This column originally appeared on April 20 on Real Money, our premium site for active traders. Click here to get great columns like this.
Considering how PC sales have trended over the last several years, it's hard to fault investors for generally backing Intel's (INTC) strategy -- outlined last spring in a memo from CEO Brian Krzanich, and discussed in detail at this year's Investor Day -- to pare its PC-related investments and direct more resources towards data center, automotive and embedded opportunities.
But this strategy was always a little riskier than many assumed, both due to how financially important Intel's PC CPU business remains and because it was unfurled just as AMD (AMD) was getting ready to launch CPUs that put it on much better footing in the high-end and mid-range segments than it has been for many years. Now it looks as if Intel is rethinking its stance a little, even if doing so will probably lead to some near-term margin pressure.
Taiwan's Digitimes, which appears to have good sources at local PC contract manufacturers and motherboard makers, reported on Wednesday that Intel plans to unveil its new high-end Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X high-end CPUs -- part of a new platform called Basin Falls -- at the Computex trade show, which runs in Taipei from May 30 to June 3. Prior reports had pointed to an August launch.
Digitimes also states the first CPUs based on Intel's Coffee Lake architecture, the successor to the Kaby Lake architecture launched last fall, will debut in August. It adds the Coffee Lake launch is being pulled in January 2018, but Intel previously indicated Coffee Lake would arrive by this holiday season.
The report comes about six weeks after AMD launched its high-end Ryzen 7 desktop CPUs, based on its new Zen CPU core architecture. Benchmarks showed AMD's flagship Ryzen 7 1800X chip ($499 MSRP) holding its own against Intel's Core i7-6900K (based on the older Broadwell architecture, $1,089 recommended price) in many tests. The 1800X did lag the 6900K, as well as Intel's Core i7-7700K (based on Kaby Lake, $339 recommended price), in many 1080p-resolution gaming benchmarks, but was more competitive in higher-resolution gaming tests for which GPU power matters more.
AMD recently followed up on the Ryzen 7 launch by rolling out its mid-range Ryzen 5 desktop CPUs. With 6 cores and the ability to handle 12 simultaneous threads, AMD's Ryzen 5 1600X ($249 MSRP) often trounces Intel's Kaby Lake-based Core i5-7600K (4 cores and threads, $242 to $243 recommended price) in productivity and content-creation benchmarks. Moreover, the Ryzen 5 line provides a level of overclocking support that Intel's mid-range offerings generally lack.