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Intel 10nm delay raises speculation of foundry business scale-down
Source: DIGITIMES   Editor: Helan   Update Time :2018/8/2 17:05:02

Intel will not introduce its 10nm chips until the fourth quarter of 2019, which has raised speculation that the company may scale down its foundry business.

Intel originally planned to enter mass production of its 10nm Cannon Lake processors in 2016, but has been pushing back the schedule. The company's latest update is that its 10nm chips will not be ready for commercial production until the fourth quarter of 2019.

Intel used to adopt the so-called "Tick-Tock" model under which every microarchitecture change is followed with a die shrink of the process technology, according to market observers. Nevertheless, the "Tick-Tock" production cycle started slowing down in 2014, when the chip giant was supposed to introduce its 14nm process for PC processors. The "Tick-Tock" cycle was broken for the first time when Intel released its 22nm Haswell Refresh series instead, the observers said.

Intel continues to break and probably has abandoned the "Tick-Tock" cycle, with its long-delayed 10nm Cannon Lake processors, the observers noted. Intel was supposed to volume producing its 10nm Cannon Lake processors in mid-2016 but the company released a 14nm Kaby Lake instead. With Intel confirming another 10nm chip delay, the company's ninth-generation family slated for 2019 would be built on its 14nm+++ process technology, the observers said.

On the other hand, TSMC and Samsung have both made progress in their process development with the former already ramping up 7nm chip production and the latter accelerating EUV process R&D.

Despite Intel's 10nm delay, the chip giant's 14nm process is still more competitive in terms of transistor density than rivals' 10nm or even 7nm processes, according to the observers.

Speculation has started circulating in the chipmaking industry that Intel may scale down its foundry operations.

Intel has in recent years expanded its foundry operations in order to fill its fab capacities, but it is still struggling to grab orders from the world's major fabless and system vendors, the observers said. LG Electronics, and Unigroup Spreadtrum & RDA under China's state-owned Tsinghua Unigroup, are currently the largest customers of Intel's foundry business.

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