LONDON – Intel's 22-nm manufacturing process technology with FinFET transistors will be responsible for 25 percent of Intel's IC shipments in the second quarter of 2012, according to Stacy Smith, Intel chief financial officer, speaking on a conference call to discuss the company's first quarter financial results.
Intel is hitting high volume as the company manufactures Ivy Bridge processors for desktop and notebook computers and this is despite the fact that Intel has yet to formally launch the processor. Ivy Bridge is a shrink of the previous Sandy Bridge processor from a 32-nm process to the 22-nm process.
This lines up with the fact that Intel usually does not launch processors until after its first tier customers have designed the processors in, received parts in volume and are ready to launch their own products. A key outlet for a dual-core version of Ivy Bridge will be in so-called ultrabook computers which Paul Otellini, Intel CEO, said will combine the convenience of a tablet computer with the performance of a notebook. He added that 21 models of ultrabook computer are already shipping and that more than 100 additional models are expected to start shipping before the end of 2012.
Intel has been manufacturing ICs on the 22-nm process for several quarters, according to one source and is reported to have started manufacturing Ivy Bridge "in volume" in the third quarter of 2011. One potential reason for holding back shipments of Ivy Bridge until recently was a build up of inventory of the predecessor Sandy Bridge processor, due to slow computer sales in the second half of 2011, which was in turn due to a shortage of hard disk drives.
Ottelini told analysts on a conference call that Intel now has three wafer fabs ramping the 22-nm manufacturing process in the second quarter of 2012 and a fourth wafer fab is due to ramp production in the second half of 2012. He did not identify the particular fabs.
On the conference call Stacy Smith, Intel CFO, said: "One of the tactical benefits we see of being an integrated device manufacturing house is the speed at which we can ramp these factories. We'll have 25 percent of shipment volume in Q2 coming from Ivy Bridge on 22-nm." Smith added that the ramp of 22-nm had been faster than the ramp of Intel's 32-nm process.
When asked about extending Intel's chip manufacturing lead into a foundry business model, Ottelini was non-committal: "You've seen some announcements to that effect, where we've signed up some companies for that activity over the next several years." Otellini said these were being done as a learning experience but that it is being done for profit. Otellini added: "A lot of the work we're doing here is to build the libraries, the tools that allow us as a company, and our designers, to use quick time to market, derivative capabilities, modularity for our SoC businesses going forward. And the best ways to test those [things] is to have some third-party customers to really validate how good they are or where they need some work."
When asked if Intel could take on foundry work for Apple or Qualcomm, notwithstanding that this might compete with Intel's aspirations for its Atom microprocessors, Otellini said nothing was impossible and ultimately such things depended on commercial price points. "From the kind of taste it would leave in my mouth, the Apple win would be a lot more attractive than the Qualcomm win," Otellini said.
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