Intel’s long, painful struggle with 10nm production may finally be over

In a recent earning call, Intel CEO Bob Swan assured investors that the company’s much-waylaid production capacity for their 10nm fabrication is now sufficient to fully meet customer demand. Specifically, Swan indicated that their plants in Oregon and Israel are now producing 10nm Ice Lake chips at the levels needed to fill orders for both consumer- and data center-grade CPUs. Additionally, Intel’s Arizona facility should also be fully operational for 10nm production early next year.

Anyone following Intel since at least as far back as this year’s Computex trade show knows that the industry giant has encountered more than a few issues in keeping up with AMD in terms of die shrinking. While Intel is only just now reliably putting out 10nm chips, AMD has already moved on to 7nm die sizes, although it too is hitting its share of production snags.

In the immediate wake of Computex 2019, it seemed as though Intel was losing ground to its emboldened competitor. However, as more developments came to light, the picture gradually looked less and less bleak. For one thing, although its latest batch of chips are a tad bulkier than AMD’s, Intel proved its first wave of Ice Lake CPUs could measure up in performance.

When pitted head-to-head, Intel’s Ice Lake i7-1065G7 running in an HP Spectre edged out AMD’s beefy Ryzen 9 3900X in single-core processing. And just when the prospects of 10nm desktop processors from Intel looked grim, with no word on the company for months following the initial announcement, Intel reassured consumers that a subsequent desktop wave is in the works.

But Intel is doing more than just meeting AMD’s die size challenge head on. It is working tirelessly to outflank AMD by offering a broader strategy to improve the consumer computing experience. This makes a lot of sense considering that chip makers are having a harder time squeezing additional performance out of the CPU itself, and are instead turning to address smoother networking and dedicated processing units for specialized tasks like machine learning.

To start with, Intel is doubling down on mobile performance with its forthcoming Lakefield series, which favors a hybrid embrace of large powerhouse cores paired with small lower-horsepower ones.

Actually, one could say Intel is tripling down on mobile when considering its Project Athena. This initiative aims to power the next generation of 2-in-1 devices with hardware that more seamlessly pivots between mobile-optimized tasks.

All of these ambitious pushes leave plenty for consumers to look out for in the months (and hopefully not years) ahead.