For half a century, Moore’s Law has guided the advance of technology. Formulated in 1965 by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, the law stipulates that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every two years — effectively doubling computing power.
For the last eight years, Intel has followed a “tick tock” cycle of product releases. On the “tick,” the process technology shrinks; on the “tock,” architecture is improved. But the company has now been forced to scrap this model, and introduced a third step to its current 14nm line. “Our cadence today is closer to 2.5 years than two,” Krzanich explained on the company’s earnings call on Wednesday.
Is this a temporary hiccup, or a sign of a greater seismic shift? The CEO said that “we’re not sure.” But he said that the company will “always strive to get back to two years” — suggesting that this could well be the end to Moore’s Law as we know it.
It’s worth noting that Moore’s law has changed before. Moore’s original 1965 theory suggested a doubling in power every year. This was amended in 1975 to every two years, a prediction that subsequently held true for four decades. It also can’t hold true forever, due to the natural limitations of silicon chips. As The Financial Times notes, Moore has previously expressed shock it has lasted as long as it has. “The original prediction was to look at 10 years, which I thought was a stretch … The fact that something similar is going on for 50 years is truly amazing … Someday it has to stop. No exponential like this goes on forever.”
The news hasn’t damaged Intel’s stock — in fact, it soared in after-hours trading, after posting higher-than-expected revenues. It’s a positive sign for the company: After all, the PC market, which is responsible for the majority of Intel’s sales, is now contracting significantly. That said, its revenue is down 5% compared to the same quarter last year.