Looks like we may have a CPU showdown on our hands during CES 2017 in January if a report from DigiTimes is spot-on. The article states that both AMD and Intel have altered their original launch plans to introduce new processors sometime this year, pushing their product releases to early 2017 instead, with a public introduction during the show. Previously, AMD was expected to launch its “Zen” processors in the fourth quarter of 2016, following Intel’s “Kaby Lake” launch in the preceding quarter.
However, it’s interesting to note that during AMD’s press event at CES 2016 last week, company boss Lisa Su said that Zen was definitely “alive” and “on track.” And while Su was rather cagey about whether consumers would see Zen processors this year during a Q&A session afterward, she did confess that a launch date is currently not set in stone. That said, we’re not sure if “on track” means AMD is still eyeing 2016 for a launch or not.
As previously reported, Zen will be a high-performance, low-power platform based on 14nm FinFET process technology via Globalfoundries. The first chip to be based on this platform is code-named “Summit Ridge” and slated for the company’s all-new AM4 desktop processor socket, featuring up to eight cores and 16 threads. Su said that “extensive launches” of products based on the Zen platform are expected to be made in 2017. Zen will first appear in desktops, followed by servers, then laptops, and finally the embedded market.
It should be noted that AMD initially indicated to the press in a slide that the Zen platform and its Summit Ridge sibling were expected to launch in 2016 as an “FX-branded processor for the AM4 socket. They were to follow the just-launched “Bristol Ridge” seventh-generation desktop APUs for the same socket. That said, if Zen is indeed on track, it’s possible we may not see the official debut of Zen and completed, buyable solutions until the CES 2017 show. AMD, after all, likes to put on a great show.
According to the DigiTimes report, AMD and Intel vendors were scrambling to clear their inventory of older-generation products as of May to make room for the new Zen and Kaby Lake solutions, respectively. But that clearance process will likely come to a halt given that Intel and AMD are no longer expected to produce new processors in 2016.
Market watchers had hoped that the new processors would launch this year to help liven up the currently slow demand for new PCs. As it stands now, the upstream supply chain reportedly still has “serious” inventory issues because of weak demand. On the Intel front, vendors seemingly have loads of Skylake- and Haswell-based products that still need to be scooped up by consumers.
With that in mind, Intel is said to not be in any hurry to launch its Kaby Lake platform given that it does not provide any major improvements over Skylake and Haswell. Essentially, Kaby Lake is a refresh of Skylake, built on 14nm process technology. The real jump in processor technology won’t take place until Intel releases its 10nm “Cannonlake” platform in the second half of 2017. Until then, Kaby Lake will introduce new features like native USB 3.1 support, a better graphics architecture, native HDCP 2.2 support, and so on.
Thanks to the potential delay, manufacturers won’t be able to begin mass producing products based on Zen and Kaby Lake until November or December. The PC market isn’t expected to pick up until the first quarter of 2017 anyway, and these products should help ignite some interest and give the market a needed boost. However, as always, take these launch windows with a grain of salt, as AMD and Intel have not released official launch plans to the press as of this writing.