When Gordon Moore made his famous prediction in 1965, he said the number of transistors on a chip would double each year for the following decade. In 1975, he updated that prediction to say transistor count would double every two years.
The pace at which Intel introduces new manufacturing processes had already been slowing however, with roughly 2.5 years passing between its 22nm process and the launch of its current 14nm process. By saying the 10nm process will arrive in 2017, Intel is making official a pattern that has already been under way.
In recent years, Intel has alternated between introducing a new manufacturing process one year and a new processor architecture the next, producing what’s known as its “tick, tock” cadence. With 10nm pushed out to 2017 and the new chip design coming next year, it will now be on a “tick tock tock” cadence for the first time. The current 14nm process is the tick, the Skylake microarchitecture is the tock, and now Kaby Lake will be the second tock.
Intel would like to get back to a two-year cadence when it moves from 10 to 7 nanometers, Krzanich said, but each process is unique, presenting its own challenges in materials science and other areas, so it’s too early to say.