Intel Plans To Slow Chip Development

Chip giant Intel is slowing down the clock on its development of processors. The company announced that it is ditching the so-called "tick-tock" approach to making chips that it has used for years.

Apparently, the move is in response to the growing difficulty in making smaller transistors and circuits that can hold the same amount of processing power as their larger predecessors. Instead, the company will slow down the rate at which it shrinks the components on its processors.

The tick-tock manufacturing model refers to that fact that about every two years, Intel would upgrade its fabrication facilities to manufacture chips using smaller transistors and circuits. That move, in turn, would increase transistor density as well as the performance and energy efficiency of the processors. That was the tick; the tock was when, in intervening years, Intel would release chips with a new microarchitecture.

The idea was a cycle in which Intel released a chip based on a new microarchitecture one year, followed by a new chip based on the same microarchitecture but made with smaller, denser transistors.

Not an Iron-Clad Law

"We?EU?re seeing Moore?EU?s Law slowing down," Linley Gwennap, principal analyst with The Linley Group, told us. Moore?EU?s Law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit will double about every two years.

"You used to be able to count on that two-year cadence, but now manufacturers are admitting that a three-year cycle might be the new standard for the industry," said Gwennap.

Intel will move to a cycle that focuses on process, architecture and optimization. It?EU?s already using this approach with new processors based on the 14nm manufacturing process (14nm refers to transistors that are 14 nanometers apart on the surface of the chip). The goal has been to reduce that distance as chip transistors are reduced in size.

Slowing Cycle

The...

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