TSMC hopes to land orders for 20nm chips from Apple in 2014 - report

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has reportedly placed an early investment in 20-nanometer chip technology, in hopes of landing orders from Apple as soon as 2014.

TSMC is focusing on 20-nanometer chips because the company currently faces a shortage of processors built using the 28-nanometer production process, according to DigiTimes. At present, the company is "unable to provide sufficient capacity" to existing 28-nanometer companies, the report said citing industry sources.

"While having a tight supply of 28nm, TSMC now hopes an early investment in 20nm technology will help the foundry engage in collaboration with potential clients such as Apple in advance and ensure enough capacity to meet demand," Wednesday report said.

Sources in the overseas supply chain reportedly believe that SMC has a "good chance" of winning CPU orders from Apple in 2014. Currently, Apple still uses the 45-nanometer chip process from Samsung to make its A5X CPU that powers the new iPad.

Apple is said to have viewed newer chips built on smaller production processes to be a risk to their products, as potential shortages could cause issues for newer versions of the iPhone and iPad. Instead, Apple has stuck with older production processes to ensure availability and reliability.

To aggressively court Apple's business, TSMC reportedly plans to invest about $700 million U.S. in a 20-nanometer research and development line this year. Originally, the company planned to spend that money in 2013.



TSMC also plans to accelerate the pace of its 28-nanometer capacity expansion. The company expects to have its supply meet demand by the first quarter of 2013.

TSMC began generating revenues from its 28-nanometer chips in the fourth quarter of 2011, when they accounted for about 5 percent of the company's sales. But the company has been significantly ramping up production of those chips in 2012.

The custom chips Apple put in its new Apple TV and latest version of the iPad 2 have been seen as evidence that the company is testing the 32-nanometer chipmaking process. Moving to a smaller 32-nanometer node allows the chips to be more efficient, allowing for improved battery life in iOS devices.

Apple's primary chipmaker remains Samsung, though Apple was said to have signed a major foundry agreement with TSMC last year to build future ARM-based process.
Rumors have suggested that Apple has looked to forge a closer alliance with TSMC to move away from rival Samsung, with which Apple is engaged in a series of lawsuits.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    That's a bit optimistic, thinking Apple will still be around by then...

    ;)
  • Reply 2 of 36
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,703member
    Has anybody stopped to think about another possibility here. That is that Apple is looking towards TSMC because they need the additional capacity. I really don't see them moving away from Samsung unless Sammy slips technology wise. However Sammys ability to meet Apples demand must be a real concern, thus signing up an alternative vendor.

    Apple doesn't buy all their RAM, Flash or other chips from a single supplier so why would they have an exclusive CPU vendor?
  • Reply 3 of 36
    aizmovaizmov Posts: 988member
    Why Apple is sticking with Samsung and there ancient fabrication process? 45nm is so 2008. 32nm has been around since 2010 and yet Samsung continued to make Apple's chips with 45nm process. Imagine how much more energy efficient the iPad and iPhone would have been if their processors were made with 32nm process.
  • Reply 4 of 36
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    wizard69 wrote: »
    Apple doesn't buy all their RAM, Flash or other chips from a single supplier so why would they have an exclusive CPU vendor?
    That certainly makes sense.

    aizmov wrote: »
    Why Apple is sticking with Samsung and there ancient fabrication process? 45nm is so 2008. 32nm has been around since 2010 and yet Samsung continued to make Apple's chips with 45nm process. Imagine how much more energy efficient the iPad and iPhone would have been if their processors were made with 32nm process.
    That's not accurate at all. There are technical reasons that kept the iPhone 3GS, iPad, iPhone 4, iPad 2, iPhone 4S, and iPad (3) at the 45nm process. Apple has been testing the 32nm lithography with the new Apple TV and newly lowered price iPad 2s. These are important steps before production is ready for millions per week.
  • Reply 5 of 36
    aizmovaizmov Posts: 988member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    That's not accurate at all. There are technical reasons that kept the iPhone 3GS, iPad, iPhone 4, iPad 2, iPhone 4S, and iPad (3) at the 45nm process. Apple has been testing the 32nm lithography with the new Apple TV and newly lowered price iPad 2s. These are important steps before production is ready for millions per week.

    Makes no sense. 32nm has been in commercial production since 2010. It shouldn't take Apple or anyone 2 years to move to it.
  • Reply 6 of 36
    winterwinter Posts: 1,238member


    I called it on the nose. Digitimes. I was not disappointed.


     


    It will be interesting to see if this turns out to be true.

  • Reply 7 of 36
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post





    Makes no sense. 32nm has been in commercial production since 2010. It shouldn't take Apple or anyone 2 years to move to it.


     


    32 nm has been in production by SOME foundries. The ones that Apple uses have still not converted. For that matter, there are a lot of products in the market that are still on older process technologies.



    What percentage of Samsung's production is 32 nm? Or TMSC? Or anyone else? Heck, even Intel hasn't completely converted.

  • Reply 8 of 36
    aizmovaizmov Posts: 988member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


     


    32 nm has been in production by SOME foundries. The ones that Apple uses have still not converted. For that matter, there are a lot of products in the market that are still on older process technologies.



    What percentage of Samsung's production is 32 nm? Or TMSC? Or anyone else? Heck, even Intel hasn't completely converted.



     


    Intel already moved to 22nm! They are a full 2-year ahead of anyone. Their SSDs are 22nm and their Ivy Bridge processors are 22nm. Only the Intel Atom line of processors is still on 32nm.


     
  • Reply 9 of 36
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post

    They are a full 2-year ahead of anyone.

     



     


    "Not in handhelds, they ain't." image It'll be a few years before they can compete with ARM.

  • Reply 10 of 36
    ksecksec Posts: 1,549member
    32nm is only available in GF for AMD and Intel Only. So to say Apple is lacking behind and 32nm has been in commercial production since 2010 is truly nonsense.

    [QUOTE]Why Apple is sticking with Samsung and there ancient fabrication process? 45nm is so 2008. 32nm has been around since 2010 and yet Samsung continued to make Apple's chips with 45nm process. Imagine how much more energy efficient the iPad and iPhone would have been if their processors were made with 32nm process.[/QUOTE]

    Then there is the different between Custom SoC and NAND / RAM, You can RAM and NAND chips within spec and quality and they would 99.9% work out with your memory controller. SoC has to be tweaked with different foundry and you cant just re make the chip on different fab since the tooling is different.
  • Reply 11 of 36
    aizmovaizmov Posts: 988member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


     


    "Not in handhelds, they ain't." image It'll be a few years before they can compete with ARM.



    I meant process technology. But with the latest Atom SoC (Mefield) they already compete very well with ARM.


     


    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones


     


     
  • Reply 12 of 36
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post



    Why Apple is sticking with Samsung and there ancient fabrication process? 45nm is so 2008. 32nm has been around since 2010 and yet Samsung continued to make Apple's chips with 45nm process. Imagine how much more energy efficient the iPad and iPhone would have been if their processors were made with 32nm process.


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


     


    Intel already moved to 22nm! They are a full 2-year ahead of anyone. Their SSDs are 22nm and their Ivy Bridge processors are 22nm. Only the Intel Atom line of processors is still on 32nm.


     



     


    Xeon is still at 32 nm, as well.



    Notice, though, that Intel is not manufacturing ARM chips. Which ARM chip manufacturer is able to ship chips in multi-million quantities at 22 nm? That's right - NO ONE.



    Even 32 nm is just now getting started - Samsung is shipping some chips at 32 nm, but not all. Name another supplier who can ship the quantities of ARM chips that Apple needs at less than 32 nm. Oh, yeah. No one.

  • Reply 13 of 36
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post


    I meant process technology. But with the latest Atom SoC (Mefield) they already compete very well with ARM.


     


    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5365/intels-medfield-atom-z2460-arrive-for-smartphones


     


     



     




    Yes, Intel has finally managed to produce a chip that's competitive with ARM for phones. Slower graphics performance, but better CPU performance with competitive battery life (if Anand's tests are representative).




    However, Apple's pretty well entrenched with ARM. I don't see them switching to Intel and forcing all their developers to recompile unless there's a significant advantage. With Intel stabbing Apple in the back over the Ultrabook, it's going to take a MAJOR advantage for Apple to put more eggs in Intel's basket.

  • Reply 14 of 36
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


     




    Yes, Intel has finally managed to produce a chip that's competitive with ARM for phones. Slower graphics performance, but better CPU performance with competitive battery life (if Anand's tests are representative).




    However, Apple's pretty well entrenched with ARM. I don't see them switching to Intel and forcing all their developers to recompile unless there's a significant advantage. With Intel stabbing Apple in the back over the Ultrabook, it's going to take a MAJOR advantage for Apple to put more eggs in Intel's basket.



    I don't agree with you here. You are ignoring the long term advantages that Apple picks up by Intel pushing this processor class. They want to grow the cpu class overall, which should provide Apple with superior cpus assuming better research funding.

  • Reply 15 of 36
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hmm View Post


    I don't agree with you here. You are ignoring the long term advantages that Apple picks up by Intel pushing this processor class. They want to grow the cpu class overall, which should provide Apple with superior cpus assuming better research funding.



     


    That's ridiculous. How in the world does Apple benefit from Intel subsidizing Apple's competitors with $300 M? 



    Apple had an incredible lead over the competition and they were capturing a huge percentage of that class of computer sales. Intel didn't do much to increase the size of that market. Rather, they reduced Apple's share. Now, if Intel had used the $300 M to cut prices across the board for those processors, you might be right. Or if Intel had put that $300 M into improving the process technology, you would have a point. But directly subsidizing Apple's competitors doesn't do a thing for Apple.

  • Reply 16 of 36
    macky the mackymacky the macky Posts: 4,765member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Aizmov View Post



    Why Apple is sticking with Samsung and there ancient fabrication process? 45nm is so 2008. 32nm has been around since 2010 and yet Samsung continued to make Apple's chips with 45nm process. Imagine how much more energy efficient the iPad and iPhone would have been if their processors were made with 32nm process.


    Ahem. I remember when production hit 1000 nm and most everyone was confident that a limit had been reached. 

  • Reply 17 of 36
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,703member
    More importantly Samsung, in apparent partnership with Apple, just built a huge NEW factory in Texas to make product at these new nodes. It takes time to build out these production lines. Beyond that Sammy is one of the partners with Globak Foundries researching these new processes.

    In the end Samsung appears to be doing rather well at 32nm.
    jragosta wrote: »
    32 nm has been in production by SOME foundries. The ones that Apple uses have still not converted. For that matter, there are a lot of products in the market that are still on older process technologies.


    What percentage of Samsung's production is 32 nm? Or TMSC? Or anyone else? Heck, even Intel hasn't completely converted.
  • Reply 18 of 36
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,703member
    Many of Intels chips are still at 65nm or 45nm. Beyond that 22nm doesn't appear to be the run away success for Intel as was first implied. The chips are still relatively power hungry.

    Beyond that the smaller process geometries do not appear to be helping Intel relative to the ARM competition.
    jragosta wrote: »

    Xeon is still at 32 nm, as well.


    Notice, though, that Intel is not manufacturing ARM chips. Which ARM chip manufacturer is able to ship chips in multi-million quantities at 22 nm? That's right - NO ONE.


    Even 32 nm is just now getting started - Samsung is shipping some chips at 32 nm, but not all. Name another supplier who can ship the quantities of ARM chips that Apple needs at less than 32 nm. Oh, yeah. No one.
  • Reply 19 of 36
    just_mejust_me Posts: 590member


    Intel will never make ARM cpu.


    Intel's current medfield soc beats most CPU but are using PVR old  pvr gpu


    Intel's dual core clovertrail sadly will still use PVR


    Intel's 3rd gen soc for phones will use their own gpu and will meet or beat pvr fastest gpu.


     


    So apple moving to Intel for phones is a smart idea. Better cpus better process.

  • Reply 20 of 36
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Just_Me View Post


    Intel will never make ARM cpu.


    Intel's current medfield soc beats most CPU but are using PVR old  pvr gpu


    Intel's dual core clovertrail sadly will still use PVR


    Intel's 3rd gen soc for phones will use their own gpu and will meet or beat pvr fastest gpu.


     


    So apple moving to Intel for phones is a smart idea. Better cpus better process.



     


    The only problem with that is that you're assuming that ARM will stand still.




    You're also assuming that Apple wants to do more business with Intel than they already do. I can see it now - Intel spending $300 M to subsidize iPhone clones from HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. It would take a HUGE performance advantage for that to be worthwhile for Apple.

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