Two months ago, we blogged about the halting release of Intel’s Skylake platform. Back then, it was clear Intel had announced a release in August 2015 simply to placate motherboard manufacturers who had their Z170 boards ready to ship. These board partners had already been burned once by Intel in 2014 when they developed Z97 boards for the aborted Broadwell platform. Well, now it’s clear that Intel simply can’t get its house in order. We’re shocked that no one else in the press has picked up on it, so we’ll have to make some headlines ourselves: Skylake is by far the most disastrous CPU rollout in history.
What’s the big deal, you ask? After all, hasn’t Intel offered the very best consumer-grade CPUs since the Core 2 platform’s release in 2006? And aren’t its circa-2013 Haswell-based CPUs still fantastic products? Yes and yes, but you see, Intel can hide behind all of its successes and its market domination to avoid bad press when it completely screws up a product launch, like it has here. We’re talking about a company with a market capitalization of $165 billion as of December 2015; it’s chief rival, AMD, has a market cap of $2 billion. When AMD has trouble getting a product out on time, it can simply point to its horrendous financial situation and everyone understands. So what’s Intel’s excuse?
And this isn’t just an academic matter either. Let’s turn back to those great Haswell-based CPUs released in 2013, which perform within 10% of their Skylake successors despite prices up to 50% less. Aren’t they a great value? Why, yes they are, but Intel has to rely on its board partners to offer computing platforms, and just about every manufacturer has ended production of their Haswell motherboard lines. So that means you can pick up an Intel Haswell CPUs for cheap (or, more precisely, for the exact same price you could two years ago, which makes them cheaper than Skylake by far). But you can’t buy the motherboards that support them.
Taken as a whole then, Intel is driving multiple product lines into the ground simultaneously. The longer Skylake CPUs, which barely met performance expectations, are being hawked by grey market vendors for 50% over retail, the worse the reputation of these chips will become in the minds of enthusiasts. But most enthusiasts will also pass on Haswell, as the high-end boards they covet are nowhere to be found. Add it all up and it becomes clear that Intel isn’t just limiting consumer choice, its limiting its own bottom line.
It’s also clear that Intel has realized the error in its ways, and has already announced that it’s abandoning its “tick-tock” schedule of yearly CPU releases. Now it will just issue rehashes every year, to keep OEMs happy, as they need to refresh their product lines on a yearly basis. When will we see a truly revolutionary new platform from Intel available for purchase at retail prices? Don’t hold your breath – it could be a long, long time.