Intel foundries to manufacture ARM-based smartphone chips

Posted:
in General Discussion
Intel on Tuesday announced it has reached an agreement with rival ARM Holdings to produce 10-nanometer ARM chip designs at its advanced fabrication facilities, a strategy targeting smartphone chipmakers.




Under the agreement, Intel Custom Foundry will be able use its upcoming 10nm FinFET platform to fabricate chip designs based on ARM's Artisan Physical IP, the companies said in joint press releases. Intel officially announced the collaboration at today's Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

For chipmakers like Qualcomm, and potentially Apple, the Intel-ARM partnership opens the door to new foundry options beyond industry stalwarts Samsung and, more recently, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. As noted by Ars Technica, ARM's IP license appears to be somewhat narrow, meaning complex custom designs might not eligible for Intel's fab.

"The initial POP IP will be for two future advanced ARM Cortex-A processor cores designed for mobile computing applications in either ARM big.LITTLE or stand-alone configurations," ARM said.

South Korea's LG will be one of the first customers to use Intel's new service. The consumer electronics giant plans to produce a "world-class mobile platform" of its own design based on ARM IP, likely destined for release in a smartphone. LG traditionally turns to Qualcomm or smaller manufacturers for its chip needs.

With LG already on board, Intel might be angling for bigger fish, namely Apple. The iPhone maker's A-series mobile chips are also based on ARM architecture, albeit heavily customized by in-house engineering teams. Apple has exhibited a willingness to diversify, shifting a large percentage of orders from Samsung foundries to TSMC.

Apple is unlikely to make the switch to Intel's process anytime soon, however, as standing contracts preclude meaningful diversification. For example, TSMC is said to be taping out the design for a next-generation 10nm "A11" processor expected to go into production in 2017.

That being said, Intel is said to have won a spot in the upcoming "iPhone 7," taking a rumored 50-percent share of modem orders away from longtime supplier Qualcomm.

Interestingly, Cowen and Company analyst Timothy Arcuri in July said Intel could be looking to ultimately integrate iPhone's baseband chip directly into Apple's A-series SoC, a design that would save space, offer higher operating efficiency and lower manufacturing costs. To do so would mean a switch to Intel's foundry, a possibility brought within sight after today's ARM licensing agreement.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,208member
    Will Intel be competitively priced? LG must think so.
  • Reply 2 of 28
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,883member
    Apple Watch 
    welshdog
  • Reply 3 of 28
    blastdoor said:
    Apple Watch 
    The S-series is still Apple custom designs, not ARM reference designs. It's also significantly more complex to make than the A-series. 
  • Reply 4 of 28
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,343member
    Rather than riding the PC desktop into oblivion, or continue forcing their star-hot chips into smaller devices, they've swallowed their pride and switched tack.

    Good for them.
    patchythepiratexbitjony0topper24hours
  • Reply 5 of 28
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,616member
    Intel had regretted to let go Apple's processor business. This time, it can manufacture modem, processor and probably can integrate bunch of them on one die at 10nm. With the law of large, Intel might be able to do it at reasonable cost.
  • Reply 6 of 28
    It is doubtful that Intel will get Apple's business readily. TSMC has developed InFO which allows for thinner chip profiles. In addition, TSMC is about to move into the lead with respect to advanced manufacturing on smaller nodes. 

    While integrating the modem as part of the SoC allows for certain advantages, TSMC has other advantages over Intel. 

    Time will tell, but it is doubtful that Apple moves to Intel foundries anytime soon. 
    brian greenwilliamlondonpatchythepiratejony0
  • Reply 7 of 28
    This is long over due... They already missed a massive opportunity to increase revenue and profits the first time Jobs asked then Intel CEO.  Maybe this is a good time to buy INTC stock/options

    The real loser in this may eventually be Samsung's chip division.  Intel and TSMC will battle it out for future A-series... Samsung better hope they keep their lead in the display tech Biz over LG... If not, well... Who cares...

    Intel getting Apple's chip orders would be insurance in Apple moving all its portables to A-chips.




    patchythepiratebadmonk
  • Reply 8 of 28
    Rayz2016 said:
    Rather than riding the PC desktop into oblivion, or continue forcing their star-hot chips into smaller devices, they've swallowed their pride and switched tack.

    Good for them.
    Agreed... It's dumb not to follow the money.
  • Reply 9 of 28

    Does this foretell the ability to run legacy x86 Intel apps on ARM chips?

  • Reply 10 of 28
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,883member
    blastdoor said:
    Apple Watch 
    The S-series is still Apple custom designs, not ARM reference designs. It's also significantly more complex to make than the A-series. 
    This news does not preclude Intel from fabbing apple's custom designs. What it shows is Intel's willingness to fab SOCs that aren't x86 and aren't designed by Intel. That's a big strategic shift that could open the door to a deal with Apple.

    im pretty sure intel can handle the complexity of the A-chips. 
    mike1
  • Reply 11 of 28
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,883member
    It is doubtful that Intel will get Apple's business readily. TSMC has developed InFO which allows for thinner chip profiles. In addition, TSMC is about to move into the lead with respect to advanced manufacturing on smaller nodes. 

    While integrating the modem as part of the SoC allows for certain advantages, TSMC has other advantages over Intel. 

    Time will tell, but it is doubtful that Apple moves to Intel foundries anytime soon. 
    What TSMC calls 10nm isn't what Intel calls 10nm. TSMC's 10nm is more like Intel's 14nm. 

    The single biggest improvement to the Apple Watch would be to end the need to tether to an iPhone. Adding gps and lte without reducing battery life will take Apple Watch to the next level in terms of sales. The single biggest factor in making that happen is the fab process. Intel is still ahead of the industry, even if that lead is narrowing. Intel can also offer the lte modem. 

    In in my mind, the big questions are: 

    1. When will Intel's 10 nm process be available to customers?
    2. How does Intel 10nm compare to TSMC 7 nm? 


    patchythepirate
  • Reply 12 of 28
    blastdoor said:
    blastdoor said:
    Apple Watch 
    The S-series is still Apple custom designs, not ARM reference designs. It's also significantly more complex to make than the A-series. 
    This news does not preclude Intel from fabbing apple's custom designs. What it shows is Intel's willingness to fab SOCs that aren't x86 and aren't designed by Intel. That's a big strategic shift that could open the door to a deal with Apple.

    im pretty sure intel can handle the complexity of the A-chips. 
    Yeah, this could be very big!  If you're going' to get disrupted, might as well be you doin' the disruptin'.

    Now, where can I get a Z80 and a BAZIC interpreter?

    Sherm Fairchild just started spinning in his grave!

  • Reply 13 of 28
    blastdoor said:
    It is doubtful that Intel will get Apple's business readily. TSMC has developed InFO which allows for thinner chip profiles. In addition, TSMC is about to move into the lead with respect to advanced manufacturing on smaller nodes. 

    While integrating the modem as part of the SoC allows for certain advantages, TSMC has other advantages over Intel. 

    Time will tell, but it is doubtful that Apple moves to Intel foundries anytime soon. 
    What TSMC calls 10nm isn't what Intel calls 10nm. TSMC's 10nm is more like Intel's 14nm. 

    The single biggest improvement to the Apple Watch would be to end the need to tether to an iPhone. Adding gps and lte without reducing battery life will take Apple Watch to the next level in terms of sales. The single biggest factor in making that happen is the fab process. Intel is still ahead of the industry, even if that lead is narrowing. Intel can also offer the lte modem. 

    In in my mind, the big questions are: 

    1. When will Intel's 10 nm process be available to customers?
    2. How does Intel 10nm compare to TSMC 7 nm? 



    Yeesus Marta!  I've been focused on Apple's use of the Intel modem in the iPhone ... In the Apple Watch that's a whole 'nother story.  A smart phone and phone calls  are sooo last decade!




    edited August 2016
  • Reply 14 of 28
    It is doubtful that Intel will get Apple's business readily. TSMC has developed InFO which allows for thinner chip profiles. In addition, TSMC is about to move into the lead with respect to advanced manufacturing on smaller nodes. 

    While integrating the modem as part of the SoC allows for certain advantages, TSMC has other advantages over Intel. 

    Time will tell, but it is doubtful that Apple moves to Intel foundries anytime soon. 



    Does this foretell the ability to run legacy x86 Intel apps on ARM chips?


    Fabrication is a very capital intensive business, much like chip design, and the moves on the chess board must be made years in advance of the results-- so Apple has spent years getting away from Samsung.  Getting dependent on TSMC isn't a huge improvement, Apple has made itself independent- both by in-housing chip design and also by making their designs flexible for manufacturing.

    So a few years down the line, Intel could win some business from TSMC.  Apple will always keep multiple foundries fighting for its business, and thus they will need to compete on process.

    Intel and TSMC both are great at process, though intel is ahead. 

    Legacy x86 will never run on ARM chips, except in emulation.  What makes ARM into an ARM chip is its instruction set (ARM stands for "Advanced RISC Machines" and RISC stands for "Reduced Instruction Set Computing". x86 is CISC or "Complex Instruction Set Computing") 

    The ARM Instruction set is what gives it superior power-per-watt vs Intel approach of chasing superior-power-at-any-watts.  To reduce power per watt , Intel can improve process-- and they have-- or go to another instruction set -- and if they do the latter it will no longer be x86. 

    But take the superior instruction set of an ARM, and the superior SoC Design of Apple and add Intel's process advantages, and that would put Apple even further ahead of everyone else.  Literally nobody would be able to compete, even other ARM licensees (because LG is using off the shelf ARM IP, while Apple is doing better stuff in house.)


    patchythepiratecnocbuijony0
  • Reply 15 of 28
    blastdoor said:
    The S-series is still Apple custom designs, not ARM reference designs. It's also significantly more complex to make than the A-series. 
    This news does not preclude Intel from fabbing apple's custom designs. What it shows is Intel's willingness to fab SOCs that aren't x86 and aren't designed by Intel. That's a big strategic shift that could open the door to a deal with Apple.

    im pretty sure intel can handle the complexity of the A-chips. 
    Except they need permission from ARM to fabricate non-standard implementations of the ARM instruction set, which Apple falls under. Perhaps consider reading the article next time. 
  • Reply 16 of 28
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,883member
    blastdoor said:
    This news does not preclude Intel from fabbing apple's custom designs. What it shows is Intel's willingness to fab SOCs that aren't x86 and aren't designed by Intel. That's a big strategic shift that could open the door to a deal with Apple.

    im pretty sure intel can handle the complexity of the A-chips. 
    Except they need permission from ARM to fabricate non-standard implementations of the ARM instruction set, which Apple falls under. Perhaps consider reading the article next time. 
    Oh snap! "Perhaps consider reading the article next time". Wow, what a zinger! You got me there! I bet you were high-fiving everyone around you with that one. You're a freakin' genius, man! Donald Trump, look out -- there's a new alpha dog in town!

    Except...

    You totally don't get it. 

    The primary constraint on Intel fabbing custom ARM chips like the A-series is not ARM's willingness to allow it. ARM wants as many ARM chips produced as possible, and they don't care who produces them. Their business model is based on royalties and huge volumes. 

    The constraint has been with Intel. Intel has been extremely reluctant (to put it mildly) to be a large scale foundry. They really, really wanted to avoid the foundry business and stick with x86 for everything. This deal represents a seismic shift in Intel's strategy and attitude. The existence of this deal strongly implies that Intel is now adopting a long term strategy that is compatible with them fabbing for Apple. 

    I'm sure at this point you're still not getting it. You're going back and re-reading the article, and you're about to say again "but I don't see that in the article! You're a big dummy!"

    So let me try it once more. 

    It's not this specific deal in and of itself that makes an Intel-fabbed SOC for Apple more likely -- it's what the deal represents in terms of Intel's change in strategy. The existence of this deal implies a much higher probability that Intel will make other deals. 

    Is any of this registering with you?

    williamlondonericthehalfbeenolamacguypropod
  • Reply 17 of 28
    It is doubtful that Intel will get Apple's business readily. TSMC has developed InFO which allows for thinner chip profiles. In addition, TSMC is about to move into the lead with respect to advanced manufacturing on smaller nodes. 

    While integrating the modem as part of the SoC allows for certain advantages, TSMC has other advantages over Intel. 

    Time will tell, but it is doubtful that Apple moves to Intel foundries anytime soon. 



    Fabrication is a very capital intensive business, much like chip design, and the moves on the chess board must be made years in advance of the results-- so Apple has spent years getting away from Samsung.  Getting dependent on TSMC isn't a huge improvement, Apple has made itself independent- both by in-housing chip design and also by making their designs flexible for manufacturing.

    So a few years down the line, Intel could win some business from TSMC.  Apple will always keep multiple foundries fighting for its business, and thus they will need to compete on process.

    Intel and TSMC both are great at process, though intel is ahead. 

    Legacy x86 will never run on ARM chips, except in emulation.  What makes ARM into an ARM chip is its instruction set (ARM stands for "Advanced RISC Machines" and RISC stands for "Reduced Instruction Set Computing". x86 is CISC or "Complex Instruction Set Computing") 

    The ARM Instruction set is what gives it superior power-per-watt vs Intel approach of chasing superior-power-at-any-watts.  To reduce power per watt , Intel can improve process-- and they have-- or go to another instruction set -- and if they do the latter it will no longer be x86. 

    But take the superior instruction set of an ARM, and the superior SoC Design of Apple and add Intel's process advantages, and that would put Apple even further ahead of everyone else.  Literally nobody would be able to compete, even other ARM licensees (because LG is using off the shelf ARM IP, while Apple is doing better stuff in house.)


    Your points 1, 2, 4 and 5 are correct. Your point 3 "though Intel is ahead" is debatable, especially considering that Samsung - who was the first to reach 22, 16, 14 and 10 nm - may indeed be ahead of both. 

    Your last statement though is filled with issues. ARM is only superior to x86 because it uses less power and heat, and as a result it is only possible to make x86 processors suitable for the low power/low heat mobile devices if you hobble them. But if it were possible to get good x86 performance within the ARM power/heat restraints, it is what everyone would use. This is the main reason why Apple refuses to even consider ARM for any of its laptops or desktops, even the MacBook Air and Mac Mini, which are not considered workhorses.

    LG is not using off-the-shelf ARM IP. LG uses Qualcomm, whose ARM cores are heavily customized just as the Ax are customized. You are free to argue that the Ax series is better if you want, but since there will never be an apples to apples comparison - where both the Ax and Qualcomm 8x processors run the same OS in the same hardware - there is no way to tell. That is why the "nobody would be able to compete" thing is impossible to quantify. First off, it is heavily debatable whether Intel's process is better than Samsung's, and Qualcomm has the option of switching to Samsung if they need/want to. And the debate of whether Qualcomm's custom cores are better than Apple's custom cores is really a debate between the iOS and Android systems that run on a Snapdragon 820 or A10. That debate is a bit more difficult now than it was back when Apple was still using 1 GB of RAM so it was easy to say that Android devices that used 2 and 3 GB of RAM had to do so because the hardware, the OS or both were inferior. But now that Apple used 2 GB of RAM for their last iteration of iPads and using 3 GB of RAM is not out of the question for soon-to-be released iPad Pro and iPhone Plus models (either 7 this year or 7s next year) in order to handle the increased demands that the new releases of iOS require - and also since Apple has silently, subtly decided to not care nearly as much about backwards compatibility for older devices as a result - again it is difficult to state that Apple's Ax chips are going to remain so far ahead of everyone else's.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 28
    jakebjakeb Posts: 557member
    Hard to believe 10nm is actually a real thing. We're actually going to hit the limit of atom size pretty soon. 
  • Reply 19 of 28
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,312member

    Intel is going down the slippery slop.

    They have their back to the wall with missing out on the mobile market for processor technology, partly because the tied their wagon to the horses called Microsoft. They now think the solution to their problem is to become a commodity FAB house for ARM processors for companies who can not get in toTMSC and Samsung since Apple has those suppliers all wrapped around the Apple wagon wheel.

    Yeah this is going to work out well for Intel margins, I wonder how the Intel Investors will feel in a could of years when Intel tells them Margin are suffering because the low cost competitors like TMSC eating their margin lunch. I guaranty the market will said this is the best thing that every happen to Intel get people to buy in and then the big guys dump out before the bad news.

    SpamSandwichpatchythepiratepropod
  • Reply 20 of 28
    dick applebaum said:

    Does this foretell the ability to run legacy x86 Intel apps on ARM chips?
    Legacy x86 will never run on ARM chips, except in emulation.  What makes ARM into an ARM chip is its instruction set (ARM stands for "Advanced RISC Machines" and RISC stands for "Reduced Instruction Set Computing". x86 is CISC or "Complex Instruction Set Computing") 

    The ARM Instruction set is what gives it superior power-per-watt vs Intel approach of chasing superior-power-at-any-watts.  To reduce power per watt , Intel can improve process-- and they have-- or go to another instruction set -- and if they do the latter it will no longer be x86. 

    But take the superior instruction set of an ARM, and the superior SoC Design of Apple and add Intel's process advantages, and that would put Apple even further ahead of everyone else.  Literally nobody would be able to compete, even other ARM licensees (because LG is using off the shelf ARM IP, while Apple is doing better stuff in house.)


    I understand the difference between RISC and CISC, and that the legacy x86 instruction set is CISC.  But, I did some research (surfing and reading) a while back ...

    The [oversimplified] net of that research is that recent Intel chips  use RISC instructions and, through built-in, proprietary hardware, translate the x86 CISC instructions into RISC instructions for execution.

    If that is accurate, and there is need/desire to continue to run legacy x86 -- it seems that Apple and Intel could collaborate on  ARM chips to do this efficiently.


    edited August 2016
Sign In or Register to comment.