Intel’s 10nm CPUs may have had their last delay

Since 2015 Intel has been dragging their knuckles with the new 10nm Cannon Lake CPUs for the past 3 years now and are only expected to be ready by Q3 2019. Not long ago, Intel announced it was shipping 10nm in limited volume to select customers, likely to deflect skepticism about their marred 10nm process.

As it turns out, those shipments were limited to China and were hamstrung, dual-core parts with no IGP. This means that although it took just two years to jump from 22nm to 14nm, we’ve already been on 14nm for over three years now. Intel promised that we’d see Cannon Lake before the end of the year back at CES 2017, but there’s still no widespread release on the table despite Intel proudly proclaiming that Moore’s law wasn’t dead back in October last year. The thing to be aware of is the actual node size is different from the advertised node size.

Specifically, a chip manufactured at an advertised size of 14nm may not actually have any part that scales to that size. Intel’s are closest to their advertised size. So if you normalize the node sizes across manufacturers, Intel is actually still ahead in the fabrication process. The gap is closing fast and in 2019 Intel will probably have lost their fabrication process lead altogether – but they certainly aren’t behind!

Basically, don’t bother comparing chips on their advertised node size, it’s just marketing and mostly meaningless. Intel has an advantage and a disadvantage with being both a chip designer and manufacturer. When AMD Spun off global foundries (their manufacturing arm), they were relatively free to shop for the best chip manufacturer to make their chips.
Right now they are going with TSMC because they are first to 7nm. Intel can’t just abandon their factories and go to a rival that has a smaller node technology. Well, they could, but that would destroy their reputation.

As Intel continues to lean on their 14nm silicon, they anticipate challenges with increased demand and supply, which likely is derivative from their 10nm delay. Intel insists they will work with customers and Fabrications to address these issues.