Mac Update Cycle Faces Uncertainty as Intel Abandons Tick-Tock Strategy

In its latest 10-K annual report (PDF) filed last month, Intel confirmed the end of its long-heralded "tick-tock" strategy of delivering new microprocessors to the market. Intel originally introduced the product cadence to the world in 2006 with the launch of the "Core" microarchitecture, alternating "ticks" of shrinking chip fabrication processes with "tocks" of new architectures.

Over the past ten years, Intel has successively delivered new processor families based on this tick-tock cycle on a nearly annual cycle from its 65 nm manufacturing node all the way up until recently. The tick-tock release cycle allowed Intel to reestablish dominance in both the consumer and enterprise CPU markets and had given OEMs such as Apple a regular update cycle to rely on for annual product updates. But with chip updates stretching about beyond a yearly cycle in recent generations, Apple's product launch cycles have started to be affected.

In the face of the difficulties in maintaining the tick-tock cadence, Intel has announced that the launch of Kaby Lake this year as the third member of the 14-nm family following Broadwell and Skylake will mark the official end of the tick-tock strategy. Instead, Intel will move to a new "Process-Architecture-Optimization" model for the current 14 nm node and the 10 nm node.

Tick-tock-dead

As part of our R&D efforts, we plan to introduce a new Intel Core microarchitecture for desktops, notebooks (including Ultrabook devices and 2 in 1 systems), and Intel Xeon processors on a regular cadence. We expect to lengthen the amount of time we will utilize our 14nm and our next-generation 10nm process technologies, further optimizing our products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions.

This development is not unexpected, as semiconductor foundries have had increasingly tough times creating smaller process nodes as fabrication of smaller transistors has become increasingly expensive and complex. Transistors are rapidly approaching the physical limits of traditional semiconductor geometries, and the famous Moore's Law regarding transistor density has been formally acknowledged to no longer be valid.

Intel has no doubt moved to this new release model in an attempt to get back to a regular product and platform cadence as it struggles with the technological challenges of bringing new fabrication nodes to volume production. As noted in our Mac Buyer's Guide, many of Apple's Macs have gone without update for the longest time since we began tracking them, though Apple has yet to update to the available Skylake microarchitecture for its Mac line. Some product uncertainty is due to continue as the launch of Intel's Kaby Lake microarchitecture has been recently delayed to the second half of 2016 after Skylake suffered similar setbacks last year.

Tag: Intel

Top Rated Comments

SSD-GUY Avatar
81 months ago
Great - Mac's now updated every 2 years, and in the case of the Mac Pro, every decade.
Score: 64 Votes (Like | Disagree)
farewelwilliams Avatar
81 months ago
yesterday:
less competition

today:
no competition
Score: 44 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gugy Avatar
81 months ago
Man, the update cycles for Macs are awful.
MacPro and Mac Mini are completely forgotten. MBP, iMacs and MacBooks are a bit better but still pretty long.
Just look at the Mac Buyer's guide on MR and it is pretty depressing.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Red Oak Avatar
81 months ago
Could you imagine if Apple was dependent on Intel for its iOS processors? That would have been a disaster
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macsrcool1234 Avatar
81 months ago
ARM needs to step it up and give intel some more competition
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
avanpelt Avatar
81 months ago
Apple-designed processors coming soon to Macs?
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

2022 back to school apple

Apple Launches 2022 Back to School Offer: Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Friday June 24, 2022 5:08 am PDT by
Apple today launched its annual "Back to School" promotion for college/university students in the United States and Canada. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad, rather than free AirPods like last year. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans during the promotion. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with the purchase ...
airpods pro 2 1

AirPods Pro 2 Said to Feature Upgraded H1 Chip, Find My, Heart Rate Detection, USB-C and More

Friday June 24, 2022 9:48 am PDT by
The next-generation AirPods Pro could come with a long list of new features that include heart rate detection, the ability to function as a hearing aid, and a USB-C port according to a report from 52Audio. The site claims that it has received new information on the AirPods Pro 2, and it has used that information to provide some renders on what the earbuds might look like. Design wise, there...
m2 mac mini screen feature

Gurman: Apple Planning M2 Pro Mac Mini, New Apple TV With A14 Chip, Revamped HomePod With S8 Chip, and More

Sunday June 26, 2022 6:31 am PDT by
In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman outlined additional M2 Macs on Apple's product roadmap, including new Mac mini models with M2 and M2 Pro chips, new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and a new Mac Pro tower with M2 Ultra and "M2 Extreme" chips. Following the M2 series of Macs, Gurman said the first M3 series of...
apple ar headset concept 1

Apple Rumored to Announce 'Game-Changer' AR/VR Headset in January 2023

Friday June 24, 2022 2:52 am PDT by
Apple is "likely" to announce its long-rumored mixed-reality headset as soon as January 2023, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has reiterated. Concept render based on purported leaked information by Ian Zelbo In a detailed post on Medium, Kuo explained that Apple's headset will be a "game-changer" for the augmented-reality and virtual-reality market. Describing some of the headset's...
widgets ios 16 feature

Gurman: iPhone 14 Pro to Feature Always-On Display Showing iOS 16's New Lock Screen Widgets

Sunday June 26, 2022 7:36 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro models are widely expected to feature always-on displays that allow users to view glanceable information without having to tap to wake the screen. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman said the feature will include support for iOS 16's new Lock screen widgets for weather, fitness, and more. "Like the Apple Watch, the iPhone 14 Pro will be...