Intel has a two year lead in process technology over the rest of the semiconductor industry and could get further ahead if yields are satisfactory on its finfet-based 22nm process due for introduction later this year, said Mike Bryant, CTO of Future Horizons, at last week’s IFS 2011.
Intel has been shipping 32nm in volume since 2009, said Bryant, “while the others are only just getting into volume production.”
TSMC has issued its 28nm design kits but, said Bryant: “This tends to happen a year ahead of full production’.
“If Intel’s 22nm process yields well,” reckoned Bryant, “then they will move further ahead.”
This is what is giving Intel CEO Paul Otellini the confidence to say, earlier this week: “Our job is to make sure that we can out-perform, out-battery, and out-compatibility the ARM guys on Win 8 tablets.”
Intel has always suffered in competitiveness with ARM for two reasons: ARM is multi-sourced and inexpensive; ARM uses less power.
If finfet 22nm eliminates the second of these disadvantages, then Intel will have a powerful argument to persuade OEMs to use x86 in tablets.
That’s in default of using the powerful argument of MDF, which the US FTC has told Intel not to use any more.
Other prizes for Intel, if it can crack 22nm finfets, are that processors might get to 4GHz, and Apple may use Intel for foundry to get an advantage over Android competitors.
If that happens, one wonders:
Would Intel be so keen to get Apple’s foundry business that it would manufacture ARM processors?
Would Apple be so keen to get Intel’s 22nm finfet process that it would use x86 in iPads?