After suffering major delays at the 10nm node, Intel also hit a roadblock getting its 7nm process up and running. Having identified a “defect mode”, the company says manufacturing yields for 7nm chips are now one year behind schedule. However, the release of the first 7nm products will suffer a delay of only six months, Intel claims, implying they will initially be manufactured at sub-optimal yields.
If there are no additional delays, Intel’s first 7nm CPU would hit the market by late 2022 or early 2023 and next-generation data center processors will not ship until the first half of 2023. To put that into perspective, TSMC is believed to be on track to commence high-volume 3nm production in 2022. Taking into account the different nomenclature Intel and TSMC use, that translates to an advantage of roughly a full process node for the Taiwanese foundry.
Having lost the technological lead, Intel is now weighing an option that would once be considered heretical: outsourcing production. “We’re going to be pretty pragmatic about if and when we should be making stuff inside or making outside, and making sure that we have optionality to build internally, mix and match inside and outside, or go outside in its entirety if we need to,” CEO Bob Swan said on a call with investors discussing quarterly results.