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Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Intel To Break From Typical Two-year CPU Release Cycle


The chip industry seems to slowly abandonds the Moore's Law, as a result of the ongoing difficulties in keeping up the pace of shrinking more transistors on a chip's surface. In case of Intel, the company quits its traditional "tick-tock" product cycle, and turning to a new three-step manufacturing cadence.

The chip giant revealed its plans in a 10-K filing with the SEC. Instead of moving to a new manufacturing process technology roughly every two years - with new CPU architecture on that same process in intervening years - Intel will stretch out the timeline and add a third leg to the cycle, called "Optimization."

Obviously, the reason behind this decision is related to the complexity and difficulty that each new transition brings. And Intel needs time for each process to achieve high enough yields that it becomes financially viable. The company took longer than expected to reach that point with the 14nm process, after all.

Intel plans to introduce a new Intel Core microarchitecture for desktops, notebooks (including Ultrabook devices and 2 in 1 systems), and Intel Xeon processors on a regular cadence. However, it will lengthen the amount of time that the company will utilize its 14nm and its next-generation 10nm process technologies, further optimizing the products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions.

Advances in Intel's silicon technology have enabled Intel to continue making Moore’s Law a reality. In 2014, the company began manufacturing our 5th generation Intel Core processor family using a 14nm process technology. In 2015, Intel released a new microarchitecture (6th generation Intel Core processor family), using the 14nm process technology. Soon, Intel will introduce a third 14nm product, code-named "Kaby Lake." This product will have key performance enhancements as compared to the 6th generation Intel Core processor family.

Intel is also developing 10nm manufacturing process technology, its next-generation process technology. The company won’t move to a 10nm process until the second-half of 2017, at least two and a half years after Intel introduced Broadwell.

Chips manufactured at 10nm and below have a tendency to suffer from current leakage due to limitations of traditional photolithographic methods. While a manufacturing process called 'extreme ultraviolet lithography' is being explored by Intel, Samsung, and TSMC as a way of manufacturing chips at this size, it is not yet being used in production.

Intel doesn't anticipate this manufacturing slowdown will see it fall behind competitors, given the lead it currently enjoys in its manufacturing process.

"We have a market lead in transitioning to the next-generation process technology and bringing products to market using such technology," it says in its filing.

Chipmaker TSMC is not expected to start making chips in significant numbers using a 7nm manufacturing process until 2017.

Intel entered into a series of agreements with ASML Holding N.V.(ASML) in 2012, certain of which were amended in 2014 to further define the commercial terms between the parties. These amended agreements, in which Intel agreed to provide R&D funding over five years, are intended to accelerate the development of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography projects and deep ultraviolet immersion lithography projects, including generic developments applicable to both 300mm and 450mm.



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