Intel lands foundry deal for custom Microsoft processor — 18A process tech to be used for 'very exciting platform shift'

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Intel Foundry announced Wednesday at IFS Direct that Microsoft has chosen Intel's 18A (1.8nm-class) process technology for its next-generation custom processor.

"We are in the midst of a very exciting platform shift that will fundamentally transform productivity for every individual organization and the entire industry," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "To achieve this vision, we need a reliable supply of the most advanced, high-performance and high-quality semiconductors. That is why we are so excited to work with Intel Foundry, and why we have chosen a chip design that we plan to produce on Intel 18A process." 

We're probably talking either about a very high-volume product that will be made and deployed for several years, or a series of products based on Intel's 18A fabrication process that relies on gate-all-around RibbonFET transistors and features Intel's PowerVia backside power delivery network.  

Microsoft's mention of an 'exciting platform shift' for the 'entire industry' may point to both innovative methods of chip production as well as new CPU architectures and paradigms. 

By now, Intel Foundry has secured contracts from multiple notable companies, including Amazon Web Services. Intel Foundry has landed several orders for datacenter processors, including a cloud datacenter chip on Intel 3, a custom server chip for Ericsson, and various Intel 18A-based chips for the U.S. Dept. of Defense

Neither Intel nor Microsoft has disclosed when Intel will start producing Microsoft's 18A-based processors, or when these chips are set to be deployed. Intel 18A is projected to be production-ready in the second half of 2024, so theoretically we could see Microsoft's 18A-powered chips over the next couple of years.

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • Albert.Thomas
    "Very exciting platform shift"
    Oh goodness, how are they going to screw things up this time? The "exciting" changes with Windows 11 have all but pushed me over to Linux.
  • bigdragon
    I bet Microsoft releases a product that combines the Surface Pro with a Nintendo Switch. They'll call it the XBox Surface, size it at 13 inches, have a keyboard folio, and have detachable side controllers like the Switch. You'll be able to dock it to act like a console or take it with you for portable gaming. The system could double as a Windows PC in either capacity. This thing will launch along with Windows 12 next year.

    Do I know for sure? Nope. All the talk about physical media going away, platform shifts, XBox getting out of the home console market, Microsoft's acquisitions of game studios, and these custom chips makes me think they're going this way.
  • bit_user
    "We are in the midst of a very exciting platform shift that will fundamentally transform productivity for every individual organization and the entire industry," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
    I'm pretty certain this is a reference to AI. It's a little hard to imagine anything bigger in the pipeline, at MS. Plus, they've been pumping AI pretty hard, so it'd make sense for them to be talking about it like this.
  • jp7189
    Undoubtedly this will be something to bolster AI cloud services which will extend to end-user devices, but I doubt they are talking about a chip directly for user devices. Presumably any type of AI "coprocessor" for an end device would come from the platform vendor and not MS directly.