Intel’s Foundries Expected to Lag Behind TSMC for At Least Another 4-5 Years

Many people, including investors and enthusiasts, expect Intel’s new CEO to magically all the chipmaker’s problems within a year or two. That, however, won’t happen. It’ll take Team Blue at least another 4 years or so to get back on top if all goes according to the plan that is. Just look at AMD’s journey from Bulldozer to Zen. It took the company nearly ten years to get competitive again and beat Intel in both the single-threaded and multi-threaded segments.

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Granted, Intel’s predicament isn’t nearly as bad, but there are still quite a few issues to resolve. The first and foremost is with respect to the chipmaker’s internal foundries. Being stuck on the same process node and core architecture for more than six years has cost Intel quite a bit. Apple ditched it, and started making its own chips, AMD went from being the producer of cheap, low-grade CPUs to beating Intel across every segment and the company’s stocks have also been rather stagnant.

For the first time, Intel is planning to bring its 10nm node and the accompanying Sunny Cove and Golden Cove architectures to the server and desktop markets, respectively by the year’s end. By that time, TSMC’s 5nm production will have already become its primary node with the 3nm process in the final stages of its risk production.

In 2022, TSMC’s 3nm node will begin mass production while Intel will begin ramping up the production of its 7nm node after a year-long delay. This is when the latter is expected to outsource its flagship consumer CPUs to the former in order to reduce the load from its own foundries and accelerate the production and R&D of future nodes.

In 2023, Intel is slated to begin the full-fledged mass production of its 7nm node while TSMC will already be working on the risk production of its 2nm node with GAA technology (from FF). The mass production for the same is expected to start in 2024 while things are a bit murky on Intel’s side. Either way, it looks like TSMC will hold onto its process lead for at least 4-5 years. After that, the process technology will start to become less and less important, with a focus on advanced packaging technologies.

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