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Rumor: Apple buys into chip fab, plans to build its own silicon

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 
Apple may move beyond designing silicon and actually build its own mobile chips, rather than relying entirely on third-party suppliers like Samsung or TSMC, a new rumor claims.

A6
Photo via iFixit.


Apple's alleged buy-in to an unnamed chip fabrication plant is not a "trivial" investment, a report published Friday by SemiAccurate claims. The full report remains hidden behind a $1,000-per-year paywall, but tags accompanying the story may reveal Apple's rumored mystery partner: United Microelectronics Corporation.

UMC is a Taiwan-based chipmaker that has been around since 1980 and currently trades on the New York Stock Exchange. The company's name has been connected to Apple rumors in the past, but none at the scale of building CPUs for the iPhone maker.

A few years ago, SemiAccurate was the source of one high-profile Apple-related rumor that failed to bear fruit. In 2011, the site claimed that Apple planned to transition its Mac lineup from Intel to ARM processors by early 2013, which never came to be.

However, the site did accurately predict that Apple would switch back to Nvidia graphics processors for its 2012 MacBook lineup. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display launched last year with an Nvidia GeForce GT 650M, switching from the AMD Radeon HD 6750M GPU found in the late 2011 model.

Regarding Apple's custom ARM chips found in the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV, Samsung has been the sole builder of those processors for years. But as competition between Apple and Samsung has grown, rumors have suggested that Apple wishes to move away from its reliance on Samsung.

Longstanding rumors have pegged Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. as Apple's most likely chipmaking partner. Just last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that after years of talks, Apple had finally inked a deal with TSMC to build mobile chips beginning in 2014.

But if Friday's latest rumor is to be believed, Apple's chip supply diversification efforts have led the company to make a significant investment in a a chip fabrication company, going well beyond a manufacturing agreement.
post #2 of 45
Please, please, PLEASE do it. I have been asserting the wisdom of such a move on this forum for some time now and hope I'm finally shown to be not just a dreamer. Others have pointed out to me the difficulties, and I agree with them. But I hope Apple can find a way to overcome them and put its future more in its own hands. Chips will not go out of fashion, they will always need them no matter which product direction they go. Unless they shift gears and start selling mattresses. ;-)
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post #3 of 45
Perhaps this is what big Bob Mansfield is working on. Cook did say they have ambitious plans in this space.
post #4 of 45

Wow, TSMC will be happy.  They haven't even managed to turn away from the table where they signed the latest agreement before there was a dagger between their shoulderblades - if true.

post #5 of 45
I thought they bought that chip maker out in Isreal a few years ago, sounds to me they've been looking into this for some time now.
post #6 of 45
FINALLY!!!
post #7 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

Wow, TSMC will be happy.  They haven't even managed to turn away from the table where they signed the latest agreement before there was a dagger between their shoulderblades - if true.

 

You're really mischaracterising things here.  TSMC was courted for years, offered piles of cash, offered to be bought out etc., and only after a long, long time did they grudgingly agree to produce chips for Apple under terms that were actually good for Apple.  So in fact, they were actually offered the same deal years ago.  

 

It's hardly a "dagger in the back" to hedge your bets with such a company by buying a much smaller chip fab plant as a "safety."   

post #8 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

Wow, TSMC will be happy.  They haven't even managed to turn away from the table where they signed the latest agreement before there was a dagger between their shoulderblades - if true.

It depends on what the agreements are for, multiple sources will always be better and more reliable than a single source. i am sure Apple will honor any and all agreements they negotiated and signed with TSMC and anyone else. Don't forget this is still just another unconfirmed rumor.

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post #9 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by AjbDtc826 View Post

I thought they bought that chip maker out in Isreal a few years ago, sounds to me they've been looking into this for some time now.


That was a chip design company, not a fab. They design the controller for use in SSD.

post #10 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

Wow, TSMC will be happy.  They haven't even managed to turn away from the table where they signed the latest agreement before there was a dagger between their shoulderblades - if true.

More pub talk. Here we call it barroom talk. Could it be the Guinness?
post #11 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

Wow, TSMC will be happy.  They haven't even managed to turn away from the table where they signed the latest agreement before there was a dagger between their shoulderblades - if true.

every company of apple's size has multiple suppliers

even apple's current products use multiple suppliers for iphones, mac's, etc

post #12 of 45

The problem with Apple building their own chip fab factory is what would they do with cyclical excess capacity?  Samsung currently uses that to build Apple's A-series chips, among others.  I sincerely doubt Apple wants to have an Apple factory that makes chips for their Android competitors. (Not that Tim Cook doesn't already know this, of course, just throwing this out for AI crowd.)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AjbDtc826 View Post

I thought they bought that chip maker out in Isreal a few years ago, sounds to me they've been looking into this for some time now.

 

TBH, I thought that's what the P.A. Semi acquisition was all about five years ago.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

Wow, TSMC will be happy.  They haven't even managed to turn away from the table where they signed the latest agreement before there was a dagger between their shoulderblades - if true.

 

As much as TSMC played hard to get, it's probably smart for Apple not to put all their chips in that basket.

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post #13 of 45
First and foremost, I'd be suspicious of anything behind a $1000 a year paywall. They are obviously going to say anything that might get people to pay up. But I think we've all seen this coming for a while. They keep buying design shops, and they have hired an entire team from AMD, and they kept old Bobby around for a reason. I'm guessing something like this takes a lot of time to get up and running, so TSMC is probably just a short term solution, while building their own chips is eventually the goal. I think they should just buy up their supply chain, and bring it all in house!
post #14 of 45
Last I knew UMC was far from a technology leader. As such I don't see the point for Apple which needs bleeding edge process technologies.
post #15 of 45

I don't buy this for a second.  I don't see how this would be to be Apple's advantage, at all.  It seems like getting involved in something that doesn't really suit them.

 

What am I missing?

post #16 of 45

Heck, Apple has more than enough money to do it.  It typically costs a few billion for the plant/equipment.  Now all they have to do is buy Sharp and keep the IGZO panel technology to themselves.

post #17 of 45
Apple certainly has the resources and the market power to go it alone.
post #18 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post

Apple certainly has the resources and the market power to go it alone.

the do but they won't

 

If anything, they will own the initial production of the AXx line of chips and custom ASICs needed for the next phone/pod/pad/mac,  using the virtual fab designs to keep the design in house, then make their initial runs in house as well.   Once established, they will push the proven etches and design to the market of fab facilities for volume and longevity.

 

This has 2 distinct advantages... One, all the initial proofing of chips is done under tight controls... no leaking of chip designs (ala Samsung) early in the process, 2nd, this allows Apple to drive the design independent of what the fabs are able to build at the time they bid it out... they can buy state of the art processes and prove the concept, and then drive the proven solution to the 3rd parties at less risk (which means lower cost... I mean if TMSC was asked to do something they never done before, they'll say XXbillion and we'll be ready in YYmonths, +/- 10%.  Apple can now say... 80% of that, and +/- 2%, because we are giving you proven etches and processes).   

 

 

I see a pattern of designing and building out a couple million chips in house, and then negotiating hard what, 6 months prior to launch of a new product with new chips in it, saying we're giving you everything, except the design then 2 months prior, the chip designs are shipped for volume launch  (the 1 month after main launch), which at that point the Apple chip foundry starts tooling up for the new chip cycle.

 

This likely cuts 6 months exposure of IP, and keeps the Samsungs and Qualcomms of the world in the dark until product launch, then they play catch up.   It also allows Apple to design chips independent of what the chip fabs can currently make (or plan to make), and then avoid the 'that's a nice design, but can you do it using our process, because we don't know how to do what you want to do" compromises)

 

Or it can all be a rumor.

post #19 of 45
I'd prefer Apple invest in Global Foundries and follow IBM's lead on that one. The $20 Billion going into Malta complex includes 2 new additional Fabs.
post #20 of 45

I would _love_ for this rumor to be true, on two levels. First, For a long time (Microsoft, Adobe, Google, Samsung...) Apple's partners have shown a remarkable propensity toward stabbing Apple in the back, and that would be (anatomically) more challenging if Apple owned the fab and had to stab it's own back for a change.

 

Secondly, it would shut up obnoxious fandroids that say Apple never invented anything, because they just assemble other company's parts....but then, now that I think about it, obnoxious fandroids are impossible to shut up, and they would just whine about something else.

 

Changing hats, the Apple stockholder in me thinks this is not a great idea. Cutting edge chip fabrication is not the domain of dabblers. AIM didn't keep up very well with Intel back in the day. All things considered, I think Apple would be best served by taking the best that that already-competitive market can produce...and that approach also has the advantage of being cheaper and not diluting focus at the mothership.

post #21 of 45
I have been saying this for months and I am glad to hear they might be. This will give them an advantage not seen before. The ability to produce processors away from competitors view so they are first to market with advanced technology. If done correctly, this alone could put the iOS devices 2-3 years ahead of competition.

Apple can start small here but doing most of the design work and small runs to work out issues and then move mass production to one of the bigger fabs. This allows that 1-2 year design process to be fully vetted before competition could even have the chance to see it.
post #22 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by AaronJ View Post

I don't buy this for a second.  I don't see how this would be to be Apple's advantage, at all.  It seems like getting involved in something that doesn't really suit them.

 

What am I missing?

 

The biggest advantage is technology secrets staying secret until release. Currently Samsung has new design concepts probably a year before release. They can't copy the design, but they can learn from it and incorporate similar features. No one knows what they don't know, so when you have someone else showing you design concepts that may be years ahead of where you were thinking, that will give you enlighten you to knew concepts. 

 

Example: original iPhone and it taking 2-3 years for competition to start catching up. If Apple could do that with processors, that will put them 2-3 years ahead of Samsung and others. 

post #23 of 45

Makes sense.  Apple would be able to actually own the means of production of the heart of all of their mobile products (and TV products.)  And it's easier to prevent future product leaks from people whose salary you directly control.  Adds a new meaning to "doubling down on secrecy," doesn't it?

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post #24 of 45
Originally Posted by Richard Getz View Post

 

The biggest advantage is technology secrets staying secret until release. Currently Samsung has new design concepts probably a year before release. They can't copy the design, but they can learn from it and incorporate similar features. No one knows what they don't know, so when you have someone else showing you design concepts that may be years ahead of where you were thinking, that will give you enlighten you to knew concepts. 

 

Example: original iPhone and it taking 2-3 years for competition to start catching up. If Apple could do that with processors, that will put them 2-3 years ahead of Samsung and others. 

 

Especially if Apple develops (and patents) original processor fabrication technology and/or chip design.

I feel the need to quote a classic sci-fi action flick here...

 

"But it gave us ideas, It took us in new directions... things we would never have thought of. All my work is based on it."

- Miles Dyson (Joe Morton, "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," 1991)

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post #25 of 45
Building a fab is just a question of money, but making that fab produce compelling chips requires process expertise. This is why Apple would want to buy TSMC, or if they aren't willing to sell, UMC. This is also why Intel would be smart to set up a joint venture with Apple, much like they did with micron in flash. But intel is not smart.

So, Apple buying a large chunk, possibly controlling interest, in UMC makes a lot of sense.

It will give them a great deal of freedom to innovate, and it will be harder to steal their innovations.
post #26 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by AjbDtc826 View Post

I thought they bought that chip maker out in Isreal a few years ago, sounds to me they've been looking into this for some time now.

 

You mean Anobit, and yes they did buy them out, there also building a campus in israel and hiring a ton of microelectronic engineers.  Apple already uses anobit's memory controller in the iPhone and iPad and iPod, that is the main reason they bought them.  They have one of the most power miserly, and fastest memory controllers available. The key to anobits controller is that it extends flash memory's life.

 

Here is a good article on what they got from the Anobit purchase:  http://news.cnet.com/8301-13924_3-57346212-64/anobit-acquisition-keeps-apple-ahead-in-flash-memory/#!

 

A quote from the article 

 

Quote:
Anobit has developed a memory signal processor, or MSP, that is able to manage very high bit error rates and extend the life of flash memory devices
post #27 of 45
Thanks to all who responded to post, good material!
post #28 of 45
It makes zero sense.

UMC is not, and has never been at node leading Fabs.

I have been saying this for far too many times. You cant switch Chips from One Fabs to Another like Copy and Paste. It doesn't work. Even If the Fabs are all based on IBM Fabs Alliance ( Global Foundry and Samsung ) it will still takes a few months to get things work and yield.

You cant try to have two different supplier of Fabs on leading node. Because they will very likely have a different timing schedule on it.

Owning Your Own Fabs means keeping it up with capacity, node, yield, upgrades etc. As if Apple's Operation does not have enough to deal with already?

As much as the analysis wants you to believe Fabs making big margin, these 60% margins from 28nm TSMC will not last. And only happened due to a perfect storm scenario. Price War will drive this back down once we reach 16 / 14 nm which everyone ( Intel, Samsung, TSMC, Global Foundry ) is well prepared for.

And if you are still questioning the Fat margins that Apple should bring this in house. You should also consider the actual Margins over the lifetime of node. Only leading node are gaining the highest margin are the 60% were only driven by mobile demand to TSMC that far exceed their ( clients ) expectation. Two years later when new node arrive they will drop significantly. Fabs Business is an extremely competitive market.

If Apple is really buying UMC I would likely think this has more to do in partner ship with TSMC where there has been rumors for years that TSMC may buy UMC. Sharing Tech and equipment from TSMC will be like working with TSMC but with a specific Fabs dedicated to Apple.

But then those UMC Fabs close to TSMC are not cutting edge, still on 200mm wafers and will need another year or two to upgrade. And UMC will have far too Fabs that Apple doesn't want.

So to conclude with my opening statement

It makes zero sense.
post #29 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

Wow, TSMC will be happy.  They haven't even managed to turn away from the table where they signed the latest agreement before there was a dagger between their shoulderblades - if true.

 

Explain please. Did Apple renege on their contract?

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post #30 of 45

So, UMC isn't relevant.
http://semiaccurate.com/forums/showpost.php?p=188908&postcount=39
 

 

Quote:Hive
Quote:Thrillseeker
[this article on Apple Insider]
Oh noes, they are putting words in the Semi-Accurate mouth! (and they ain't wrapped in bacon)

It's time to unleash the granny!

Even the paywall they got partially wrong - Student Level is enough for most to know how wrong UMC is.

 

and note: the student one exists.  I am a subscriber to S|A (student level).
 

I concur with Hive.

-QAMF

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post #31 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

Heck, Apple has more than enough money to do it.  It typically costs a few billion for the plant/equipment.  Now all they have to do is buy Sharp and keep the IGZO panel technology to themselves.

Fabs + research probably starting to hit close to 10 billion now.

(that is 10 billion for construction + research + tools for a node).

Quote:
Originally Posted by whoda View Post

First and foremost, I'd be suspicious of anything behind a $1000 a year paywall. They are obviously going to say anything that might get people to pay up. But I think we've all seen this coming for a while. They keep buying design shops, and they have hired an entire team from AMD, and they kept old Bobby around for a reason. I'm guessing something like this takes a lot of time to get up and running, so TSMC is probably just a short term solution, while building their own chips is eventually the goal. I think they should just buy up their supply chain, and bring it all in house!

It is also behind a 100$/year firewall.... AI needs to fix the article .

TSMC is the "Samsung is to damn against us to work with" option.  But yes, probably short term one.

I would be surprised if Apple's fab gets up before 16/14nm node, which would be 2-3+ years (for mass production).

Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post

every company of apple's size has multiple suppliers

even apple's current products use multiple suppliers for iphones, mac's, etc

Huh?  not for a single SoC.

Every single fab has different design specs and capacities, two A6 SoC's could have completely different power usages at the ~1.3Ghz stock in the iPhone 5.

It is hard to source multiple fabs due to that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

Wow, TSMC will be happy.  They haven't even managed to turn away from the table where they signed the latest agreement before there was a dagger between their shoulderblades - if true.

TSMC has all of Apples biz for at least 20nm (and I believe 20xm (ie the fusion of 20 and 16/14nm nodes))  That is what TSMC bid for, that is what they won.

Cheers!
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post #32 of 45
Um, no. There would be no reason for Apple to buy UMC when they can get as much capacity as they need and better technology elsewhere. If they were going to buy into a fab it would probably be Global Foundries but I see little incentive for them to do so when they can just buy chips.

SemiAccurate
seems SemiDesperate for attention.
post #33 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Getz View Post

I have been saying this for months and I am glad to hear they might be. This will give them an advantage not seen before. The ability to produce processors away from competitors view so they are first to market with advanced technology. If done correctly, this alone could put the iOS devices 2-3 years ahead of competition.

Apple can start small here but doing most of the design work and small runs to work out issues and then move mass production to one of the bigger fabs. This allows that 1-2 year design process to be fully vetted before competition could even have the chance to see it.

You have been saying for months Apple would buy UMC?  I bet.

 

This is nonsense; UMC is not an attractive partner, would not be worth buying and this rumor will turn out to be more the the usual BS speculation.

 

And dude, IC design does not "start small" and then get moved from fab to fab, but it's an amusing idea.

post #34 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiao-zhi View Post

Um, no. There would be no reason for Apple to buy UMC when they can get as much capacity as they need and better technology elsewhere. If they were going to buy into a fab it would probably be Global Foundries but I see little incentive for them to do so when they can just buy chips.

SemiAccurate seems SemiDesperate for attention.

Have you read the article?  No.  I doubt it.  I don't know where anyone is getting UMC from.  I guess that it is a tag....  But so are Intel, and IBM.

If you cannot read something, you have no grounds to criticize it on.

And, it is not UMC.... because UMC would be stupid, as you pointed out.  The only thing that UMC has is FD-SOI on 28nm.... Apple is not looking to manufacture stuff on 28nm.


Thanks for needless criticism,
-QAMF

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post #35 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiao-zhi View Post

You have been saying for months Apple would buy UMC?  I bet.

 

This is nonsense; UMC is not an attractive partner, would not be worth buying and this rumor will turn out to be more the the usual BS speculation.

 

And dude, IC design does not "start small" and then get moved from fab to fab, but it's an amusing idea.

 

No, sorry you read my post as such. I have been saying for months that Apple needs their own fab. 

 

Also, dude, the small was in effort compared to full production of their own chips. While design and processing may be more intensive, more critical, it is less labor than production. The point was before they jumped to tens of millions of processor production, they could work on design and process thus keeping the intellectual property hidden for as long as they could. 

post #36 of 45

Since the story was about UMC and your comment lead with "I have been saying this for months and I am glad to hear they might be" my assumption is you refer to the story subject. 

 

Personally, I don't think Apple needs it's own fab as an increasing amount of foundry capacity is becoming available including Global Foundries and Intel, both of whom have the ability to replace the role of Samsung should Apple really decide to drop them (but seems not). If you look at the history of Apple courting UMC and TSMC, this happened at a time when such capacity was short. UMC made a pass and their CEO is smoking what I don't know, TSMC didn't have the cap to make a big commitment but started qual trials with A6. Since then, the market has significantly changed with (a) the demise of PCs reducing the demand for Graphics chipsets and (b) the success of Intel promoting integrated graphics for notebooks.

 

This makes UMC a real non-starter, technologically, and in a weak position, so ripe for rumors but not a very attractive target. Buying physical fabs is buying other people's problems (whatever they are) and UMC is long in the tooth.

 

However, Apple talks with GF seem to have stalled. 

 

You said:

 

"Apple can start small here but doing most of the design work and small runs to work out issues and then move mass production to one of the bigger fabs. This allows that 1-2 year design process to be fully vetted before competition could even have the chance to see it."

 

I guess we disagree. My experience is this model no longer works as designs must be engineered for specific processes and then debugged, which is a designer to fab proposition, and particularly the case with complex SoC designs. This was a viable model in the past for lower volume, less critical designs (I started in a captive fab) but really does not work for high volume leading edge designs. 

 

Apple is not designing at an approximately 2 year cadence, they pretty much have to pick a fab site & process, and then use the time to design and debug and I don't see hand-off to new plants as a viable strategy.

 

Of course, they could do that if they wanted: they have the cash to burn, at least for now.

 

My vote for the dark horse is Intel. Established & trusted Apple supplier. Deep technology including leading R+D. Increasing capacity available. Interesting problem.

 

Yes, we agree, 28nm is not interesting. Bogus claim.

post #37 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiao-zhi View Post

Personally, I don't think Apple needs it's own fab as an increasing amount of foundry capacity is becoming available including Global Foundries and Intel, both of whom have the ability to replace the role of Samsung should Apple really decide to drop them (but seems not). If you look at the history of Apple courting UMC and TSMC, this happened at a time when such capacity was short. UMC made a pass and their CEO is smoking what I don't know, TSMC didn't have the cap to make a big commitment but started qual trials with A6. Since then, the market has significantly changed with (a) the demise of PCs reducing the demand for Graphics chipsets and (b) the success of Intel promoting integrated graphics for notebooks.

 

This makes UMC a real non-starter, technologically, and in a weak position, so ripe for rumors but not a very attractive target. Buying physical fabs is buying other people's problems (whatever they are) and UMC is long in the tooth.

 

However, Apple talks with GF seem to have stalled. 

Yup, right on, except, what is the problem with buying a physical fab?  If this was a fab for 20nm (or above) I would agree, but process technology advancement beyond 14nm seems to be very slow.

No reason why a 16/14nm fab wouldn't be a good buy.

And when did talks with GF stall?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiao-zhi View Post

Apple is not designing at an approximately 2 year cadence, they pretty much have to pick a fab site & process, and then use the time to design and debug and I don't see hand-off to new plants as a viable strategy.

 

Of course, they could do that if they wanted: they have the cash to burn, at least for now.

 

My vote for the dark horse is Intel. Established & trusted Apple supplier. Deep technology including leading R+D. Increasing capacity available. Interesting problem.

 

No one is designing at a 2 year cadence, Intel isn't designing at a 2 year cadence anymore.

Intel could do it, except that would Intel be accepting of ARM chips being made in their fabs.  And also the fact that Intel is a high-margin player, so is Apple.  Of the fabs I think Intel's "need" for high margins in the greatest.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiao-zhi View Post
Yes, we agree, 28nm is not interesting. Bogus claim.

Yes, just like this claim is Bogus:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiao-zhi View Post
SemiAccurate seems SemiDesperate for attention.
 

Complete bogus, all that S|A did was tag fabs.  Other sites choose a tagged fab, and flew with it.

I say that having read the student level article.

-QAMF

EDIT: so far, S|A has been very accurate on things Apple is doing (or explained why they were wrong if wrong, like expecting 64-bit ARM to be ready much earlier then it will be)

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post #38 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiao-zhi View Post

Since the story was about UMC and your comment lead with "I have been saying this for months and I am glad to hear they might be" my assumption is you refer to the story subject. 

 

Personally, I don't think Apple needs it's own fab as an increasing amount of foundry capacity is becoming available including Global Foundries and Intel, both of whom have the ability to replace the role of Samsung should Apple really decide to drop them (but seems not). If you look at the history of Apple courting UMC and TSMC, this happened at a time when such capacity was short. UMC made a pass and their CEO is smoking what I don't know, TSMC didn't have the cap to make a big commitment but started qual trials with A6. Since then, the market has significantly changed with (a) the demise of PCs reducing the demand for Graphics chipsets and (b) the success of Intel promoting integrated graphics for notebooks.

 

This makes UMC a real non-starter, technologically, and in a weak position, so ripe for rumors but not a very attractive target. Buying physical fabs is buying other people's problems (whatever they are) and UMC is long in the tooth.

 

However, Apple talks with GF seem to have stalled. 

 

You said:

 

"Apple can start small here but doing most of the design work and small runs to work out issues and then move mass production to one of the bigger fabs. This allows that 1-2 year design process to be fully vetted before competition could even have the chance to see it."

 

I guess we disagree. My experience is this model no longer works as designs must be engineered for specific processes and then debugged, which is a designer to fab proposition, and particularly the case with complex SoC designs. This was a viable model in the past for lower volume, less critical designs (I started in a captive fab) but really does not work for high volume leading edge designs. 

 

Apple is not designing at an approximately 2 year cadence, they pretty much have to pick a fab site & process, and then use the time to design and debug and I don't see hand-off to new plants as a viable strategy.

 

Of course, they could do that if they wanted: they have the cash to burn, at least for now.

 

My vote for the dark horse is Intel. Established & trusted Apple supplier. Deep technology including leading R+D. Increasing capacity available. Interesting problem.

 

Yes, we agree, 28nm is not interesting. Bogus claim.

 

The problem with Intel, or anyone else, is that Apple's design will be in the hands of another manufacture just like Samsung. Even if they can't copy the design, they can learn from it. As you said 'dark horse is Intel' [taken out of context] and not the white horse. 

 

I guess we disagree. My experience is this model no longer works as designs must be engineered for specific processes and then debugged, which is a designer to fab proposition, and particularly the case with complex SoC designs. This was a viable model in the past for lower volume, less critical designs (I started in a captive fab) but really does not work for high volume leading edge designs.

 

I'll go with your experience, but hope that Apple still works a way to keep their intellectual property out of the hands of competition as long as they can. The sting of Samsung and Google is all to fresh to forget. 

post #39 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by QAMF View Post

Yup, right on, except, what is the problem with buying a physical fab?  If this was a fab for 20nm (or above) I would agree, but process technology advancement beyond 14nm seems to be very slow.

No reason why a 16/14nm fab wouldn't be a good buy.

And when did talks with GF stall?

 

 

No one is designing at a 2 year cadence, Intel isn't designing at a 2 year cadence anymore.

Intel could do it, except that would Intel be accepting of ARM chips being made in their fabs.  And also the fact that Intel is a high-margin player, so is Apple.  Of the fabs I think Intel's "need" for high margins in the greatest.

 

Yes, just like this claim is Bogus:

Complete bogus, all that S|A did was tag fabs.  Other sites choose a tagged fab, and flew with it.

I say that having read the student level article.

-QAMF

EDIT: so far, S|A has been very accurate on things Apple is doing (or explained why they were wrong if wrong, like expecting 64-bit ARM to be ready much earlier then it will be)

 

A4 March 2010 -> (12 months) A5 March 2011 -> (18 months) A6 Sept 2012, so let's say recently they are turning 12-18 months. I do not count variants of a basic design.

 

As for Apple buying UMC, considering the article is now 12 days old, I wonder why this has zero traction outside S|A and Apple Insider. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but I seriously doubt Apple would burn cash on UMC just to buy other people's problems, they have more important things to do.

 

Intel is a bit of a long shot, but they are now "soft" marketing foundry services and seem less that 100% confident in the handheld space, and is already on the record stating they could produce ARM designs. Fact is, Intel has huge, modern Fab capacity and are seeing serious erosion of desktop sales without corresponding gains of revenue in the tablet or phone space because Atom does not have the real estate or margin to replace lost PC demand. For at least 3 years they have fabbed custom silicon for Google (and now for Facebook) on the server side, so they are already halfway there. Clearly Intel does not plan on making it on desktops or notebooks alone much longer as they recently wound-up their desktop systems groups producing reference designs and transferred them to mobil product development. 

 

Given Intel has very deep technology, too much capacity and a long relationship with Apple, there is a business case for both parties. And if we consider that Apple designers need to hitch their wagons to a fab process at the beginning of a design cycle, Intel brings a lot to the party that even Samsung and Global Foundries lack.

 

My Take: UMC, no. TSMC, alternate generation, 2nd tier. Samsung, Yes. Intel, maybe. GF, maybe.

 

If Apple buys UMC I'll buy lunch. 

post #40 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Getz View Post

 

The problem with Intel, or anyone else, is that Apple's design will be in the hands of another manufacture just like Samsung. Even if they can't copy the design, they can learn from it. As you said 'dark horse is Intel' [taken out of context] and not the white horse. 

 

I guess we disagree. My experience is this model no longer works as designs must be engineered for specific processes and then debugged, which is a designer to fab proposition, and particularly the case with complex SoC designs. This was a viable model in the past for lower volume, less critical designs (I started in a captive fab) but really does not work for high volume leading edge designs.

 

I'll go with your experience, but hope that Apple still works a way to keep their intellectual property out of the hands of competition as long as they can. The sting of Samsung and Google is all to fresh to forget. 

 

I understand your feelings about Samsung, but Apple and Samsung have a pretty deep and long relationship that might not be broken by recent events. In fact, I would expect them to continue doing lots of business but change the terms of engagement. I'm pretty sure Sumsung would like to continue fabing Ax chips in Austin, they have about $7Bn invested in the fab capacity used for these products and won't find other customers that easy.

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