Intel's Cannonlake generation could be going to eight cores

A LinkedIn profile gives away a little secret. So do we need eight-core desktops?

We in the press have had a lot of fun getting leaks from major tech vendors when an employee screws up and gives away unannounced products in their LinkedIn profile. More than once I've seen stories where someone caught a detail from someone at Apple, Microsoft or Google talked about their work on something unannounced. You better believe those profiles were quickly changed or taken down.

And so it is with Intel and an interesting disclosure regarding Cannonlake, the 10nm shrink of its new Skylake microarchitecture. Cannonlake has been delayed from 2016 to late 2017 as Intel struggles with getting down to 10nm and the company has added a second 14nm part called Kaby Lake, thus breaking its "tick/tock" model.

Motley Fool contributing writer Ashraf Eassa spotted this profile of an Intel engineer (who has undoubtedly gotten an earful from his or her boss):

The key comment is "Intel Cannonlake SoC integrates 4/6/8 cores and Converged Coherent Fabric." Intel is working on a new high-speed fabric called Omni-Path, which will make its debut in the upcoming Xeon Phi processor and reportedly will find its way into the Xeon. So it makes sense for Intel to include this in a desktop/mobile part, too.

Intel has stuck to quad-core desktop parts for more than a decade, except for its six- and eight-core Extreme Edition processors for gamers with way too much money (the chip alone is $1,000 or more). It has added new graphics cores in recent years and tweaked CPU cores with things like Turbo Boost.

So why move to eight cores? Well, if and when Intel gets down to 10nm, it will have room on the die to double the core count. The question then becomes whether this SoC will have HyperThreading. If the Xeon D, Intel's Xeon SoC design, is any guide, then the answer is no.

The next question is who is the target market? Eight Skylake cores has a lot of potential but the first two customers that come to mind are Microsoft and Sony. They may be losing faith in AMD, or just plain losing patience with that basket case.

However, I don't think for one second they will replace the AMD SoC in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. That would mean a huge variance in performance and it would likely break older games. If those two firms do consider a Cannonlake SoC it would be for the next generation consoles that succeed the ones on the market, and that might be a while. Consoles are staying on the market longer these days.

SoCs aren't typically aimed at desktops, they are for mobile devices or embedded. I could see using it in a future version of Microsoft Surface, but again comes the question of why would a tablet need that kind of compute power?

Cannonlake is two years off, so much can change between now and then.

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