Why on earth has Intel decided to fab Achronix FPGAs?
Achronix says it will use Intel for the 22nm process..
Intel is not thought to have previously acted as a foundry.
Indeed when, many years ago, Actel approached Intel to fab its FPGAs Andy Grove gave a very firm No to the request.
So why the change in attitude?
Well Intel could be wanting to get back into the FPGA business – it had a stab at it in the 1980s and made a hash of it. Intel could buy Achronix any time it wanted and this could be a gentle way in to see if there’s any chance of a second chance.
Intel is certainly thrashing around looking for new markets and Achronix’s high-performance FPGAs would suit Intel’s temperamental inclination for speed. Is the $4 billion FPGA market worth Intel’s attention? Well, maybe.
On the other hand, FPGAs with their regular structures are good devices with which to de-bug processes. Intel may think the Achronix FPGA would be a useful de-bug vehicle for its 22nm process.
The only other reason I can think of – that Intel wants to get into the foundry business to defray fab costs. After all Samsung has a substantial foundry business which it is trying to grow.
So foundry could be seen as another new business area for Intel. And a foundry business would have the plus of giving Intel wider experience of processes designed for other things than processors.
But to operate in the foundry business you have to co-operate closely and amicably with your customers.
TOMORROW MORNING: The Ten Best Performing Semi Shares This Year.