Intel too ‘aggressive’ with 10nm, promises 7nm CPUs will be out by 2021


Intel has slipped on countless banana skins getting its 10nm CPUs out the door but they’ll finally be launching the desktop chips later this year. Interestingly though, Intel CEO Bob Swan has claimed Team Blue is back on track with Moore’s Law and intend to have its first 7nm processors on store shelves within two years.

Moore’s Law has effectively been thrown out the window by Intel these last few years. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted the number of transistors on a processor would double every 18 months. This is achieved with process node shrinks such as 14nm, 10nm, 7nm, etc. Smaller process nodes allow for a higher density of transistors, opening the door to greater performance and power efficiency.

Intel is widely acknowledged to have struggled with the process shrink, relying on optimizations of the 14nm process since 2014. Five years later, 10nm is finally ready. Meanwhile, over in the red corner, AMD has just launched its range of rapturously received 7nm Ryzen 3000 processors.

Intel has acknowledged these struggles though, apportioning blame to Intel’s aggressive approach to adopting new technology, focusing on performance rather than stability.

“The challenges of being late on this latest node of Moore’s Law was somewhat a function of what we’ve been able to do in the past, which in essence was define the odds on scaling the infrastructure,” explained Intel’s new CEO Bob Swan during Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference. “At a time when it was getting harder and harder, we set a more and more aggressive goal. From that, it just took us longer. We prioritised performance when predictability was really important.”

The upside is Swan believes Intel will be all the stronger for it going forward. Progress on the 7nm progress is going well and Swan believes Intel’s 7nm processors will be out within two years. “The short story is we learned from it, we’ll get our 10nm node out this year” said Swan. “Our 7nm node will be out in two years and it will be a 2.0X scaling so back to the historical Moore’s Law curve.”

We now have an updated roadmap detailing where Intel is headed over the next few years. It provides ample evidence of just how much time was spent trying to get 10nm out of the door. We should be getting the first desktop 10nm Intel processors later in 2019, 10+nm in 2020 and then both 10++nm and 7nm in 2021.

For AMD, there’s a wide door open right now. AMD has Intel well and truly beat for price to performance at a lot of tiers right now, along with a two-year advantage on the 7nm process. Factor in architectural refinements for Zen 2 and Intel has an upwards battle on its hands.