Intel had their Q2 earnings today, and while we’ll get to that shortly, some news came out of the earnings call that was interesting. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich stated on their earnings call that Intel is now shipping their 7th Generation Core processor, code named Kaby Lake.

Kaby Lake was not even a product not that long ago, but with Intel coming up against the laws of physics with process shrinks, they made the announcement a year ago that they would be adding more architectures per process shrink. The delays in moving to 22 nm and then 14 nm meant that they were missing the anticipated product launches for their OEMs, which left the OEMs with quarters where they would have no new products to sell. In an attempt to smooth out the timelines to a more reasonable cadence, while at the same time coming to grips with the complexity of moving to smaller and smaller processes, Intel announced Kaby Lake as a successor to Skylake, which would build on Skylake and offer additional architectural improvements.

This was big news at the time mostly because Intel’s previous Tick Tock strategy was so successful. To abandon it was certainly an important step for the company, but with Kaby Lake seemingly on-time for a fall launch this year, just a year after Skylake launched, points to the investment being the correct one.

When Intel says they are shipping, they of course mean they are shipping to their device manufacturer partners, so we should start seeing Kaby Lake based computers this fall.

Another interesting point brought up during the call was on yields. Intel has found itself in a situation where it’s inventory levels are higher than they would like them to be, and the answer to this was yields. Intel’s yields improved in Q1, and to quote Stacy J. Smith, Intel’s CFO and EVP, “Frankly, they got a lot better in Q2 as well” which is likely another reason why Kaby Lake is being delivered on-time.

We should learn more about Kaby Lake at Intel’s IDF which is coming up in mid-August.

Source: Intel Investor Call

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  • MrCommunistGen - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    There are a couple of possibilities that come to mind. In no particular order:

    1. Kaby Lake is *just* a clock speed bump of Skylake.

    I'll take more performance, but this is probably the least interesting way to do it. In this scenario, instead of releasing new Skylake SKUs, they'd just release new Kaby Lake SKUs instead. I saw an earlier post say that the KBL ES chips had *lower* clock speeds than SKL, so maybe (hopefully?) this isn't the likely scenario.

    2. Kaby Lake is to Skylake what Haswell Refresh was to Haswell.

    This might mean the strategy is now:
    New Process Node -> New Architecture -> Better Packaging for higher clocks

    Better TIM and more robust onboard voltage regulation would still be a boon to enthusiasts. Unfortunately, I don't see how improved packaging would benefit OEMs and it'd increase costs for Intel. Plus, anything targeting mobile wouldn't have a heatspreader to optimize anyway, and with SKL no longer using a FIVR I'm not sure what Intel could change on the CPU's voltage regulation side without also changing their board power delivery spec.

    3. Kaby Lake is a new stepping of Skylake.

    This would be less costly and less time consuming than really designing a new architecture. They might fix errata, optimize silicon, or make other desired changes that didn't make it into Skylake due to deadlines or budget.

    4. A combination of 2 & 3 would be interesting, but since there really isn't any competition in this space and would involve 2 completely separate vectors of improvements, I'm pretty comfortable saying that this is just a pipe dream.
    Reply
  • MrCommunistGen - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    Oh, and if KBL brings with it an improved chipset, that'd help add value as well, regardless of what Intel chooses to do to the CPU.

    The rumored increase to connectivity - 24 PCI-E lanes on the PCH - would be good for increased M.2 connectivity or the now (slightly) more common 10GbE port.
    Reply
  • ikjadoon - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    "Better TIM and more robust onboard voltage regulation would still be a boon to enthusiasts"

    err, wait. No, we don't want onboard voltage regulation. That was FIVR. That was extra heat on die. We are ostensibly better off without it?
    Reply
  • Kakti - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    5. Kaby Lake has native support to HDCP 2.2

    6. Kaby Lake has native support for 3d Xpoint

    As MrCommunist said, KL will also have additional PCI-E lanes to feed M.2/U2 drives.

    I'm building at least one low power KL box for an HTPC and possibly a second for an eventual VR box.
    Reply
  • sharath.naik - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    Still waiting on a mobile quad core with iris in a laptop. Months after they already released I7 6770HQ!!. I guess now I need to wait for Kaby Lake. Now it is making sense why there were no quad laptops with IRIS ( no dGPU). Reply
  • systemBuilder - Saturday, July 23, 2016 - link

    Apple is probably paying them $250M / month to suppress it until MacBook Pro Retina 2016 is released ... Reply
  • LorinT - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    Maybe Apple has been so slow to release their Macbook Pro hoping that they could jump to Kaby Lake, and skip Skylake altogether. Reply
  • A5 - Friday, July 22, 2016 - link

    I'd wager the main improvements are power and platform related. Reply
  • systemBuilder - Saturday, July 23, 2016 - link

    The new process technology is known to insiders as "Tick-Tock-Toe". Reply
  • systemBuilder - Saturday, July 23, 2016 - link

    Intel has been known to pursue botched CPU Designs for years, almost half a decade was wasted on Pentium 4 before they gave up and admitted that Pentium 3 was better. We might all be owners of botched Intel chips. When AMD's Zen is released, we will find out ... Reply

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