Lack of competition hurts the market – AMD’s continuous delays of their next-gen CPU architecture combined with Intel’s ill-fated effort on Larrabee resulted in a slowdown of the Tick-Tock cadence. By now, we all know that AMD Bulldozer should only surface in 2011 – definitely no 2010 major core advances from them above the current cores seen in Phenom and Opteron spread available now. By itself, that’s not exactly good news, but then again it wasn’t unexpected either.

Intel's Desktop Roadmap for 2010 - Do you notice anyhing missing? Picture Credit: PConline
Anything missing? Intel’s Desktop Roadmap for 2010 shows Westmere CPUs… Picture Credit: PConline

Then, recent Chinese web site coverage about the upcoming Intel Core i7 980X Extreme processor, the six-core Gulftown running at 3.33 GHz with 12 MB cache in the very same LGA1366 socket as its current predecessor, the i7 975XE, showed something interesting. The Chinese also showed the expected Intel ww49 roadmap slides for mainstream and desktop 2010 rollouts. Those slides looked more monotonous than usual, as can be seen here:

As you could observe, after the i7 980X introduction in a month or two at the high end – which follows the entry level dual core Westmeres soon after you read this, there is NOTHING else in 2010. From a competitive point, this still looks fine. At the top, the i7 980X will wipe the floor with anything AMD has right now, or any stepping they may come out with, in 2010. And at the low end, the dual core highly overclockable Westmeres can hold their own against entry level quad core AMDs.

Intel's Tick-Tock cadence lasted from Conroe to Nehalem... Westmere went haywire, Sandy Bridge isn't looking good either. Don't ask about Haswell, CPU+LRB part.
Intel’s Tick-Tock cadence lasted from Conroe to Nehalem… then it fell apart. Westmere is a year late, Sandy Bridge isn’t on the product roadmaps for 2010. Don’t ask about the Haswell, CPU+LRB part.

But then, remember tick-tock? According to it, the Nehalem was planned and executed in 2008 [November 2008 launch], the Westmere die-shrink was scheduled for 2009 – OK, you get some dual core parts were shown off this month anyway, launching on January 7, 2010 with the first day of CES in Las Vegas. But the next major architecture, Sandy Bridge, was planned for 2010. But now, the 2010 roadmaps don’t show Sandy Bridge at all! I’d really miss those Haifa-designed parts with all four CPU cores, plus a fast GPU, plus 8 MB cache and optimized DRAM controller – not to mention twice the per-core FP SSE throughput with AVX instructions.

Does it mean Intel is slightly slowing down the tick-tock clock? I still believe the Sandy Bridge will at least be shown in an advanced pre-launch stage at 2010, at the very least to stave off any marketing focus on the Bulldozer. If AMD gets ready with Bulldozer on time, Intel can always push Sandy Bridge back to the original end-2010 schedule… and if Bulldozer slips away again, there maybe there will be no reason to rush the Sandy Bridge then. Officially, each vendor’s schedule is on its own and shouldn’t be affected by the competitor’s things at all, but then again…