Intel’s current chip architecture, branded as Haswell, uses a 22 nanometer process. They are about to roll out a significantly smaller and faster architecture, known as Broadwell, which uses a 14 nanometer process.
Because Intel’s new chip is so small—25% smaller than its predecessor—and requires substantially less power, it may allow for the creation of tablets and other devices without the whirr and thickness of the cooling fans currently used to keep chips from overheating. That’s not a guarantee, but it’s the first time it’s been a serious design possibility.
Running with less energy may seem like a minor thing, but it’s everything for mobile devices—which are basically giant batteries inside pretty cases, with a few other components. It’s also a broadside against a major Intel competitor, ARM Holdings. ARM chips are cheap to make and don’t require much power—enabling thinner, lighter devices with smaller batteries. They’re used in iPhones, iPads, Androids, Windows phones, and some Windows tablets.
This is an important pivot for Intel. Broadwell is their first chipset designed with mobile devices in mind. Unfortunately for Intel, this solution came late enough to the game to give ARM a real leg up on the market. Is this chip small enough and cheap enough to turn Apple’s head? Remains to be seen.
One thing worth a look. If you look at the slide deck at the bottom of the linked article, check out pages 22-24 for some pretty cool pictures of actual Haswell and Broadwell transistors. For an even better look, here’s a link to the original Intel deck.