Intel’s yields for its 7nm process are now twelve months behind its internal target. From Intel’s earnings release:
The company’s 7nm-based CPU product timing is shifting approximately six months relative to prior expectations. The primary driver is the yield of Intel’s 7nm process, which based on recent data, is now trending approximately twelve months behind the company’s internal target.
Intel CEO Bob Swan in the Q2 2020 earnings call said that Intel identified a “defect mode” in the 7nm process and has invested in “contingency plans” that include external third-party foundries. At the end of the call, Swan said that he’s “not happy” with Intel’s 7nm performance. Intel was originally aiming to release 7nm chips in 2021.
While the new 7nm process is in development, Intel plans to launch 10nm-based “Tiger Lake” chips in the near future, and the company’s 10nm-based server CPU “Ice Lake” is on track for launch later this year. A new line of client CPUs codenamed “Alder Lake” will launch in the second half of 2021, which will include its first 10nm-based desktop CPU.
Intel has struggled with multiple yield issues over the years, which has led to chip delays and roadmap changes. Intel’s issues are perhaps one of the reasons that Apple has decided to ditch Intel chips in favor of its own Arm-based chip technology for Macs. Apple has in the past been forced to delay updates or use older chips because of delays in Intel’s production plans.
Starting this year, Apple is transitioning the Mac lineup to its own Apple Silicon chips, with the first Mac processors to be based on the 5-nanometer A14 chips in the works for the 2020 iPhone lineup.
Apple hasn’t provided details on which Macs will get Apple Silicon chips first, but rumors suggest the 13-inch MacBook Pro and 13-inch MacBook Air models could be updated with the new chips before the end of the year. Apple says it will take two years to transition away from Intel chips entirely.