On Aug. 21, microprocessor giant Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) formally announced some of the chips that it'll be selling under its eighth-generation Core processor family.
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The first volley of eighth-generation Core processors is manufactured using the company's 14nm+ technology -- a performance-enhanced version of the 14nm technology that Intel first introduced in the second half of 2014 with its fifth-generation Core processors.
Soon, Intel is also planning to expand its eighth-generation Core lineup with chips built using its 14nm++ technology (a performance boosted-version of its 14nm+ technology) as well as its 10nm technology, which brings a significant area reduction compared to its 14nm family of technologies.
Based on this launch schedule, coupled with Intel's previous disclosures, I'd like to offer up some educated guesses about what the next several years of Intel processor launches will consist of.
Ice Lake, Tiger Lake, and beyond
Intel recently let slip that its next-generation Core processors -- these will probably be marketed as Intel's ninth-generation Core chips, codenamed Ice Lake -- will be manufactured using the company's 10nm+ technology.
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Now, Intel hasn't officially said when it expects to launch its first Ice Lake-based products, but generally reliable publication PC Watch says that, per its sources at OEMs/ODMs, Ice Lake is on track to be introduced next year.
At Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Day earlier this year, the company showed the following slide:
Notice that the smallest gap in terms of process readiness is between the 14nm+ and 14nm++ technologies. For reference, laptops using 14nm+ chips were in reviewers' hands in September of 2016, and the first 14nm++ chips should be available for purchase in October.
That's roughly a one-year gap.
The gap between 10nm and 10nm+ in this chart is a little bit larger than the gap between 14nm+ and 14nm++ is, so it might be a little over a year after the first 10nm parts go into production that the first 10nm+ parts start rolling off the production lines.
Now, notice the gap between 10nm+ and 10nm++ in the image above is quite a bit larger than the gap between 10nm and 10nm+, or 14nm+ and 14nm++.
This leads me to suspect that Intel won't do just one product family on 10nm+, but two.
Here's how I see this translating into products: Intel will introduce an all-new architecture with Ice Lake on 10nm+ in late 2018 (think fourth quarter), bringing to bear new CPU cores, new graphics architecture, new imaging subsystems, new memory controllers, and more.
Then, in the third quarter of 2019, I see Intel releasing Tiger Lake. Not much has leaked out about Tiger Lake (though we do know Intel is planning to introduce a new graphics processor in the architecture), but I would expect some design tweaks to the various intellectual properties as well as a superior circuit implementation.
After that, perhaps in the third quarter of 2020, I expect Intel to release processors utilizing its 10nm++ technology, probably named after another lake.
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