July 21, 2014, 10:00 AM — Intel had a great Q2 and is optimistic about the rest of this year, but it's not all smooth sailing. A Chinese hobbyist site says the company is having trouble getting decent yields out of its new 14nm fabrication process, leading to delays.
The company is supposed to launch the Broadwell line of processors later this year. They are a 14nm die shrink of Haswell, the new architecture introduced last year. This is standard Intel operating procedure, called "tick/tock." Intel introduces a new architecture one year, called the "tock," and the following year shrinks the manufacturing process. This is the "tick." Personally I think it should be the other way around, but no one asked me.
So Haswell came out as a 22nm design. Broadwell is the die shrink. Die shrinks are actually the hard part because it means a new manufacturing process, which means billions in new equipment and a lot of testing and failed manufacturing before it works right.
And like so often happens with die shrinks, Intel is reportedly running into yield issues. The Broadwell-H and Broadwell-K processors, the former for all-in-ones and laptops, the latter for high-performance systems, were originally due in late 2014. Then Intel delayed them until May/June 2015. Now, according to what looks like an internal Intel slide obtained by Chinese VR-Zone, the Broadwell-H and –K processors for desktops and high-performance notebooks will hit the market between mid-July and early-September.
Chinese VR-Zone also said that the low power model Core M, known as Broadwell-Y chips, would also be delayed from September of this year into late December '14 or January '15.
What makes the claims of VR-Zone suspicious is that it puts the release of Skylake, Intel's new microarchitecture designed to replace Haswell, at Q2 2015. So would Intel be doing a tick and a tock at the same time? Granted, the Broadwells in question would be the high-end, high performance chips and the first Skylakes would be mainstream chip, so they don't overlap, but that's unusual timing.
The Atom isn't getting out of this unscathed, either. The current architecture is called the "Bay Trail" core, and its successor is called "Braswell." It was believed Braswell would ship in Q1 of 2015, but the site CPU World says Braswell, which will be 14nm processors used in SoC designs, will not ship until mid-March or even mid-May 2015.
That's why Intel does new microarchitectures and die shrinks separately. Trying to do both at once is what got AMD bitten on the backside with its Barcelona architecture and it ended up being very late for it.
Intel is clearly moving forward though. It announced the end of 18 Ivy Bridge processors in June and just announced the discontinuation of a number of older mobile and server processors