The rumor mill is heating up ahead of the Intel Developer Forum, which is scheduled for September 10-12 in San Francisco. We expect the show to serve as the debut for devices based on Silvermont, Intel's 22-nm Atom refresh. According to multiple reports, we could also hear about accelerated plans for 14-nm Atom chips.
When Intel detailed its Silvermont architecture earlier this year, the firm said it was moving to a tick-tock development cadence for Atom processors. Silvermont was to be "the first in a family of yearly refresh," followed by a die-shrunk derivative dubbed Airmont that would presumably be released some time in 2014. The next major architectural refresh was slated for an unnamed chip that would use the same 14-nm process as Airmont but arrive a year later.
"Taiwan-based makers" tell DigiTimes that Intel will release 14-nm Cherry Trail Atom processors in the third quarter of 2014, which seems to fit the schedule. Impressively, those chips are supposed to start sampling to device makers before the end of this year. Intel reportedly plans to unveil the chips at next year's Computex show in early June.
Surprisingly, DigiTimes' sources claim that a second 14-nm Atom is also in the cards for next year. This Willow Trail chip is said to be based on the Goldmont architecture, which could refer to the major overhaul planned for post-Airmont chips. That next "tock" wasn't expected until 2015, but the DigiTimes piece says Willow Trail will arrive in the fourth quarter of 2014.
In a separate article, investment site Barron's cites "a person close to Intel" as saying the firm is planning to accelerate its 14-nm Atom plans and make a related announcement at IDF. The site claims Intel was initially planning to bring 14-nm production to the Atom family one year after using the process to build Broadwell-based Core processors, which contradicts the information Intel conveyed when briefing us on Silvermont. Broadwell is expected in 2014, and so is the Atom's next "yearly refresh." Barron's goes on to say that Intel has reduced the supposed one-year gap to six months, suggesting the source's information may pertain to Goldmont rather than Airmont. Hmmm.
New Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has already expressed a desire to make the low-power chips a bigger priority than they've been in the past, so it doesn't seem unreasonable for Intel to pull forward some of its 14-nm Atom plans. Scott will be at IDF next month, so we'll be on the scene if there are any related announcements.