Ashraf Eassa from The Motley Fool was at Intel's annual Investor Day in California yesterday, and he Tweeted a couple of interesting things. In the most surprising bit of news, Eassa confirmed that the next generation of Intel Core processors will once again be built on 14-nm technology. In a reply to Anandtech's Ian Cutress, he also reported that Intel's Vice President and General Manager of Client and IoT says that "process tech use will be fluid based on segment and what makes sense."
Confirmed with Intel that 8th Gen Core will use updated/enhanced 14nm technology again -- basically 14nm++.— Ashraf Eassa (@TMFChipFool) February 9, 2017
@IanCutress Yeah, as Murthy referred to it at the event, process tech use will be "fluid" based on segment and what makes sense.— Ashraf Eassa (@TMFChipFool) February 9, 2017
Those two bits of news don't seem to mesh all that well on their own, but Diane Bryant (Intel's Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Data Center division) displayed a slide with the statement "data center first for next process node" during the same presentation.
That move could imply that rather than letting its Xeons lag an architectural generation during production on the same process as consumer parts, Intel could mean to fab Xeons on a higher-density process first to achieve higher performance and, in turn, higher selling prices and margins from customers thanks to those chips' favored status in its foundry roadmap. It would also imply that Intel's consumer chips will no longer follow a predictable "process-architecture-optimization" model.
Attentive gerbils are no doubt already counting on their fingers, since this means the "8th-generation" Intel Core processors will be the fourth series to be fabricated on a 14-nm process. As we saw with Kaby Lake, Intel's process optimizations alone don't tend to offer large performance improvements over the previous generation. If the company isn't making significant architectural changes in the new chips, we might be in for another mild improvement.
Alternatively, considering the statement regarding "fluid" process tech usage, we may be seeing some mixture of 14-nm and 10-nm process technologies across various product segments. Intel's product stack is already confusing, but it may soon become downright convoluted. Speculation aside, it seems unlikely we'll be seeing 10-nm desktop chips anytime soon.