TSMC and Global Foundries have already announced their plans for 14nm and 16nm FinFET chips, that they should start building in 2014, and then we’ll probably see them no sooner than 2015, which is still a great timeline, considering we’ll get 20nm in 2013, and it takes about 2 years to switch from one process technology to another. And now Samsung is on board with 14nm FinFET, too. It looks like they’ve successfully made a Cortex A7 chip on 14nm, so they’ve proven that their 14nm process works:
While by the time 14nm will be ready, we’ll have the Cortex A53 successor to Cortex A7, this shows that Cortex A7 is going to have a long-life in very low-end devices, while helping them be ever cheaper and more efficient or more powerful. We’ve used ARM11 for about 6 years in phones, and Cortex A7 is its true ARMv7 successor (Cortex A5 was the successor in theory, but most manufacturers skipped it).
A 14nm Cortex A7 ensures that we’ll see Cortex A7 for at least a few more years. Unless Android becomes significantly more bloated for this type of chip, it should still offer a good enough experience for sub-$50 phones and tablets, like future Aakash tablets.
The move to 14nm FinFET was done in partnership with ARM, Cadence and Synopsys. Intel achieved FinFET at 22nm, which is a process node before 14nm, and about a generation and a half before all the other fabs out there. But the whole ARM industry is working together to catch-up with Intel in process technology, and it looks like they may be able to do it, at least compared to Intel’s mobile chips.
Atom was supposed to move to 14nm in 2014, which would be a year earlier than ARM, but last I checked it was being delayed towards the end of 2014, and my guess is it will eventually be pushed to 2015, so at best it will arrive a few months before 14nm ARM chips, or in the same time with them. So Intel’s advantage in process technology should be pretty much wiped out. Intel also won’t have 64 bit mobile Atom chips until 2015, while ARM will have them in 2014. Intel does have a 64 bit Atom for servers right now, but not for mobile.
I assume that by then Apple will be moving to TSMC, and therefore to their 16nm FinFET process, while Qualcomm and Samsung will be making their chips on 14nm, either on Samsung’s own fabs or on the ones from Global Foundries (which was also the first to 28nm this year).