Intel formally kills its tick-tock approach to processor development


Nearly 10 years ago, Intel formally unveiled the new design and manufacturing process it would use for its microprocessors. Before 2007, there was no exact, predictable alignment between the deployment of new manufacturing techniques at smaller process nodes and the debut of new architectures. From 2007 forward, Intel followed a distinct cadence: New process nodes would be designated as “ticks,” and new architectures built on the same process node would be called “tocks.”

While Intel said that the latest 14-nanometer chips were on a “2.5 year cycle,” it plans to introduce three different 10-nanometer chips yearly. With the three-step PAO, that slows the pace of innovation by effectively a third, meaning consumers will have to wait an extra year before they see significant speed improvements. The third year of a chip’s life cycle will likely see smaller performance gains, giving power users and gamers — who have become critical customers — less reason to upgrade.

The new process is a direct result of the difficulty in building chips with traces that are just 20 silicon atoms wide. “We expect to lengthen the amount of time we will utilize our 14nm and our next generation 10nm process technologies, further optimizing our products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions,” according to the document.

While competitors like Samsung are closing the technology gap, Intel has maintained that it will introduce 10-nanometer chips before its competitors. Furthermore, it says that “this competitive advantage will be extended in the future as the costs to build leading-edge fabrication facilities increase.” In other words, Intel believes that building chips is becoming so difficult technically that very few others will be able to keep up. However, one of its biggest competitors, TSMC, plans to produce 5-nanometer chips by 2020.

  • Terrell

    In other words, we know that we lead the pack by a substantial amount, so why innovate if we can just milk the market with the same product that we’ve paid off years ago? Our manufacturing costs are low but we’ll still sell the chips year after year for the same market price with no reductions.


    • Abulurd Boniface

      Did you actually read the piece of were you between CoD sessions and/or masturbating? They’re talking about using traces that are 20 silicon atoms wide. That does not sound to you like something that might be a tad of a technical challenge to overcome? Intel should just ‘suck it up’ and get on with it?

  • Freeman4096

    Unpopular opinion: Fine By Me!
    Software guys will actualy have to use real talent, instead of relying on ever increasing horse power. I’m looking at you ubisoft and your recent Far Cry games. They don’t look much better than Far Cry 3, but run like 4 times worse. …coz we have more horsepower! It’s all nice and roses, except people need to keep spending money on newer and newer tech without betting any meaningful improvements. People moan that cell phones are 2-year ticking time bombs that are designed to slow down in order to force you to buy new one. But then kids on the internet whine that they want to buy stronker cpu, so they can run benchmarks with higher numbers!