Intel is expected to be behind TSMC for quite some time

Intel's 10nm will not ship in high volumes until 2019

Intel is expected to be behind TSMC for quite some time

Last month TSMC announced that their new 7nm manufacturing process had entered volume production, mere days before Intel confirmed that their competing 10nm process would not ship in high volumes until 2019. 

For the past decade, Intel’s manufacturing technology was a key advantage for the company, with their 14nm process remaining ahead of its competitors throughout its lifespan, making it difficult for anyone to compete with the company without a technological advantage to counter Intel’s manufacturing techniques.  

TSMC’s 7nm and Intel’s 10nm processes are roughly equivalent to one another, with TSMC’s volume production announcement taking place a year before Intel expect’s high volume 10nm production, placing Intel in a position where it will be difficult to catch up. TSMC’s success is terrible news for Intel as TSMC manufactures chips for all of Intel’s major competitors, including both AMD, Qualcomm and Nvidia, taking away Intel’s process advantage as a factor that could deliver Intel higher performing products.     

Moving forward, TSMC plans to release their 5nm manufacturing process sometime in 2020, with Intel giving no clear sign for when they plan to release their competing 7nm node. In 2019 TSMC is also expected to ready their EUV augmented 7nm node, delivering what could be called 7nm. 

With 10nm it is likely that they will use their 10nm technology throughout 2019 and use a revised 10nm technology in their 2020 products. It is possible that 7nm could release in late 2020 or early 2021, though this assumes that 7nm is already well into development and doesn’t suffer from the same delays and yield issues at 10nm. 


Intel are expected to be behind TSMC for quite some time  

One significant advantage that Intel has is how closely their processor and manufacturing divisions work together, creating a situation where Intel can quickly capitalise on new process technology and deliver products promptly, at least when compared to third-party chip makers who all must compete for TSMC’s fab space.

If Intel wants to regain their leadership in process technology TMG (Technology Manufacturing Group) needs to see a significant overhaul, though much of this has already happened thanks to the merger of Intel Labs, TMG, Systems Architecture and Client businesses into their new Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group (TSCG).  This newly named group should shift Intel’s priorities moving forward and will likely adjust Intel’s manufacturing business so that it can no longer delay Intel’s product roadmap and that 10nm’s issues can be avoided with 7nm. 

It is likely that Intel plans to scoop up some of the silicon manufacturing industry’s top talent in the near future, with hopes to reforge their manufacturing arm into a market leader once again. With TSMC and AMD fighting Intel on the silicon manufacturing and CPU engineering sides respectively, it is easy to see why Intel are worried and have been making a lot of high-profile hires in recent months.

Let’s hope that today’s market conditions can produce a stronger Intel, a company that is willing to invest in their future instead and create highly competitive products year after year. Intel has already shown with Coffee Lake that they can produce more competitive products when faced with strong competition, let’s hope that this trend can continue. 

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