Speaking at a Morgan Stanley conference yesterday, George Davis, Intel’s chief financial officer, addressed a number of topics, noting that Intel is “undoubtedly in the 10nm process era” and will be in the 7nm node by 2021. Davis noted that Intel is “definitely entering the 10nm era” and has shipped Ice Lake notebook chips, web ASIC, and is about to release Xe discrete graphics and Ice Lake XE processors.
At the same time, process upgrades within the Intel node are progressing well, i.e. the “plus” upgrade of the existing process. Davis revealed that the Tiger Lake processor, based on the 10nm plus process, will make exponential progress through in-node process upgrades prior to the introduction of the 7nm process.
“We’ve also provided a lot of products for our customers outside the CPU, and we’ve started to accelerate in terms of process,” he says. We’ve said that we’re going to catch up on 7nm nodes and regain leadership in the 5nm era. “
The Intel 10nm process and TSMC’s 7nm process provide a similar transistor density, so it’s hard to say whether Davis is talking about the performance of the 10nm node or the manufacturing economy.
In both cases, Davis predicts that Intel’s 7nm node (roughly equivalent to TSMC’s 5nm) will be back in the industry by the end of 2021, before that could have an impact on Intel’s competitive position and performance.
Davis points out that Intel will address challenges by providing differentiated platform-level solutions, including tight hardware integration in AI and software.
“On analyst days in May 2019, we said, “Look, this (10nm) may not be Intel’s best process node ever, it’s going to be less than 14nm and below 22nm, but we’re excited about the improvements we’re seeing.” We expect to open the 7nm era by the end of 2021, when we will see a significant jump in performance. “
“Furthermore, in order to regain leadership, we have accelerated the overlap between 10nm and 7nm and between 7nm and 5nm, which will also be reflected in cost. Starting in 2021, there will be a 10nm return, 7nm investment, 5nm start investing, which will also affect gross margin. “
Intel plans to launch a 7nm process by the end of 2021, and plans for the 5nm node have not yet been officially announced. At the same time, TSMC is actively pushing ahead with a new process, producing 5nm in the first half of this year, and should launch 3nm nodes by the end of 2022, so it is unclear whether Intel’s expectation of regaining the lead in the 5nm node is based on TSMC’s current 3nm plan.
In the meantime, Intel will have to defend against AMD’s challenges. Asked if Intel expected to lose market share in the server space, Davis responded: “In the second half of the year, we expect more competition.” We think this point in time will be ahead, but we see very strong demand for our products. Looking ahead to our product roadmap, we expect a stronger competitive advantage in the 7nm to 5nm process. “
Despite the challenges, Intel’s refocusing on its broad IP portfolio under its new leadership and new six technology pillars is expected to continue to invest in the latest technologies that do not rely solely on process leadership, such as EMIB and Foveros, and adopt new small chip architectures across a wide range of products. Take full advantage of the packaging while avoiding some of the problems you encounter as you move toward smaller nodes.
In addition, we expect Intel to continue to evolve hyperhegeneic computing, driving the cross-node portfolio of architectures to meet future challenges.