LONDON Apple and Qualcomm have each offered more than a $1 billion to foundry Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to obtain a dedicated supply of processor chips, and both their offers have been rejected, according to a Bloomberg report.
Apple needs the chips for its own smartphomes and tablet computers iPhones and iPads while Qualcomm is the leading supplier of application processors to the rival Android platform of mobile equipment. Both the Apple and Qualcomm proposals included investments in TSMC (Hsinchu, Taiwan), Bloomberg said quoting unnamed sources.
At present Apple relies on Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. for its leading edge A5 processor but Apple is in a high profile legal dispute with Samsung over the look and feel of smartphones. Apple has been reported to be working with TSMC (Hsinchu, Taiwan) to bring up a 28-nm A6 processor. Meanwhile Qualcomm, which has designed the Snapdragon processor, is known to be suffering from a shortage of supply at the 28-nm node.
There has been speculation that companies such as Apple and Qualcomm would try to use their financial muscle to obtain a secure supply of leading-edge chips which at present is limiting sales of mobile equipment.
In July Morris Chang, chairman and CEO of TSMC, said the company was considering operating single-customer wafer fabs so a rejection of the Apple and Qualcomm investment proposals may have resulted from detailed terms or the fact that equity was being sought.
However, as a foundry supplier TSMC profits from serving many fab-lite and fabless chip companies, including Broadcom, Nvidia, MediaTek and many others. If it was seen to be too close to Qualcomm or Apple it might risk its independent status and drive other customers into the arms of rival foundry suppliers.
In addition Lora Ho, chief financial officer of TSMC, has expressed reservations about operating single-customer wafer fabs. "You have to be careful. Once that product migrates, what are going to do with that dedicated fab? We would like to keep the flexibility," the Bloomberg report quoted Ho as saying.
It's not that there are not enough fabs or money. It's technology know-hows and yielding. 28/20nm and advanced technologies are getting harder and harder to get yield up to achieve the level of economics and only TSMC, Intel and Samsung are able to demonstrate that right moment.
QCOM has contracts with TSMC, UMC and Samsung already and now they are exploring contracts with GloFo and SMIC? Why now?? Why not earlier?? Maybe Apple will follow suit - Samsung, TSMC first then UMC then GloFo then SMIC....
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for todays commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.