Intel's Kaby Lake CPUs - the follow-up to Skylake - have been known to be on their way for some time, based primarily on a number of leaked roadmaps and earlier discussions with Intel which detailed a change to their traditional CPU development model. Last week's earnings call saw a little more information released which could mean that the chips launch will be relatively soon.
Initially Kaby Lake was mentioned within CEO Brian Krzanich's summary for the Client Computing Group, wherein Krzanich relayed the fact that revenue was down 3% last quarter year over year but also that overall margins were up by 19%, which was slightly better than expected. The slightly off-hand statement was that Intel has "started shipping our seventh generation Core microprocessor, formerly known as Kaby Lake[.]"
Later Krzanich clarified his comments - by 'shipping' he meant that Kaby Lake CPUs were being shipped to OEMs and customers rather than retail partners:
"I guess what I would talk about is Kaby Lake. So one of the things we've learned on 14 nanometers is how to make meaningful performance improvements both in the silicon and then with the silicon combined with the architecture. So we said we already started shipping Kaby Lake to our customers and OEMs. We're seeing meaningful performance across all of the various SKUs of Kaby Lake relative to Skylake. Kaby Lake is built off a Skylake core. And as a result, the die size doesn't significantly grow. So you don't see – there's no driver in the silicon itself to shift the margin structure of this product. We're able to get the performance and feature enhancements with relatively small silicon increases but good improvement on the raw silicon technology itself. So there's not an intrinsic driver that should say die size got twice as big so margins are cut. There's nothing like that."
Kaby Lake is the immediate successor to Skylake in the mainstream PC platform segment, and is based on optimised version of the 14 nanometer process utilised by both Broadwell and Skylake. In that respect it is the first major departure from their 'tick/tock' development model which saw only two CPU generations exist on the same process node, a model which had been in place since 2007.
The final member of Intel's first Process->Architecture->Optimisation cycle, Kaby Lake is an optimisation of Skylake. Relatively little changes architecturally between the two generations and die size remains pretty much the same, but Kaby Lake can also benefit from a far more mature 14nm process (i.e. an 'improvement on the raw silicon technology') for lower voltages and generally higher clocks.
As with Devil's Canyon in the Haswell era Kaby Lake may be introduced alongside a new generation of motherboards, the 200-series. If so, the socket should be physically identical and hence the CPU would also operate on 100-series motherboards (as well as allowing Skylake CPUs to work seamlessly with 200-series motherboard designs).
SOURCE: Intel Earnings Call Transcript