Intel gets honest about 10nm; it will be less profitable than 22nm

Intel gets honest about 10nm, it will be less profitable than 22nm

Intel gets honest about 10nm; it will be less profitable than 22nm

Anyone who follows the PC market should know that Intel’s 10nm node has been a disaster story for the company. Remember Cannon Lake? No? Cannon Lake was so bad that Intel refuses to acknowledge its existence, so much so that it took Intel two years to release newer 10nm processors with Ice Lake. Even then, Ice Lake released in low quantities, and can often be outperformed by Intel’s 14nm products.

For years Intel has told us that 10nm processors were coming, and now that 10nm processors are here, all we are hearing is about 10nm and the company’s future 7nm and 5nm nodes. At this week’s Morgan Stanley Analyst Conference, Intel’s CFO, George Davis, discussed 10nm in great detail, confirming that many have expected for years. 

In his comments on 10nm, as transcribed by Anandtech, Davis confirmed that 10nm would be less profitable than both 14nm and 22nd. 

  Look, this just isn’t going to be the best node that Intel has ever had. It’s going to be less productive than 14 [nanometer], less productive than 22 [nanometer] … The fact is, like I said, it isn’t going to be as strong a node as people would expect from 14nm or what they’ll see in 7nm.

With their 10nm node underperforming, and stiff competition from AMD, Intel will be forced to cut its margins. Furthermore, Intel has been forced to invest heavily in future nodes like 7nm and 5nm. Despite 10nm’s challenges, Intel still needs to ship 10nm products to revitalise its product lineup. 14nm silicon can only go so far, but right now it looks like 10nm will be the gamechanger that Intel wants it to be. 

Later this year, Intel will release Tiger Lake on its 10nm manufacturing process, offering users a large IPC boost on the CPU side and stronger Xe series integrated graphics. Right now, Intel is poised to launch 14nm Comet Lake desktop and high-performance mobile processors, CPUs which will be considered proof of 10nm’s continued shortcomings. 

By the end of 2021, Intel plans to be ready with its next-generation 7nm process node, a node which is due to be on par with competing 5nm nodes from the likes of TSMC and Samsung. 


But still, the effect of 10nm in 2021 is just, it’s sort of built today because you’ve got to get through that product cycle and the node. We’re excited about the products but you know, the node isn’t going to be quite the performer that historically we’ve had… Interestingly, and indicative of how we’re approaching process technology going forward, we also have 10 coming out this year… it’s hard to find a conference [where] we’ve been able to talk about some of these things. 

 Intel gets honest about 10nm, it will be less profitable than 22nm

Intel plans to regain process leadership with their 5nm manufacturing process, which has no firm release timeframe. Our best guess is that it will be read in 2024, little more than two years after Intel’s 7nm “late 2021” node. This gives time for an interim 7nm node.

So we bring a lot of capability to the table for our customers, in addition to the CPU, and we feel like we’re starting to see the acceleration on the process side that we have been talking about to get back to, you know, parity in the 7nm generation and regain leadership in the 5nm [generation]

It is refreshing to see an Intel executive be honest about the state of the company. For too long we have been told that 10nm is “making progress” or is “on track”. Right now, Intel is behind, and intense competition from AMD is going for force Intel to cut its margins and do everything it can to stem the growth of its rival. 

Remember that Intel doesn’t expect process leadership until 5nm, which means that until then Intel will have to rely on architectural innovations to outcompete their rivals. 

10nm has been a humbling experience for Intel, and we hope that this has caused the company to reset its course and refocus itself on making leading-edge products. Years of unrivalled leadership has allowed Intel to go soft, and we hope that they can return to form in the coming years. We need strong competition from both sides to push technology forward, which means that we need both Intel and AMD to be at their best. 

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