by Anton Shilov
10/15/2013 | 11:00 PM
UPDATE: The first version of the news-story stated that Intel had no yield issues with 14nm process technology. As it appears, yields were the main reason behind the delay.
Intel Corp. said on Tuesday that it would delay beginning of mass production of its next-generation central processing units code-named Broadwell. The decision was conditioned not only by slow demand for personal computers in general and microprocessors in particular, but also by low yields. The result of the move will be a postponement of the commercial launch of the new chips.
“We continue to make progress with the industry's first 14nm manufacturing process and our second generation 3D transistors. Broadwell, the first product on 14nm is up and running as we demonstrated at Intel Developer Forum, last month. While we are comfortable with where we are at with yields, from a timing standpoint, we are about a quarter behind our projections. As a result, we are now planning to begin production in the first quarter of next year,” said Brian Krzanich, chief executive officer of Intel, during quarterly conference call with financial analysts.
The main reason behind delay of mass production is insufficient yields of chips made using 14nm manufacturing process.
"It was simply a defect density issue. As we develop these technologies, what you do is you are continually improving the defect densities and those results in the yield, the number of die per wafer that you get out as the products. What happens as you insert a set of fixes in groups, you will put four or five, maybe sometimes six or seven fixes into a process and group it together, and run it through and you expect an improvement rate. Occasionally, as you go through that, the fixes do not deliver all of the improvements. We had one of those. […] We have got back now and added additional fixes, gotten back onto that curve, so we have confidence that the problem is fixed, because we have data that it is fixed," explained Mr. Krzanich.
According to the head of Intel, in Q3 of FY2013 its revenue grew 5% sequentially and was flat versus the third quarter of 2012. Meanwhile, year-over-year PC microprocessor volumes “declined slow and were offset by solid growth in the data center and enterprise” businesses. A good news about PC demand is that emerging markets continue to grow and in Q3 2013 well-developed market also demonstrated signs of recovery.
The decision to delay beginning of mass production of its next-generation central processing units code-named Broadwell will help Intel to avoid unnecessary competition between various microprocessor families. At present Intel sells various chips based on Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge and Haswell micro-architectures. Adding fourth family might cause confusion and competition between Intel’s own products.
Traditionally, Intel starts to produce chips using new manufacturing process around October – November in a bid to formally introduce them in Q1 or Q2 the next calendar year. Usually Intel launches new central processing units based on new high-performance micro-architecture for desktops, notebooks, workstations and even single-socket servers at the same time. This will not be the case with chips to be made using 14nm manufacturing technology.
Broadwell chips will only land into mobile computers next year, according to Intel’s plans. For desktops, uniprocessor servers and workstations there will be so-called Haswell Refresh microprocessors made using 22nm fabrication process. As a result, the volumes of 14nm products this year may be lower than traditional output using a new node.
Intel itself has not officially confirmed lack of plans to introduce Broadwell microprocessors for desktops in 2014. It is believed that Broadwell-based products will now be available in the second half of 2014.