. Running Windows=less training needed for IT staff. More levels of security..IE powered by Windows8.1... There is a reason on why Intel\Microsoft is soo Dominate, its only a matter of time, before they Catch up. Been this way for 20+ years..
From OS/2,
Many Flavors of Linux\Unix\FREE-inix, whatever..
The death of x86, has been promissed since 1993 (year i got into the computer world)..
Phones are indeed taking the world by storm, but never forget.. Its not like its the only way to surf the web, and get stuff done, LOL!!!!

By superstition on 10/16/2013 10:29:51 PM , Rating: 2
In Apple's word, it is 64 bit (who cares).

"Samsung's Upcoming Galaxy Smartphones to have 64-Bit Processors" -- DailyTech headline

By talonvor on 10/23/2013 7:50:55 AM , Rating: 2
It was only a matter of time, after all 32 bit has a serious problem in the memory department. The only logical solution is the move to 64 bit. So, regardless of who did it first, every single phone maker on the planet was heading that way eventually. Apple just forced them all to make the move a bit early.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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