In the news recently was Intel's stock falling 20% because its 7nm processes are being delayed by 6+ months. The argument seems to be that Intel is already behind (since they're using 10nm processes while TSMC is on 7nm processes, soon to be 3nm processes), so it's only going to get worse for Intel. The entire chipmaking process isn't something I understand very well however, so I'm hoping someone can enlighten me.
Why exactly is it important to be on 3nm processes instead of 5nm or 7nm? This article says:
There are a few major underlying technologies that dictate the potency of any chip. The most fundamental rule of processors still holds true: The densest process nodes, provided they have decent power, performance, and area (PPA) characteristics, will often win the battle if paired with a solid microarchitecture.
I'm guessing this means that 3nm processes are "better" because for whatever reason I don't understand, it fundamentally improves the PPA characteristics. In other words, although you can improve while on 10nm processes, you'll never catch someone on 3nm processes - sort of like how a 40-year old can run faster with training, but will never catch someone who's 25 years old.
But if this is the case, then TSMC's processes are just the best in market, and they'll be leaving everyone else in the rear-view mirror. That hasn't happened though - the same article notes that Intel's processors still leads in certain categories, such as overclocking and gaming performance. Somehow Intel has managed to remain competitive with TSMC in spite of poorer technology. Even more surprisingly, SMIC manages to rake in billions of dollars in revenue in spite of using only 14nm processes. Perhaps one could say "therefore their revenues are going down", but they aren't, and that's in spite of Intel/TSMC/Samsung being on 10nm and smaller processes for years. Can someone explain what's going on?
I'm sure there are other applicable tags than just "Intel" and "fabrication", but I genuinely don't know what they are - if you do feel free to edit them into the question.