Intel is delaying the release of its first 14-nanometer processors, code named Broadwell, until the first quarter of 2014 due to higher-than-expected silicon wafer defects in the manufacturing process, the company said this week.
Broadwell, Intel's first 14nm product, was demonstrated at the Intel Developer Forum in September and had originally been earmarked for shipment in the fourth quarter of this year. The chip giant is positioning the ultra-low power variants of its future Broadwell-generation Core processors for fanless laptop, hybrid, and tablet designs.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said during his company's third-quarter earnings call that Broadwell yields are now back on track but an extended "defect density issue" with the 14nm process node has pushed volume production out for another quarter.
"While we are comfortable with where we are at with yields, from a timing standpoint, we are about a quarter behind our projections. As a result, we are now planning to begin production in the first quarter of next year," Krzanich said.
He later elaborated on the specific issues affecting Broadwell production, as recorded in a transcript of the call by Seeking Alpha:
"It was simply a defect density issue ... As we develop these technologies, what you do is you are continually improving the defect densities and those result in the yield, the number of dies per wafer that you get out of the product. And what happens as you insert a set of fixes in groups, you will put four or five, maybe sometimes six or seven fixes into a process and group it together, and run it through, and you expect an improvement rate.
"Occasionally as you go through that, the fixes don't deliver all of the improvements you thought. We had one of those. So why do I have confidence now? Because we've gone back now and added additional fixes, gotten back onto that curve. So we have confidence that the problem is fixed, because we have actually data that it's fixed. And so that gives us the confidence that we are going to keep moving forward now. And that happens sometimes in these development phases like this, so that's why we are moving [volume production] out a quarter."
Krzanich added that Intel's OEM partners "have a strong desire to get Broadwell to market, so if I could, there would be nothing slowing us down. This is a small blip in schedule and we will continue on from here."
The Intel CEO also said that he did not foresee the delay in Broadwell production affecting the schedule for other 14nm products using the future "Skylake" microarchitecture, which Intel has said it will begin shipping in 2015.
"We do not think it will push Skylake ... The early learning that's going on during the process development has no impact on Skylake's ability to come to market," Krzanich said.
The world's biggest PC and server chip maker on Tuesday reported revenue of $13.5 billion (£8.44 billion) for its third quarter, up 5 per cent from the second quarter and flat compared with the third quarter of 2012. Profits of $3 billion (£1.87 billion) were up to the tune of 48 per cent sequentially, as Intel cleared a cool $1 billion (£630,000) more in net income than it had in the second quarter.