Intel Could Show Off 10-Nanometer Wafers This September

While some seem to believe that Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) may lose its manufacturing technology lead to the likes of Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE: TSM  ) and Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF  ) , reality is likely to be rather different. In fact, at an upcoming developer conference, Intel could show evidence that its lead is quite intact.

Intel launching first 14-nanometer products, demonstrating 10-nanometer?
According to Digitimes, Intel will be launching its first 14-nanometer Broadwell products under the Core M brand at the 2014 Intel Developer Forum in September. As a quick reminder, Core M is a family of products intended for fanless clamshells and detachable/convertible 2-in-1 designs. The rest of the designs -- aimed at higher power and performance notebooks -- will roll out over the course of 2015.

More interestingly, though, is that Digitimes reports that Intel will demonstrate 10-nanometer wafers at the same time. We've known that Intel's chip teams have been designing on 10-nanometer for quite some time, so it wouldn't be farfetched for Intel to demonstrate a wafer of test chips.

Why would Intel do this?
Right now, there's some concern that Taiwan Semiconductor and Samsung will be able to "accelerate" the development of their next generation manufacturing technologies to "overtake" Intel. While roadmaps and plans are fine and dandy, the reality of the situation is that the move to 20-nanometer, which still doesn't utilize the FinFET transistors that Intel utilized at 22-nanometer, has yet to really begin in earnest, so it's tough to believe some of the claims from the foundries.

In particular, the claim from TSMC is that 16 FinFET comes in 2015, and then 10 nanometer comes in 2016. Given that Intel -- which has had a manufacturing lead for years -- went through a lot of pain in moving to 14-nanometer, it's just really hard to believe that 16 FinFET and 10 nanometer will be cakewalks for either TSMC or Samsung.

At any rate, if Intel does demonstrate such a wafer, it would likely be to reassure investors that it does have a technology lead over the rest of the industry -- because seeing a wafer in real life is much more convincing than a roadmap that is subject to change.

Foolish bottom line
Though there are a lot of conflicting views here, I'm of the belief that Intel's manufacturing lead remains intact. Intel has traditionally invested more in semiconductor manufacturing technology than any other company, and it has a very strong track record of delivering high quality, economically viable processes into high-volume production well before its competitors do. That's not a track record I'd want to bet against in the long run.

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  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 2:35 AM, raghu78 wrote:

    Ashraf

    Intel showing a wafer means nothing when they demoed Broadwell at IDF 2013 and said it would ship in Q3 2014. Then that got changed to Q4 2014. Now the volume is actually a trickle and the real volume comes way late in H2 2015.

    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/168799-intel-delays-bro...

    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/186100-broadwell-macboo...

    oh btw TSMC is rocking A8 production with better than estimated wafer revenue and count at 20nm.

    http://blogs.barrons.com/emergingmarketsdaily/2014/07/02/tsm...

    " We believe TSMC should see a very aggressive ramp up of 20nm revenues in 3Q14, with wafer out for Apple rising from 30-40k wfpq to 120-130k wfpq, with quite high yields of a process at such early stage of ramp up.

    Given the staggered launch of new Apple products ( iPhones in September, iPads in 4Q14 and a potential larger iPad in 1H15) which will all migrate to 20nm application processors at TSMC, we expect the strength for 20nm products to continue into 4Q14.

    We are expecting the wafer consumption from Apple to rise to 150-160k wfpq in 4Q14. In addition, 20nm wafer orders for other leading edge customers (Xilinx, AMD, Qualcomm) should also start from late 3Q14 onwards, driving 20nm revenue contribution to 20%+ in 4Q14."

    Apple is also placing record orders for iPhone 6

    http://www.bgr.in/news/apple-places-record-order-of-68-milli...

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 12:03 PM, stretcho44 wrote:

    raghu78 ....

    It appears from your links that Intel is shipping production versions of Broadwell now (WW28-WW29), to their customers.

    According to your second link about the Apple MAC schedules, Intel updated their schedules to show a narrowed release window that Broadwell Core M 5Y10 and 5Y10a will be production released 2-week window, WW28-WW29, with a target of WW28.

    WW28 (last week) and WW29 (this week) are both well inside Q3/2014. I am pretty sure that Intel will comment on Tuesday.

    It appears that Intel inserted an extra F-step version to the schedule, which will either fix a Broadwell problem or some 14nm yield issue.

    "oh btw TSMC is rocking A8 production with better than estimated wafer revenue and count at 20nm. "

    I think that TSMC changed their pricing structure at 20nm to charge customers for processed wafers instead of devices. Under that wafer model, TSMC should be happy to crank up their 20nm lines at full volume. TSMC had pushed most of the risk to their customers.

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 10:52 PM, SemiWiki wrote:

    450mm wafers were shown at SEMICON West last week. Unfortunately 450mm is years away from production.

    According to quite a few of the 27k+ semiconductor professionals at SEMICON Intel 14nm is delayed yet again:

    http://bit.ly/1nizuyv

    @ stretcho44

    TSMC and other fabs sell wafers not good die since 40nm. Customers are now held accountable for design yield, TSMC is accountable for manufacturing yield.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2014, at 12:54 AM, stretcho44 wrote:

    @semiwiki

    I believe you have confused the release schedule of a particular SKU used in the MAC product (chart ROW #6) with the overall 14nm process to be used for the earlier products (ROWS #1 - #5).

    According to Intel, during a WW26 schedule update, 14nm Core M 5Y10 and 5Y10a family SKU production release window was narrowed to WW28-WW29 which is a pull in of the outer dates.

    See ROW #1 of the chart in the ExtremeTech Chart.

    http://www.extremetech.com/computing/186100-broadwell-macboo...

    ROW #2: Intel ADDED and F-step released which seems to push out the remaining SKU.

    The remaining ROWS seem to have 8 weeks delay added into the previous schedules along with more detail.

    Regardless of what you or I say here, it will be more clear on Tuesday afternoon what the truth really is. It will be harder or those how spin misinformation.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2014, at 7:25 AM, SemiWiki wrote:

    Well, the Apple a7 (28nm) out performed the Intel 22nm SoCs I have read. The 20nm A8 / iPhone 6 will be out this Fall:

    https://www.semiwiki.com/forum/content/3670-iphone6-will-hav...

    It will be interesting to see how that compares to the Intel 14nm SoCs.

    According to a Samsung presentation this weekend 14nm SoCs are currently in risk production. I believe them to be from QCOM and the Samsung SoC.

    When will the Intel 14nm SoC be out? Hopefully we will get an update this week from Intel.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2014, at 11:49 AM, FluorescentHell wrote:

    I would certainly expect that a 16nm TSMC product should be able to "outperform" an Intel 14nm product for one simple reason: The backend stack (the wires that connect transistors for you laymen) for 16nm TSMC is pretty much the same as their 20nm technology node.

    To reduce risk and to help TSMC catch up to Intel in the race to be the #2 company to have FinFET's, they only focused on the transistor development, not routing pitch reduction. As a result, their interconnect should be able to handle more drive strength. Of course, this will be at the expense of die area (cost).

    So when people think that TSMC is catching up to Intel on process technology with their 16nm FinFET, they should be aware that their development effort is only half of the normal challenge. Remember when Intel delayed 14nm? What was that for? It was purely related to the backend stack. I think this is a challenge TSMC customer have yet to experience. In my opinion, if TSMC shows 16nm FinFET wafers around the same time Intel is showing their 10nm version, it still means that TSMC is 1.5 generations behind Intel because they didn't shrink the backend stack.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2014, at 1:02 PM, stretcho44 wrote:

    @semiwiki

    I was responding primarily to your "According to quite a few of the 27k+ semiconductor professionals at SEMICON Intel 14nm is delayed yet again:" comment. I simply pointed out that your Intel 14nm statement was incorrect. Your 14nm release statement is still incorrect, no matter how many of your wiki articles you link to.

    "Well, the Apple a7 (28nm) out performed the Intel 22nm SoCs I have read."

    "When will the Intel 14nm SoC be out?"

    If you want to divert discussion from your "mistake" about Intel14nm, then performance comparisons and Intel SoC availability seem to be your favorite diversions.

    You and I both know what you are doing. You may think that it is OK but I have a much lower opinion of your misinformation campaign.

  • Report this Comment On July 14, 2014, at 5:12 PM, sbstr wrote:

    By "quite a few" SemiWiki means he, himself and his views. I have never seen SemiWiki quote (actually quote) a source other than himself, you'll note that all cites and references point back to his own site, sometimes masked under a bit.ly address. I gather from reading these columns that he may be a consultant to TSMC, which perhaps makes sense, as he is always either putting down Intel no matter what or defending/promoting TSMC no matter what (even when shown references to contrary). There are others who are more balanced in their approach.

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