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Intel delays its 7-nanometer chips for PCs

The tech giant discovers a defect in its 7-nanometer process.

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Intel has put off the launch of its 7nm chips.

Angela Lang/CNET

Intel has pushed back the launch date of its 7-nanometer chips for PCs, the tech giant revealed Thursday, during its second-quarter earnings report. The company said its 7nm-based CPU product timing is moving back by around six months, as the yield of its 7nm process is now 12 months behind schedule. Intel said it's "accelerating its transition to 10nm products" in 2020, due to an increase in demand.

"We have identified a defect mode in our 7nm process that resulted in yield degradation," Intel CEO Bob Swan said. "We've root-caused the issue and believe there are no fundamental roadblocks, but we have also invested in contingency plans to hedge against further schedule uncertainty."

The 7-nanometer process is currently the most advanced technology available for manufacturing device chips. Pushing semiconductor manufacturing further to achieve better battery life and performance means shrinking the transistor component, with Intel still using 10nm.

"The 7nm push isn't a positive announcement as many products were dependent on it," Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights, said in an emailed statement. "Knowing Intel, it always has backups for its backups and I am sure we will be hearing about enhancements to 10nm to increase its competitiveness."

Read more: The best laptops of 2020

By comparison, Qualcomm and Apple have had 7nm chips, which are the brains of the device, since 2018. Apple's A12 Bionic chip was the world's first mass-produced 7nm processor when it launched in September of that year. AMD also already has 7nm chips.

For the second quarter of 2020, Intel's PC business was up 7% compared with the same quarter last year. The rise is being driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people working and learning from home. Intel's laptop sales increased while sales of desktop computers declined.

Overall, Intel reported $19.7 billion in revenue for the quarter, and net income of $5.1 billion.