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Despite a first quarter earnings beat that sent shares flying, Intel executives faced an intense line of questioning on a call with investors following the report. The main concern on all of their minds: 10-nanometer chip delays.
"We think we've bit off a little too much in this case," CEO Brian Krzanich said on the call. "It may not seem like a lot, but 10 percent [scaling factor] can make a lot of difference in this kind of the world."
Intel has teased the large-scale release of these 10-nanometer chips for years, promising they'd deliver better performance with lower power usage than chips built with the company's 14-nanometer technology, which have been shipping since 2014. Samsung is already manufacturing 10 nanometer chips, such as the Snapdragon 835, a popular Qualcomm-designed chip for mobile devices.
Investors on the call expressed concern that the delays were impacting Intel's competitive edge in the race toward smaller chips, from the older 14-nanometer chips. But Krzanich insisted that the company was shipping the chips, and if the chips are fit to ship, they must be fine.
"There is nothing wrong with the design library. If there were basic functionality issues, you wouldn't be able to ship a product," Krzanich said on the call.
"We're shipping 10-nanometer product today. So I did want to make sure that that was very clear to you," he added.
Several outlets reported in January that 10-nanometer chips had begun shipping last year. At a press-only event at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Intel executive Gregory Bryant reportedly said the company had shipped a certain amount of 10-nanometers chips to clients in 2017. The style of the announcement and lack of context prompted more questions about the scale of the shipment.
Although Krzanich and CFO Bob Swan insisted the chips were forthcoming, they also teased another product, code-named Whiskey Lake, based on the older 14-nanometer technology.
Krzanich gave little information past the name, except to say it would "continue to take advantage of 14-nanometer" (or the current generation of chips) technology and would ship to clients.
He said Cascade Lake, a code name for a different 14-nanometer chip, was expected to roll out for the data center later this year, but that 10-nanometer chips would not ship at volume until 2019.