On Sept. 28, 2017, website Gamers Nexus published what appeared to be an official document from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) indicating that the chip giant intended to launch its next-generation low-cost personal computer processors, known as Gemini Lake, sometime between Oct. 23 and Nov. 7.
The new processors are expected to include improvements in performance, efficiency, and integration, compared to the company's current-generation Apollo Lake processors that power many low-cost notebook and desktop computers.
It's Nov. 23 as of this writing and the chips have yet to be announced, let alone available for purchase. It's clear that this product family has been delayed. Here's what that means for Intel shareholders.
Minimal business impact
The upcoming Gemini Lake processors are targeted at a segment of the market that's not particularly performance or feature sensitive. Indeed, one can purchase a laptop with Intel's current generation Apollo Lake processors for as little as $330. The individuals who will buy such computers want devices that are cheap and handle basic tasks without issue. The current-generation Apollo Lake-based computers are quite capable of doing that.
Such customers aren't interested in paying more for additional performance or features (such as a better screen, faster storage, and a higher quality trackpad), because if they were, they wouldn't buy systems with Intel's low-cost chips. It's still important for Intel to regularly update its product offerings in this area as basic computing tasks become more demanding, but such updates are far less critical to both Intel's and PC vendors' businesses than regular updates to the higher-end Core processor families.
Core rises as Atom falls
For some perspective, Intel routinely talks about how it continues to see Core processors become a larger portion of the company's overall personal computer chip shipments. During the company's investor meeting in February, the company said that more than 70% of its processor shipments consisted of Core processors.
That means less than 30% of Intel's overall processor shipments were of chips sold under its Pentium and Celeron brands. Not all of Intel's Pentium and Celeron processors are based on the company's Atom processor architecture. Apollo Lake, Gemini Lake, and future chips are all based on the company's lower-cost and lower-performance Atom technology.
That means a product like Gemini Lake makes up somewhere south of 30% of the total number of processors that Intel sells into the personal computer market each year. Moreover, since these chips are cheaper -- sometimes substantially so -- than their Core-based brethren, the percentage of Intel's PC processor revenue that they'll bring in is naturally going to be lower than the percentage of Intel's PC processor unit shipments.
Some financial evidence
About a month ago, Intel gave its financial guidance for the current quarter and the numbers look reasonable. It expects $16.3 billion in sales and $4.8 billion in pre-tax income. That guidance signals that Intel expects to continue to see healthy sales across its various business units, including its PC processor business.
That reasonable guidance is in the context of an overall personal computer market that's still not really growing and possible continued lukewarm growth in the company's second-largest business, the datacenter group.
Put bluntly, a slight delay in these chips isn't going to have a noticeable impact on the company's personal computer processor sales and, ultimately, its business results.