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16 Jul 15. Intel’s chief executive has warned that Moore’s Law, the prediction made by its co-founder that computing power would double every two years, has finally begun to slow and may never return to the rhythm that has underpinned advances in the tech industry for half a century.
Brian Krzanich told analysts on a conference call after publishing better than expected second-quarter earnings that while Intel’s enduring pace of innovation has “disproved the death of Moore’s Law many times over”, the time between each new generation of microprocessor has widened.
“The last two technology transitions have signalled that our cadence today is closer to two and a half years than two,” Mr Krzanich said.
Intel’s planned shift from its current generation of 14 nanometre chips to nodes just 10nm wide is now expected to begin in the second half of 2017, rather than next year as analysts had previously hoped. It follows a similar delay to the leap from 22nm to 14nm.
As a stopgap, Intel will for the first time produce a third 14nm product with performance enhancements that do not depend on the overall step-change in the underpinning technology. Normally it produces just two such products in what is known in the industry as a “tick tock” pattern.
“We’ll always strive to get back to two years,” Mr Krzanich said. But he added in response to one analyst’s question that he was “not sure” whether the change was a temporary phenomenon or a permanent shift that would eventually see the end of Moore’s Law, given “open questions” around the cutting-edge technology required to manufacture ever-shrinking components in huge volumes.
The change is not the first modification to Moore’s Law, which originally stated that processing power would double every year, before being updated in 1975 to the two-year cycle that has remained constant ever since.
But analysts said the comments were the clearest sign yet that Moore’s Law may be beginning to break down. The trend has been responsible for the regular upgrades that consumers have come to expect in new computers and smartphones.
Kevin Krewell, a chip analyst at Tirias Research, said in a tweet that Intel’s remarks revealed “the most uncertainty I have ever heard from them”.
Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight, said: “It is a sign without a doubt that Moore’s Law is slowing down, but it is a long way from the end.”
The delay “opens the door” to closer competition from Samsung, which has historically lagged behind Intel in developing these leaps forward in processor technology, Mr Blaber added. “Samsung is becoming a far more meaningful competitor in manufacturing than they were a few years ago.”
It comes at a time when smartphone growth is already slowing and, as Intel admitted on Wednesday, the PC market is deteriorating even more rapidly than it had predicted.
Mr Krzanich’s comments come just two months after celebrations marked 50 years since Gordon Moore made his prediction about the steadily increasing number of transistors that could fit on a single chip, in his 1965 article, “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits.”
At a May event commemorating the anniversary at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, a science museum, Mr Moore said he was “amazed” that the law had held for so long.
“The original prediction was to look at 10 years, which I thought was a stretch. The fact that something similar is going on for 50 years is truly amazing.”
But he warned, “Someday it has to stop. No exponential like this goes on forever.”
Immediately after Intel published its second-quarter results, the chipmaker’s shares leapt by as much as 8 per cent after it posted better than expected results, with profits from data centres and the “internet of things” helping offset the “challenging” PC market. (Source: FT.com)
15 Jul 15. Good Technology to support