Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) disclosed last year, after keeping quiet for so long, that the first product that would be built on its 10-nanometer chip manufacturing process, known as Cannonlake, would arrive in the "second half of 2017." This is something that Intel reiterated after an erroneous job posting on the company's website suggested that the volume ramp of 10-nanometer silicon wouldn't begin until 2018.
Thanks to a leak of Intel's product release plans courtesy of BenchLife.info, we now know roughly when Intel plans to actually release the chips.
Mid-third quarter for the initial wave of products
Per the leak, Cannonlake for mobile form factors -- think chips appropriate for 12-inch MacBook and MacBook Air-class systems -- is expected to launch at some point in the middle of the third quarter. The third quarter spans July to September, so this suggests that Intel is targeting the August timeframe to launch these processors.
This misses the "back to school" season, but systems should -- if Intel meets its schedule -- be readily available for the holiday shopping season.
Probably later for other variants
These days, Intel seems to lead off its product launches with low-power parts aimed at notebooks and convertible/2-in-1 systems. This is due to three main reasons. First of all, the market for low-power notebooks combined with 2-in-1/convertibles is the largest sub-segment within the PC market. High performance notebooks and desktop computers are secondary these days.
Next, perhaps the biggest improvement these days to be had in transitioning from one chip manufacturing technology to another is the enormous power efficiency benefits to be had from such a transition. Of course new technologies benefit all market segments, but the ones in which battery life and portability are critical are the ones that seem to benefit the most (at least in the consumer space) from new manufacturing technology.
I suspect that we will see Intel roll out the remainder of the Cannonlake client chips starting in the fourth quarter of the year, with higher performance variants (i.e. with much better integrated graphics, for example) coming late in the first half of 2018.
What about Cannonlake-based server chips?
By far the largest chips that Intel builds are those targeted at servers. Unlike in the consumer market, server workloads can take advantage of the immense number of CPU cores that can be packed into a large chip area. However, larger chips are much more difficult to build, so what Intel does is it builds the smaller consumer chips first and once manufacturing yields are very high, it can build the larger server chips.
Intel seems to be aiming to release new server processor generations once every year to year-and-a-half, and I believe that in order to maintain a competitive edge going forward, it will need to be quite aggressive in rolling out new products at a rapid clip.
Intel's first 14-nanometer server chip family, Broadwell-EP, is expected to arrive soon. The follow-on 14-nanometer server chip family, known as Skylake-EP, is expected to show up in 2017 (and if I had to guess, I'd say the first half of 2017).
Cannonlake-EP, Intel's first 10-nanometer server chip, could arrive either in the first half of 2018 if we assume a one-year release cadence, or in the second half of 2018 if we assume more of a 1.5 year cadence.
I'm optimistic that we'll see it in the first half of 2018, but realistically it could very well be the second half of 2018 given the historical deltas between Intel's PC chip releases and the subsequent server chip releases.