Intel had already broken the 'Tick-Tock' product cycle in 2015, when it announced that it will delay the jump to 10nm until 2017, and that 2016 will see the launch of a third wave of 14nm processors codenamed Kaby Lake. Now there are new signs that the decade-old development model is no longer an option for the company.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, 'Tick-Tock' is a strategy that Intel has used to keep a yearly product release cadence. Basically, Intel would iterate processors in an alternating pattern, with the 'tick' representing the move of an existing microarchitecture to a smaller process node (for better performance and energy efficiency), and the 'tock' being the introduction of a new microarchitecture, which brought in new capabilities, such as hardware-accelerated video transcoding and encryption.
As reported by The Motley Fool, Intel's latest 10-K filing suggests that the company is indeed moving away from the two-stage development model, by adding a third stage called 'Optimization', which gives it more time to tackle the technological challenges of moving to smaller process nodes, as well as the ability to keep releasing a new wave of processors every year:
"As part of our R&D efforts, we plan to introduce a new Intel Core microarchitecture for desktops, notebooks (including Ultrabook devices and 2 in 1 systems), and Intel Xeon processors on a regular cadence. We expect to lengthen the amount of time we will utilize our 14nm and our next generation 10nm process technologies, further optimizing our products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions."
What does this mean for you, the consumer? You might be able to keep your desktop motherboard for longer, but at the same time it's possible that you won't feel the need to upgrade your CPU very often, as Intel's William Holt predicts that focus in CPU technology will shift further away from performance improvements, and more towards lower power consumption. The benefits would seem to favor mobile devices.
In any case, another interesting aspect in the filing is that Intel claims to have a competitive advantage over other manufacturers in the race to smaller process nodes, in that it has the infrastructure and complete control over the manufacturing process that many of its competitors simply don't.