Bill Holt’s “Advancing Moore’s Law” presentation at the recent Intel Analyst day was swallowed hook, line, and sinker by the mainstream media fish so let me play devil’s advocate here and point out some problems with his spin on the competitive landscape.
Coincidentally, one of my Intel friends insists that Intel is number one when it comes to integrity amongst semiconductor companies. While I agree with that in principle, I think clear exceptions are the Intel presentations at the analyst meetings. And in this case it’s Bill Holt’s presentation, but another one that comes to mind is Intel CFO Stacy Smith’s Contra Revenue nonsense, but I digress…
First and foremost Bill continues to do Apple Versus Zebras comparisons in regards to Intel process technologies versus the foundries. In this case Bill is comparing Intel Broadwell and Skylake microprocessors against Apple SoCs, two very different things. Obvious question: Why doesn’t Bill use Bay Trail (22nm) and Cherry Trail (14nm) SoCs as comparisons against the Apple A8 (20nm) and A9 (16nm) SoCs? That way Bill would not have to fabricate a “Transistor Density Normalized for Composition” calculation, right? Yes Bill composition DOES matter!
Second, process naming conventions are no longer based on the minimum drawn length of a planar transistor. With the advent of FinFETs (22nm for Intel and 16/14nm for the foundries) process naming conventions have nothing to do with transistor size and are for marketing purposes only. If you truly want to do a “process to process comparison” look at the metal fabric (fin pitch, gate pitch, M1 pitch, etc…) and the SRAM cell size. But that really is a Power Pointless contest since the true test is the resulting chip because that is what customers ultimately buy.
Third, and more importantly, when comparing process nodes you also need to include production dates. According to the Intel slides, the TSMC 10nm will be a superior process to Intel 14nm and that I agree with. Intel goes on to claim that their 10nm process will be superior to TSMC’s 10nm and I also agree with that. What Intel does not say however is that their 10nm will be in production more than one year after TSMC’s 10nm. In fact, TSMC’s 7nm process will be in production in the same time frame as Intel 10nm so isn’t that the comparison the analysts should see?
Bottom line: This really seems like a desperate attempt to cover up the fact that Intel has lost the process LEAD to the foundries.
You can see Bill’s slides HERE.
The other important news that was conveniently announced immediately AFTER the analyst event is that Intel has a new president. Dr. Venkata “Murthy” Renduchintala is president of a newly created Client and Internet of Things (IoT) Businesses and Systems Architecture Group which is a combination of Intel’s Platform Engineering, Client Computing, IoT, Software and Services, and Design & Technology Solutions groups. It’s interesting to note that Murthy is a long time fabless guy from Qualcomm so more changes at Intel will probably follow. He is not on the Intel org page yet but my guess is that he will replace the departing Intel president Renée J. James.
And Qualcomm’s snappy response was:
“A few months ago we made the decision to move away from a co-president leadership structure for QCT. Cristiano Amon was the clear choice as President of the chipset business. We made the decision to enhance the operation of QCT by having a single decision maker who has an exceptional track record of executing and has the confidence of the team and our customers. We are confident in Cristiano’s leadership as we capitalize on the opportunities ahead. Murthy was offered another role within Qualcomm, but he chose to leave the company instead.”
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