Intel’s Missing Chip

Was there a 14-nanometer smartphone chip that got cancelled as Intel pulled in its successor, or did it simply never exist?

Mar 11, 2014 at 8:00PM

According to a fairly old article on technology news site Digitimes, Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) smartphone chip launch schedule looked like this:

  • Fourth quarter of 2013 – Merrifield, 22nm/2 core Silvermont/PowerVR G6400
  • First half of 2014 – Moorefield, 22nm/4 core Silvermont/PowerVR G6430
  • First quarter of 2015 – Morganfield, 14nm/4 core Airmont?/???

According to Intel's latest roadmap, the just-announced Merrifield is a first-half 2014 affair, with Moorefield coming in during second half of the year, likely very early, though. There is no Morganfield scheduled for the first quarter of 2015, but there is a chip known as Broxton scheduled for "mid-2015." So, what's going on here?

Broxton

Source: Intel

Intel needed to move quickly to Broxton
To not get too lost in code names, it's important to define them upfront. Silvermont is a brand-new CPU design built on the 22-nanometer manufacturing process. Airmont is a slight enhancement of this design but built on Intel's upcoming 14-nanometer process. The CPU following this is known as Goldmont, which is a brand-new design on the 14-nanometer process. This is the CPU at the heart of the next-generation Broxton system-on-chip, and it is likely to be a significant leap from Silvermont/Airmont.

For tablets, Intel will launch Cherry Trail, which is based on Airmont, at the end of 2014. However, Intel has not indicated that a smartphone variant of this processor is coming. This leads one to believe one of the following two possibilities is true:

  • Intel pulled in the Goldmont-based Broxton in order to be more competitive, scrapping any potential Airmont-based smartphone platform in the process.
  • A smartphone-based Airmont product never existed, and the plan was to move to the Goldmont-based Broxton as quickly as possible.

A search on LinkedIn revealed that there was not a single reference to a Morganfield platform and, indeed, the only three system-on-chip products associated with smartphones were to be Tangier, the SoC found in Merrifield, Anniedale, the SoC in Moorefield, and Broxton, as shown from this LinkedIn profile:

Broxton

(Source: LinkedIn)

It is likely that Intel never had any intention of putting the Airmont CPU core in a smartphone-targeted system-on-chip and wanted to skip straight to Goldmont. This was probably for competitive reasons against the various ARM-based players that have been advancing their micro-architectures rather rapidly, including ARM's own Cortex A series. 

Foolish bottom line
This is the right strategic move on Intel's part, particularly as the updated Silvermont core, known as Airmont, is unlikely to drive the kind of performance boost really necessary to be competitive in the mid-2015 time frame against ARM Cortex A57 class processors. The good news, however, is that Silvermont was so power-efficient on 22-nanometers and left so much thermal headroom on the table relative to its peers, that Intel can really flex its muscles with Goldmont. This boost will be achieved both by taking advantage of the next-generation 14-nanometer process, which brings substantial density and performance/power improvements, as well as an expanded thermal envelope. 

A technology revolution is upon us. Are you set to profit?
Let's face it, every investor wants to get in on revolutionary ideas before they hit it big. Like buying PC-maker Dell in the late 1980s, before the consumer computing boom. Or purchasing stock in e-commerce pioneer Amazon.com in the late 1990s, when it was nothing more than an upstart online bookstore. The problem is, most investors don't understand the key to investing in hyper-growth markets. The real trick is to find a small-cap "pure-play" and then watch as it grows in EXPLOSIVE lockstep with its industry. Our expert team of equity analysts has identified one stock that's poised to produce rocket-ship returns with the next $14.4 TRILLION industry. Click here to get the full story in this eye-opening report.

Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


Compare Brokers