2016 should be an interesting year for chip giant Intel (INTC 1.46%) in terms of product launches. We're going to see the company unleash its first 14-nanometer Xeon E5 and Xeon E7 processors, roll out its third generation 14-nanometer PC architecture known as Kaby Lake, and plenty more.
However, I think that 2017 has the potential to be, perhaps, Intel's most significant year from a product perspective in a very long time. Here are three products that I believe will be instrumental to achieving that.
"Purley" server platform
In 2017, Intel is expected to launch a brand new server platform known as Purley. In leaked slides, Intel has described this as the "biggest platform advancement since Nehalem."
The sheer number of new technologies and performance enhancements that Intel is planning to bring with this platform is truly stunning. You can read more about Purley here, but the bottom line is that I fully expect the Purley platform to be a very compelling upgrade for Intel's data center customers.
At the end of the day, I would not be surprised if Intel were able to exceed its long-term data center revenue growth target of 15% in 2017, fueled by the ramp of the Purley platform.
Cannonlake for the bulk of the PC market
In the second half of 2017 -- assuming no further delays -- Intel is expected to launch its very first processor family built on its upcoming 10-nanometer chip manufacturing technology, known as Cannonlake.
Although Intel will likely bring some interesting architectural improvements in its 2016 processor family, known as Kaby Lake, those chips will still be manufactured on the company's 14-nanometer technology.
New manufacturing technologies generally bring significant boosts in power efficiency and allow chip designers more freedom to pack more features and functionality into a given chip area. Newer technologies also tend to come with enhanced transistor performance, which can be used to boost chip performance as well.
I think Cannonlake will prove to be a much bigger leap over Kaby Lake than Kaby Lake will be over the 2015 Skylake chips, which should ultimately help system builders put together more compelling systems. And, given that the PC market has been struggling over the last few years, the more innovation that Intel can deliver, the better.
XMM 7460 modem and 14-nanometer SoFIA chips
Intel's efforts in the mobile market -- through both its stand-alone modems as well as its applications processor solutions -- have been, to put it mildly, very disappointing. The company's product offerings in this space have simply been poor, which is -- in my view -- the key reason that its business performance has been so terrible here.
In late 2016/early 2017, I expect Intel to launch its first stand-alone modem built on its in-house 14-nanometer technology, which -- if designed with a competitive feature-set -- should help improve the company's fortunes in this market vis-à-vis Qualcomm (QCOM 2.34%).
To put things into perspective, Intel's upcoming XMM 7360 modem is still built on an older 28-nanometer manufacturing technology, while Qualcomm has already fielded two generations of modems on TSMC's (TSM 1.50%) 20-nanometer technology. Qualcomm's upcoming X16 LTE modem -- which is expected to be available in devices by the middle of this year -- will probably be built on a foundry finFET process, further leaving Intel's best modems in the dust during 2016.
Intel is also expected to (finally) launch integrated applications processor and modem solutions built on its 14-nanometer technology in late 2016, with volume likely ramping in 2017. These parts should be targeted at the low-end and mid-range of the market, where Intel's odds are probably better than they are in the high end of the market.
Personally, I'm going to take a "wait and see" approach to anything/everything related to Intel's mobile group and will keep my expectations very low, but I am interested to see if the company's 2017 wireless portfolio will be enough to drive revenue/profit growth and ultimately rebuild investor confidence in the company's costly mobile efforts.