Last November, Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) then-general manager of the company's mobile and communications group Hermann Eul presented a roadmap illustrating the rough launch timing of future Intel mobile products. According to these roadmaps, Intel is expected to launch a whole fleet of mobile chips built on its 14-nanometer technology in the 2016 timeframe.
However, based on an a recently published interview on AnandTech with Aicha Evans, VP of Intel's Communication and Devices Group, I'm starting to think that the SoFIA LTE 2 and SoFIA MID parts, aimed at low-cost and mid-range phones, respectively, might be "delayed."
Why the quotation marks?
The reason I put the word "delayed" in quotes is that Intel has technically never given launch dates for the 14-nanometer SoFIA parts. However, CEO Brian Krzanich did indicate on a prior earnings call that the company planned to bring the successor to SoFIA LTE for the low-end (known as SoFIA LTE 2) into production in either late 2015 or early 2016.
We then told you that in the second half of next year -- and again, we're debating whether it's the second half or the first quarter of 2016, but we'll move all of that internal on to 14-nanometers.
The original plan, then, as of the April 2014 earnings call, Intel had planned to bring out a 14-nanometer SoFIA in either the second half of 2015 or the "first quarter of 2016." Intel has not mentioned anything with respect to SoFIA MID besides that it will be a 2016 part.
So, what's changed?
Notice the following question and answer snippet from the aforementioned interview with Evans:
Ian Cutress: So this time next year we will be asking about 14 [nanometer] SoFIA?
Aicha Evans: I sure do hope so, otherwise we have a problem. I might not even be here! But our CEO was quite clear that he wants me to ship at least one of the SoFIA line in 14nm in 2016.
On the surface, there doesn't seem to be much, here; Evans seems to be confirming the prior roadmaps given that suggest that SoFIA LTE 2 and SoFIA MID will come in 2016. However, note from the April 2014 earnings call that Krzanich was debating between a late-2015/first-quarter 2016 launch of a 14nm SoFIA.
This latest interview suggests that it would be an accomplishment for Intel to get even one of the 14-nanometer SoFIA product lines in the market at some point in 2016. Call me a pessimist, but this suggests that Intel's 14-nanometer SoFIA projects might be running behind schedule.
Shareholders might appreciate an update
I understand that for competitive reasons, Intel may want to keep some of its mobile product launch timing information under wraps. However, given that Intel is essentially nonexistent in the smartphone applications processor market, the company has very little to lose by disclosing more granular launch time-frames for its future products.
Given the magnitude of the investment that the company is making in mobile, and the increasing importance of mobile in the computing landscape, I think Intel should keep investors updated on how things in mobile are going. Quarterly conference calls, unsurprisingly, would be a good place for those updates.
I don't think disclosing exact shipment dates or detailed product specifications would be necessary. However, I think Intel can do better than just putting a year in which the product is expected to ship.