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Intel to start manufacturing third-party ARM chips in 2014

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 
In a somewhat shocking turn of events, Intel, creators of the 8086 CPU and resulting x86 microchip architecture, will begin fabricating ARM processors for another company starting next year.

Intel


Intel partner Altera announced at the ARM developers conference on Tuesday that the chip making giant will start fabrication of its 64-bit ARM chips in 2014, reports Reuters.

The news came as a surprise to many, given Intel's uphill battle to relinquish ARM's stranglehold on the mobile marketplace. Intel's Atom chipsets go head-to-head against ARM-based chips like Qualcomm's Snapdragon and Nvidia's Tegra products.

With Tuesday's announcement, some speculate that Apple may by interested in switching a portion of its A-series orders to Intel. The Cupertino company reportedly inked a deal in June with chip making heavyweight Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to fabricate its next-generation silicon.

Apple already uses Intel's latest Haswell laptop-class silicon in its MacBook lineup, desktop-class chips for the iMac and Xeon processors for the upcoming Mac Pro. The companies have also collaborated on a number of cutting edge projects like Thunderbolt.

Despite using Intel parts in Macs, Apple employs in-house designed ARM chips for its iOS devices. Up to this point, Samsung has been responsible for fabricating all A-series SoCs, including the A7 chip found in the iPhone 5s, as well as the forthcoming iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display. Apple is thought to be distancing itself from its smartphone rival, however, thanks in no small part to an ongoing worldwide patent dispute.

The latest rumors claim Samsung will get a share of TSMC's business for the next-gen "A8" SoC, as the chip's advanced 20 nanometer process is said to be causing yield issues for the Taiwanese firm.
post #2 of 64
doan-de-doan-doan, doan-de-doan-doan-DOAN!
post #3 of 64

Too late, Apple has decided on TSMC for 20nm, And a Split of TSMC and Samsung for 14nm.

 

May be Apple could do trial with Intel 14nm on Apple TV SoC or some other smaller batch SoC. But Definitely not on the iPhone / iPad.

post #4 of 64
"Hello, Intel? This is Tim."

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post #5 of 64

> battle to relinquish ARM's stranglehold <

 

Never use a big word unless it a) is more apt than a small one, and b) has the intended meaning. 

 

You're welcome!

post #6 of 64
Sure Apple can use Intel. Apple has the only 64-big ARM chip in a smartphone and tablet. And soon it will have AppleTV. Someone has to make all those chips.

TSMC may have problems with yields since they are new to 20 nm chips. But Intel will have ZERO problems since making 15 nm and 20 nm chips is completely within their talent base.

Intel can get half of the business, TSMC the other. Samsung will soon be cut off Apple's chip manufacturing.
post #7 of 64

This looks like a good way to hedge their bets. Atom just isn't getting it done. They should stop using the name it has been so bad. 

post #8 of 64

No! I thought that Apple's dream might be destroying Intel's tax and dominance, not power it.

 

Just put 3 a7 at 25$ each on a redesigned macbook air. :)

post #9 of 64
This could signal a HUGE shift for Intel. I'll be keeping an eye on their stock price. 1smile.gif
post #10 of 64
hello is this intel??
TIm here.....
screw samsung.
post #11 of 64

Apple should use Intel as well.  Especially when they have a better 14nm process.

post #12 of 64
This isn't the first time Intel has made ARM chips. In the early 2000s it made the StrongARM (the first 'supercomputer powered by AA batteries') after inheriting it from Digital Equipment Corp.
post #13 of 64

Of course Apple will use this, this is why it is probably happening. Intel can fab stuff, we know this. Good old intel.

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post #14 of 64

Not sure why this is shocking. There have been rumors over the last year that Apple was courting Intel to fab their Arm chips. Apparently, concerns about the appearance of producing a CPU that was competitive to their own and some ARM licensing issues were complications. Many people expected the A7 was produced by Intel, until it was confirmed to be Samsung.

 

http://hothardware.com/News/Despite-Claims-Apples-ARM-Business-A-Dubious-Opportunity-For-Intel-/

Quote:
 Our trip to ARM last week actually highlighted some of the reasons why a foundry relationship between Intel and Apple would be difficult. Apple's A4 and A5 cores were custom implementations of a standard ARM Cortex-A8 / A9 processor, but the Apple A6 inside the iPhone 5 is based on Apple's own "Swift" architecture. Apple has its own processor design team now, and that means it would want a foundry license that gave it a great deal of flexibility and input into implementation and design. 
 
Intel, meanwhile, simply isn't used to sharing control of those variables. The ARM license is another headache -- while Apple could certainly negotiate a license with ARM to fab their chips, none of ARM's designs have been ported for construction in Intel's factories. Intel, meanwhile, would take a serious PR hit for agreeing to fab ARM for Apple while simultaneously plugging its own x86 solutions. 

Finally, there's the issue of time-to-ramp. Apple has been talking to TSMC about foundry work since at least 2011 but only signed an agreement recently. That speaks to the specifity of what Apple wants, the volume guarantees it required, and a careful negotiation process over what each party would control as far as semiconductor designs, foundry technologies, and IP production. Even assuming Intel could do the work more quickly than its Taiwanese competitor, it could still take 12-24 months for Cupertino and Santa Clara to hammer out an agreement. 

After being burned (in its own opinion) by Samsung, Apple is going to insist on tough non-compete clauses. Intel, meanwhile, has a 22nm Atom architecture that it's itching to pitch at the smartphone market. Fabbing ARM chips for Apple could cripple that processors' reception -- who's going to believe it's a top-notch design if you're simultaneously building ARM processors for the most-visible smartphone vendor in the United States. It's hard to see Apple being thrilled with Intel if Intel ends up building chips for Samsung, Nokia, or HTC down the line -- particularly if those devices outperform Apple's own products. 

This is the kind of deal that looks great at first glance but falls apart when both companies bring their long-term desires to the table. Intel would love to win the iPhone and iPad for Bay Trail or future Atom chips, but is going to be less enthusiastic about building ARM. Apple would love to take advantage of cutting-edge 22nm and 14nm technology, but would want a great deal of input into the manufacturing process and Intel's ability to compete with its own products. 

Maybe one day -- but not today.

 

Even back as far as 2011, there was speculation this would happen.

http://arstechnica.com/business/2011/05/intel-to-fab-arm-chips-for-apple-its-possible/

"My 8th grade math teacher once said: "You can't help it if you're dumb, you are born that way. But stupid is self inflicted."" -Hiro. 

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...sometimes it's both
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post #15 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Hallas View Post

This isn't the first time Intel has made ARM chips. In the early 2000s it made the StrongARM (the first 'supercomputer powered by AA batteries') after inheriting it from Digital Equipment Corp.

No, it's not the first time, but that was back before they decided to dump it in favour of their own architecture. 

"My 8th grade math teacher once said: "You can't help it if you're dumb, you are born that way. But stupid is self inflicted."" -Hiro. 

...sometimes it's both
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post #16 of 64
Having multiple suppliers is a good thing. Keeps pricing competitive and means that if one suppliers factory burns down that the world doesn't stop. Having three possible suppliers is good news.
post #17 of 64
Originally Posted by quinney View Post
doan-de-doan-doan, doan-de-doan-doan-DOAN!

 

Wait, why Dragnet?

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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Originally Posted by Marvin

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post #18 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phone-UI-Guy View Post

This looks like a good way to hedge their bets. Atom just isn't getting it done. They should stop using the name it has been so bad. 

Intel should be embarrassed even AMD has done better with Brazos.
post #19 of 64
One point worth remembering here is that Intel has been producing gate arrays for some time for third parties. These are not low cost chips at all. In the case here with Altera this might not be a chip as we know them in the cell phone world. They could be building a core into a gate array.

Need to do more reading.
post #20 of 64
It is shocking it has taken Intel so long to get on the band wagon. I think the faster they start making 3rd party ARM designs, the better Apple products will get.
post #21 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by jameskatt2 View Post

Sure Apple can use Intel. Apple has the only 64-big ARM chip in a smartphone and tablet. And soon it will have AppleTV. Someone has to make all those chips.

TSMC may have problems with yields since they are new to 20 nm chips. But Intel will have ZERO problems since making 15 nm and 20 nm chips is completely within their talent base.

Intel can get half of the business, TSMC the other. Samsung will soon be cut off Apple's chip manufacturing.

 

People overestimate the AppleTV market.   TV/set top boxes don't turn over every 18 months. and most homes don't have a TV for every adult in the house.  especially in non-US markets.   TVs sell less than desktops (businesses don't buy TVs per employee). and definitely less than laptops.

 

The boomlet will be when corporate desktops evolve to being just VDI 'terminals'   They won't need highend performance, and a simple gigabit docking station for a tablet or a netbook will be enough.  That's when the ARM chip boom will occur.  (about the same time I see Apple deciding the fate of an A1Xx based MBA).    My guess in 3 years there will be a tipping point on ARM vs Atom/Skylake, and Intel wants to be a winner whatever side the market sways.

 

In any event, I'm sure Tim didn't call Intel... but I'll bet that Krzanich called Tim, saying "you know we have the capacity, and the talent... We'll prove that we can deliver as ARM fab with Altera... that should lower the risk to zero for us as your A9 Partner, compared to TMSC and Samsung.  I'll call back next June when those specs are coming into line and I'll give you the 'Valley' discount."

post #22 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by iw16w8sH0v View Post

It is shocking it has taken Intel so long to get on the band wagon. I think the faster they start making 3rd party ARM designs, the better Apple products will get.

 

You give your internal partners 12 months to right the ship, then you shop for outside demand for your capacity.  

 

Remember the world was coming out of a recession for the last 3 years... hard to predict x86 sales, and you don't just 'slap together a fab,' and with Intel's chip design 5 years out, manufacturing has to commit to deliver to to that as well.  The last thing Intel wanted was the inability to supply the world with x86 chips and let AMD back in the game.   And once it looks like x86 demand has slacked, giving you capacity... it's not like Intel can just 'roll-in' a custom fab intake process (the legal stuff probably takes a year... you don't want Intel chip design teams lunching with the manufacturing discussing what altera just sent over via courier in the morning.).

 

It's less about ARM, and more about being a generic 'fab for hire.'

post #23 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by iw16w8sH0v View Post

It is shocking it has taken Intel so long to get on the band wagon. I think the faster they start making 3rd party ARM designs, the better Apple products will get.

What is shocking? Intel has had an ARM architectural license for more than a decade. They inherited StrongARM from DEC and then designed their own ARM chip called Xscale before selling it to Marvell in 2006. In fact if anything, they were on the bandwagon way before most others were. The only thing shocking is that people are completely unaware of this.

post #24 of 64
There may be more in play than simply Intel becoming an ARM manufacturer and/or foundry.

Several of us have suggested the possibility of some of Apple's next computers containing both x86 and ARM chips.

ARM is a RISC architecture which lends itself to parallel processing (among other things).

The original 8086 architecture is CISC. When Intel evolved that to the x86 architecture, they combined a proprietary front end that translates CISC instructions to RISC instructions for execution.

As I understand it, the front end consumes a lot of power and generates a lot of heat.

So, maybe they could make a hybrid chip or a separate front-end CISC chip that interfaces the ARM chip at high-speed. The CISC chip could be used when needed to execute (translate) legacy RISC code, and idle (or off) when executing ARM code. Or, the RISC code could be translated when the code is loaded then turned off while the code is running.

It would seem that a 64-bit ARM architecture, like the A7, could facilitate the above process -- especially if it requires more RAM.
Edited by Dick Applebaum - 10/30/13 at 8:45am
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post #25 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Quote:
doan-de-doan-doan, doan-de-doan-doan-DOAN!

Wait, why Dragnet?

because the criminals are about to get their comeuppance
post #26 of 64

The real news should be the fact that these are not only 64 bit chips, but that Intel is opening up it's 14nm process rather than sticking 3rd parties with the 20.

 

Intel has already been known to manufacture FPGA's for Altera which already made use of Arm cores. It isn't surprising in the slightest that the mere advanced to full fledged chips happened.


Edited by Jexus - 10/30/13 at 9:32am
post #27 of 64
Then, there's this:

HP to Ship 64-Bit ARM-Based Moonshot Server in 2014

http://www.eweek.com/servers/hp-to-ship-64-bit-arm-based-moonshot-server-in-2014.html


and this:

New Blockbuster Memory Chip may Kick A7 into another Orbit

http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/10/new-blockbuster-memory-chip-may-kick-a7-into-another-orbit.html
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post #28 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by enzos View Post

> battle to relinquish ARM's stranglehold <</span>

Never use a big word unless it a) is more apt than a small one, and b) has the intended meaning. 

You're welcome!

I was thinking the same thing when I read that. If ARM has a stranglehold on mobile CPU design, how is Intel manufacturing ARM chips going to relinquish that?

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post #29 of 64
This could address the yield issues TSMC is having.
I like the idea of starting with making the SOC for the AppleTV.
Maybe we could see the AppleTV made in the USA.
I would also love to see Apple make a server that used ARM chips. They could beta test it in their own server farm and then promote the energy savings.
post #30 of 64
<<The news came as a surprise to many, given Intel's uphill battle to relinquish ARM's stranglehold on the mobile marketplace. >>

The sentence makes sense.
The news is surprising because Intel is doing a 180 in strategy.
They were trying to relinquish ARM's stranglehold.
That strategy failed.
So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
post #31 of 64
Originally Posted by Johnny Mozzarella View Post
So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

 

X86 beats ARM without trying and will continue to do so for a considerable amount of time.

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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Originally Posted by Marvin

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post #32 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by enzos View Post
 

> battle to relinquish ARM's stranglehold <

 

Never use a big word unless it a) is more apt than a small one, and b) has the intended meaning. 

 

You're welcome!

 

And don't forget to throw in several French expressions in the articles, a practice which seems to be fashionable among journalists writing for English language magazines and newspapers.

post #33 of 64
Intel is a long range competitor, what you give them, they will share with your competition. (See Macbook Air)
post #34 of 64

This is somewhat surprising because Intel's executives alluded to a willingness to be a foundry as long as it involved Intel's own architecture. This piece about Stacey Smith echoes similar comments made by then CEO Paul Otellini to that effect.

 

http://arstechnica.com/apple/2011/05/intel-exec-throws-fuel-on-the-intel-to-fab-apple-chips-rumor-fire/

 

http://allthingsd.com/20110607/arm-twisting-intel-to-fab-chips-for-apple/

 

Since then Apple has moved to production of their own SoC designs, relations with Samsung have further soured, and Intel has continued to see little penetration of their Atom SoC's. As a couple other readers pointed out, I believe Intel is now hedging their bets as to the future of computing. They are likely trying to straddle the fence as ultra low power, "good enough", devices displace traditional computing platforms for general purpose consumption. Thus they will not collapse under their own weight should they fail to deliver a mobile SoC that is price competitive and superior performance per watt on general purpose tasks. If they can't win over the mobile device (smartphones, tablets, watches, etc) markets and convince them to use Intel Architecture then generating revenue as an extremely innovative foundry is better than receiving nothing.

 

With this revelation I would not be surprised to see Intel secure an agreement with Apple to produce Apple designed ARM chips. This would be a fairly large shift in the mobile computing landscape and I think Intel recognizes that. There is another aspect to consider which could also be driving Intel down this path. Consider Microsoft's direction with Windows 8 which is arguably a schizophrenic operating system trying to straddle the fence as well. With this move Intel will begin to gain more experience with producing ARM based SoC's. Would it be a shock to see an Intel chip that pairs an ARM SoC with Intel Architecture. Imagine a chip that could sleep all of the IA64 cores while running the New UI apps on a Windows 9 machine; While I do acknowledge the complexity of such a suggestion, I wouldn't be surprised to see such a convergence.

post #35 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post
 

 

And don't forget to throw in several French expressions in the articles, a practice which seems to be fashionable among journalists writing for English language magazines and newspapers.

 That is so passé...

post #36 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by PopinFRESH View Post
 

Would it be a shock to see an Intel chip that pairs an ARM SoC with Intel Architecture. Imagine a chip that could sleep all of the IA64 cores while running the New UI apps on a Windows 9 machine; While I do acknowledge the complexity of such a suggestion, I wouldn't be surprised to see such a convergence.

Actually yes that would be shocking.

While IA64 was decently successful in the HPC market, it failed miserably to generate any interesting in the general PC market where X86 Ruled.

 

While Intel said that it is still committed to Itanium(it did become profitable), for intel to not consider using X86+ARM and jump straight to IA64+ARM would be incredibly out of left field.

post #37 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

 

X86 beats ARM without trying and will continue to do so for a considerable amount of time.

I believe you may have ignored the qualifier in his quotation of the article which specifically identifies the mobile market. Within that market I would disagree with your statement. I will quantify it with this quote from Forbes, "ARM, which doesn’t manufacture chips but rather licenses their blueprints to other chip makers, is present on more than 95% of the world’s smartphones...". I do think there will still be a place for x86 based systems for a considerable amount of time; however I also believe there is acceleration within the shift away from traditional PC's toward tablets and smartphones.

 

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2013/09/20/as-gadgets-shrink-arm-still-reigns-as-processor-king/

post #38 of 64

Thank you for the correction. I intended to mean x86-64, not the Itanium Architecture. 

post #39 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by PopinFRESH View Post
 

Thank you for the correction. I intended to mean x86-64, not the Itanium Architecture. 

Was about to say...heh

 

Either way, yes, Intel combining ARM IP with it's own X86-64 interpretation doesn't seem that impossible I would agree(After all, AMD is already doing so for embedded applications at least). Though part of me would like IA64 to get an ARM pairing, it's not very good as far as I see, being that ARM already does parallel very well, and Itanium is basically a giant parallel chip. That, and Itanium is expensive enough on it's own/X86-64 is everywhere else mostly.

post #40 of 64
Not really a huge shift, just diversifying their product range, another finger in another pie.
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