Chip giant Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) maintains a webpage where it lists the code names of past, present, and future platforms for both personal computer and data center applications.
To gain access to the details of these products, one needs to be an authorized Intel partner, which I am not, but merely knowing the code names of these platforms can help us gain some insight into what Chipzilla is planning to roll out in the quarters -- and even years -- ahead.
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On this webpage, a new platform code name recently popped up: Monette Hill. The description of Monette Hill is short and sweet: "Desktop Platform."
While we don't know what exactly Monette Hill is, let's explore a couple of possibilities.
It could be a 14-nanometer+++ chip
In early October 2017, Intel released a new processor family called Coffee Lake. The initial round of Coffee Lake chips were mainly targeted at the gaming and enthusiast desktop PC markets, with the full lineup of Coffee Lake chips targeted at the broader desktop PC market scheduled to launch in early 2018.
While it has been believed for quite some time that the follow-on to Coffee Lake for desktops (formally known as Coffee Lake-S) would be the company's Ice Lake-S chips, plans may have changed. Ice Lake-S is supposed to bring an all-new chip design to market, which could help deliver a dramatic boost in performance, power consumption, and features. It's also supposed to be manufactured using the company's 10-nanometer+ technology -- a higher-performing version of the company's seemingly troubled 10-nanometer technology.
However, if Intel's 10-nanometer+ manufacturing technology won't be ready to handle the brunt of the company's desktop processor volumes -- if, say the manufacturing yields are too low to be cost-effective or performance just doesn't come up to scratch -- then it could make sense for Intel to use a yet again enhanced version of its 14-nanometer manufacturing technology to handle this market.
Intel is already believed to be preparing processors based on a fourth-generation 14-nanometer technology, known as 14-nanometer+++, for the notebook PC market during the second half of 2018 (these will be known as Whiskey Lake), so this possibility for Monette Hill makes sense.
It could be the successor to Ice Lake-S
Alternatively, Monette Hill could be the successor to Ice Lake-S in the desktop market. In Intel's code-name decoder, the company explicitly lists Tiger Lake -- the follow-on to Ice Lake -- as "client notebook platforms."
Tiger Lake is expected to be manufactured using Intel's third-generation 10-nanometer technology, known as 10-nanometer++.
This could be a hint that, unlike in previous generations, the Tiger Lake-based platforms are explicitly aimed at notebook computers and that desktop computers will get a chip sufficiently different enough that it deserves a different name.
Monette Hill, then, could be Tiger Lake's desktop-oriented counterpart.
For what it's worth, I think this is the less likely of the two potential explanations of what Monette Hill is.
Ultimately, I think the odds are good that Intel will introduce 14-nanometer+++-based desktop processors in 2019. Indeed, based on Intel's disclosures at its Technology and Manufacturing Day back in March 2017, the company's 14-nanometer++ technology offers slightly higher performance than its upcoming 10-nanometer+ technology.
On the other hand, 10-nanometer+ is more efficient than 14-nanometer++.
So, for desktop computers -- which are generally not terribly thermally limited and spend their lives plugged into power outlets -- it may even make more sense for Intel to build its 2019 desktop processor lineup on a hypothetical 14-nanometer+++ than it would to build it using the lower-performing-but-more-efficient 10-nanometer+ technology.
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