Intel’s Bob Swan gets candid about 14nm shortage, CPU market share

Intel CEO Bob Swan made some surprising statements in an interview with WCCFTech, on the sidelines of the Credit Suisse technology conference. These comments come in the context of a difficult year for Intel: The launch of Ryzen 3000 has put immense pressure on Intel’s consumer product line at every level, while EPYC challenges Xeon’s server dominance.

Meanwhile, supply shortages have gotten so bad that Intel recently relaunched a 22nm Haswell process. For real. Credit is due where credit is due, though. And Bob’s comments appear to be a candid take on where Intel is at the moment and where they’re heading. Here are some of the interview highlights:

Intel’s Reorienting its Thinking on Market Share

Bob stated that one of the reasons for Intel’s complacency was faulty thinking: when the company and its staff see itself as having 90 percent of the TAM in the CPU market, there’s no need to innovate or grow.

Bob wants to change the paradigm. Going ahead, Intel will see itself as a company with 30 percent TAM in the entire market for silicon. This presents great opportunities for growth outside Intel’s traditional areas of strength, with an increased focus on segments like the GPU market and AI.

Intel got Candid About Supply-side Issues

Team blue actually issued a formal apology for the ongoing shortage of 14nm parts. While speculation was rife, there was no official confirmation about why the shortage took place. Bob chalked it up to three main issues:

  • Demand for Intel CPUs, at 21 percent, was higher than anticipated.
  • Work on smartphone modems put additional strain on fabs
  • Delaying 10nm meant creating more 14nm parts, triggering a vicious cycle–A lack of 10nm silicon made Intel less able to ship 14nm parts.

Intel will Ship a 7nm Part by Q4 2021

While that’s a long way off (and while AMD will likely have moved on to 5nm Ryzen), it’s encouraging to see a realistic timeframe for Intel’s move to 7nm.

Intel’s improved efficiently immensely on 14nm. It’s a testament to their engineering that 14nm parts like the 9900KS deliver higher clockspeeds and better single-threaded performance than their Ryzen counterparts. We’re interested to see what Intel will do when they finally hit 7nm.

All in all, this hasn’t been a great year for Intel or (or Bob Swan). But the interview made it seem that there was some serious introspection going on in Santa Clara. A new Intel that’s more considerate of consumer interests would be great for everyone.


Penguin-published author, and journalist. Loves PC hardware but has terrible hand-eye coordination. Most likely to be found playing Total War or watching weird Russian sitcoms.
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