I agree with everything in Jan's post except for the last sentence. I think Apple's design is what it is most famous for, however, the technology behind the design is an integral part of their streamlined success as well. Apple should definitely continue to invest in chip design and strengthen its foundary relationships to ensure the protection of its IP.
In general, now is not a good time to build a leading edge (22 nm or 16 nm) fab. Especially with people watching technologies like EUV or TSVs, maybe Apple is watching too. You don't want to build a fab with technology that is planned to be replaced soon.
Apple has built very successful business model that doesn't rely on owning a fab. It is not clear to me why would they change that. As brought up in a discussion chain owning and opeating a fab is capital intensive biseness that is hard to manage. There are only very companies in the world that can do that effectively and we have seen number of players in this space decreasing annually. Som epredict there will be 3-5 fabs left in the future, TSMC, Samsung, Global Foundries, Intel...Kris
Business has changed in the last 20 years. The trend that I have observed is business is trying to focus on what they do better, letting the others to do what they are good at. I believe this is one of the reason there are more fabless chipmakers in the last 10 years. There is no doubt that some chipmakers, like Intel, need a fab since their success is highly relied on fabication technology. For Apple to build a fab for the quantity is still a question. I believe for the foreseeable future, Apple will be better off if they continue focusing on their innovation in the creating new markets.
I don't see with 8.8M iPhones shipped in Q1 2010 how Apple could possibly justify building a fab.
Even assuming they had the money to do it against all good common sense, they wouldn't have the organisational competence to do it and it would certainly not add any value to the Apple brand.
Even a JV at the volume levels they are shipping, even if they outstripped Nokia in the smartphone segment at 20.8M units in Q1 wouldn't make commercial sense.
In fact a JV would deprive a cash-rich A-list customer like Apple of the ability to shop around when there is excess fab capacity.
I donít think itís necessary for Apple to build itís own Fab. A striking example is AMD. Once AMD sold their fab business to GlobalFoundries, they are able to concentrate on what they do best, making processors. I think the new leaner and meaner AMD with itís new lineup of BullDozer processor architecture can make a dent in Intelís business.
So I hope Apple remains lean and outsource its Fab operations to Samsung :)
In today's world system integration and Fabrication are two separate complex puzzles.
It is more or less comparing "Apple and Orange" in present day context.
In apple gets into Fab then then definitely I would ask why apple has started to make oranges? ;-)
Why would it make sense for Apple to have the costs of their own fab? It would not. Most semiconductor design companies are going fabless these days because of the expense. The short and long-term costs would outweigh any benefits received from having a captive and secure facility.
The comment about Texas picking up some of the tab for a new fab is overstated. The Texas Enterprise Fund was given $260M for the current biennium (2009-2010). So any funding from Texas would be at best a few percent of the cost of a new fab. Local infrastructure, local suppliers, and local workforce would be much more important factors in a siting decision.