The big picture: Intel began the shift to 10nm years ago, and in the process, failed to maintain their 14nm production. That caused a dangerous shortage of 14nm chips that will persist until Q3 this year when the first mobile 10nm processors will launch.
Intel’s CEO Bob Swan delivered the bad news at a recent earnings call, dropping Intel’s shares by 10% -- their worst fall in over a year although the stock had been trading at record levels as of late. While their Q1 earnings were the same $16.1 billion as last year, Q2 is going to be a tough one with far fewer processors sold than investors would like.
Despite investing $1.5 billion back into 14nm last year, the CPU shortage has been enough to make Microsoft and device OEMs point the finger of blame at Intel during their own earnings calls. Custom PC builders have arguably been hit the hardest, with Intel listing stupid prices and handing out the dregs. But soon all that will be in the past, promises Swan.
“Our supply constraints have had a disruptive impact on our customers and ecosystem. We've committed never again to be a constraint on our customers' growth. We've increased capacity to improve our position in the second half, although product mix will continue to be a challenge in the third quarter as our teams align available supply with customer demand,” Swan said.
“Given the progress we've made on 10nm, we're going to be shifting more units in the fourth quarter than we previously anticipated.”
Intel already has a healthy and growing stockpile of 10nm mobile parts, which they’ll be handing out to OEMs to test and play with shortly. And over the past four months, Intel has nearly doubled the rate of production. A significant release of 10nm-based laptops is expected to arrive in time for the holiday season, beating AMD to 7nm in mobile and providing strong revenue in Q3 and Q4.
Of course, words are just words and Intel doesn’t have the best track record. While Swan paints a rosy picture, he’s left out 10nm desktop parts and 10nm performance laptop parts, which could arrive as late as 2022 according to leaks. AMD’s 7nm is expected to be announced in a mere month.