It makes sense for Intel and Altera.
As you move into progressively smaller geometries, fewer foundries qualify. Altera wants to move to 14nm for new products. Who else *can* make them?
But as you move down into that range, the cost of building a fab rises into the ionosphere. Very few companies can afford to build them at all, and those that can want to be sure a substantial market is there for what the fabs will make.
The deal with Altera provides Intel with a chunk of revenue to help offset the design and construction costs of 14nm geometries, and Altera is not a direct competitor to Intel. The question is what Altera has in the pipeline that it might ask Intel to manufacture for them.
Intel is essentially in two businesses, design and manufacture. Competitors like ARM are in one: design. Intel has historically designed what it made, but as growth in the X86 market flattens, the question arises of what business will keep those oh so expensive foundries operating at capacity.
"It is not Intel's objective to become a general foundry service provider," sounds quite true, but they also need to keep the fabs turning out product and generating revenue 24/7 to justify having them. Juart filling in the corners and mopping up any idle capacity will be attractive.
I'm just wondering how firm Intel's insistence that while it *has* an ARM license, it doesn't intend to *use* it will remain. Intel *used* to make ARM CPUs via its former StrongARM division. If someone like Apple inquired about Intel making ARM CPUs at 14nm geometries for them, what do you suppose Intel might say? I can see the design side of the house turning colors and sputtering, and the manufacturing side calling the janitors to mop up the drool.
On the other hand, Intel has been one of the most reliable companies at consistently hitting their process milestones on time.
Then you add in the huge potential performance/cost advantage of a true 14nm node.
Those two things together likely equal a lot less risk to forward profits than counting on TSMC.
2) With Apple controlling the end product space, it makes sense to target them as a customer. Apple is a big customer to Intel already and while their processors could be considered competitive, they are not a competitor to Intel. That is not true at all of Qualcom who is definitely a competitor. Partnering with Qualcom would mean Intel abandoning a large future market space. That is just not going to happen.
3) Compared to overall Intel revenue, this portion of the market could be small, even at a 100 million+ units/year. A $10 processor at 100 million units is still only $1 billion. Yes a nice adder to the bottom line, but ultimately not huge dollars for a company of Intel's size. The question is whether yield and die size would offer enough cost savings to give them sufficient margin to justify the business. Also need to consider what portion of the power budget is processor and if the impact of Intel allows a premium charge.
Intel has an architectural license to ARM though they have stated in the past they will not use it.
The question for Intel sales and marketing is is this a good back door method for getting into those companies to sell their architecture?
As we unveil EE Times’ 2015 Silicon 60 list, journalist & Silicon 60 researcher Peter Clarke hosts a conversation on startups in the electronics industry. Panelists Dan Armbrust (investment firm Silicon Catalyst), Andrew Kau (venture capital firm Walden International), and Stan Boland (successful serial entrepreneur, former CEO of Neul, Icera) join in the live debate.