The drama surrounding chip giant Intel's (INTC 1.81%) highly delayed 10-nanometer chip manufacturing technology seems to be boundless. On Oct. 22, SemiAccurate -- which has been chronicling the issues that Intel has been having with its 10nm technology for a while -- reported that Intel had "just pulled the plug on their struggling 10nm process."
Several hours after SemiAccurate's report went live, Intel posted the following tweet:
Media reports published today that Intel is ending work on the 10nm process are untrue. We are making good progress on 10nm. Yields are improving consistent with the timeline we shared during our last earnings report.-- Intel News (@intelnews) October 22, 2018
Let's use this as an opportunity to recap Intel's comments about its 10nm product launches, and progress on its July 26 earnings forecast, ahead of the company's Oct. 25 earnings report.
Systems on shelves for holiday 2019
On the company's last earnings call, CFO and interim CEO Bob Swan said that the company continues "to make progress on 10nm" and that yields "are improving consistent with the timeline we shared in April, and we expect systems on shelves for the 2019 holiday season."
Later on during the call, Intel chief engineering officer Murthy Renduchintala clarified that those first systems would be PCs with data center chips built using the technology coming "shortly after." (Intel executive Lisa Spelman said in an interview with AnandTech several months ago that those parts would come in "the middle of 2020.")
A history of delays
Now, keep in mind that Intel's 10nm technology is significantly delayed from when it was originally supposed to go into mass production. During its 2013 investor meeting, the company showed a slide saying that 10nm would be "ready in 2015."
Since then, 10nm saw numerous delays. On the company's July 2015 earnings conference call, then-CEO Brian Krzanich told investors that the company's first 10nm product, Cannon Lake, would be pushed out to the second half of 2017.
Then, during the company's July 2017 earnings call, Krzanich said this:
And we'll be shipping our first 10-nanometer products near the end of the year, beginning with a lower-volume SKU and followed by multiple SKUs and a volume ramp in the first half of 2018.
One quarter later, on the company's Oct. 2017 earnings call, the story shifted again, with Krzanich saying:
We're on track to ship our first low-volume 10-nanometer part by the end of the year. That will be followed by the initial ramp in the first half of 2018, with both high volume and system availability in the second half of 2018. We shipped our first modem into the auto industry, and our modem revenue was up 37% in total over last year.
Two quarters after that, Krzanich said that "volume production is moving from the second half of 2018 into 2019." At the time, he didn't specify when within 2019 production was expected to begin, merely claiming -- in response to an analyst question -- that the production ramp-up would begin "as soon as we think the yields are in line." (Yield refers to the percentage of the manufactured chips that are viable.)
Krzanich resigned from the CEO position in June; the current timeline, which Intel appears to have reiterated, was announced on the subsequent earnings call.
I look forward to hearing what else Intel has to say with respect to 10nm during its earnings call on Oct. 25.