A recent report from DigiTimes claims that Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) Cannon Lake processors, the first chips to be manufactured using the company's upcoming 10-nanometer technology, "will not become available until the second half of 2018."
This statement appears to be at odds with statements from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who indicated at a recent investor conference that the first Cannon Lake chips would ship by the end of 2017 and that the company would ramp up volume shipments during the first half of 2018.
I reached out to Intel for comment on the DigiTimes story and was told to refer to the guidance that Krzanich gave at the investor conference.
What's going on here?
There's probably something to this...
DigiTimes gets it right more often than it gets it wrong, and its track record with respect to Intel's product plans recently has been stellar. The site correctly reported on Intel's pull-in of its Skylake-X processors, correctly reported that the 12-core Skylake-X chip would launch in August, and correctly reported that the company's Coffee Lake-S chips for the enthusiast desktop market were pulled in from early 2018 to August of this year.
So I'm not ready to dismiss DigiTimes' reporting as "wrong."
A potential explanation
Here's what I think is going on. Intel usually builds several types of chips based on a given architecture. So, for example, Intel's current Kaby Lake architecture powers several chips aimed at different personal-computer form factors. They are:
- Kaby Lake-Y for fan-less notebooks and convertibles.
- Kaby Lake-U for mainstream notebooks.
- Kaby Lake-H for high-performance notebooks.
- Kaby Lake-S for desktop personal computers.
Intel didn't launch all these chips at once. The Kaby Lake-Y chips came in the third quarter of 2016, and then the Kaby Lake-U, H, and S chips all launched in the first quarter of 2017.
Intel may be planning something similar for Cannon Lake. It could launch the Cannon Lake-Y chips first, and then it could roll out Cannon Lake-U sometime in the second half of 2018.
That explanation nicely reconciles Intel's public statements with DigiTimes' reporting.
There's just one catch
Although that explanation could make sense, another generally reliable source, FanlessTech, said on social media that, citing an Intel product road map dated this past April, both Cannon Lake-Y and Cannon Lake-U are coming in "summer 2018."
If that's the case, then the explanation I've offered falls apart.
Intel should publicly clarify
At this point, I think Intel should take the opportunity to publicly clarify its plans with regard to Cannon Lake. Right now, it seems that Intel is telling investors one thing, while telling something else to its business partners -- folks whose businesses depend on having accurate information about Intel's product launch timing to plan their own product build and introduction plans.
Intel's July earnings conference call seems like the appropriate venue at which to give another "process and product technology update," similar to the one it gave back in July 2015 in which it first disclosed the delay it expected in getting out its first 10-nanometer products.
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