This week started with a milestone announcement of Japanese SoftBank moving in to acquire ARM Holdings for a record $32 billion. Many analysts lamented that the takeover was a result of Brexit, even though everyone in their right minds should know that negotiations of this magnitude take years and typically are made in complete silence for 6-18 months (due dilligence and all that jazz). However, this might not be the only acquisition in the modest pool of British semiconductor players. As we reported on multiple occasions, Intel is reorganizing, i.e. restructuring the company. As a part of that reorganization, the company performed no less than three rounds
Several months ago, we exclusively disclosed the new architectural cadence for Intel processors. After a decade of manufacturing processors in an bi-annual cycle (Tick – new architecture, old process; Tock – new process and ‘old’ architecture), Intel’s SEC 10-K filing (PDF download) officially killed the Tick-Tock cadence, moving to a three-fold product line-up for a single manufacturing process. Approximately four years ago, Tick-Tock encountered a first significant hiccup with Ivy Bridge being a 22nm version of Sandy Bridge. Ivy Bridge was the first processor from Intel that we could call APU, instead of a CPU – as 40% of the die was allocated for new graphics architecture. The
Given the slow disintegration or refocusing of its competitors, we were not all too surprised when Intel started to slow down its famous “Tick-Tock” manufacturing cadence. Originally introduced in 2006 with the “Conroe”, Core 2 Duo processors, Tick-Tock was mixed between a new microarchitecture and current manufacturing process (Tock), and a new process, die-shrink processor with some architectural optimizations (Tick). Further separation in Tick-Tock was a cadence between mainstream parts (desktop, mobile) and high-end parts (gaming, workstations) – Tick or Tock would always debut as mainstream parts, followed by high-end 6-12 months after. High end would typically mean Intel Xeon and Core i7 ‘X’ line-up.
In my 30-year career as an IT hardware expert, I’ve seen thousands of roadmaps, leaked, manage-leaked and official alike. Many were on target, yet still quite a few headed for the “failed” dustbin. Among all of them, Intel’s “tick-tock” plan was probably the most ambitious one in terms of attempted consistency and predictability. Knowing the multiple interlinked uncertainties of semiconductor process, CPU architecture, ecosystem changes and others, it was a wonder in itself that it lasted for several years, until the major slippages occurred in the Sandy Bridge generation. From then on, not only there were major delays introduced to the high end lines as the