Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.
Foundry Model Busted: Will Apple Fab?
The problems at 28nm, replicating the problems at 40nm, go to show that the semiconductor industry needs a new model.
It seems only Intel and Samsung, out of all the non-DRAM IDMs, made the right call on manufacturing.
Everyone else is at the mercy of foundries which may deliver processes in a timely fashion, or may not. But sure as eggs are eggs everyone else has little control over the timing of their process transitions.
Mike Bryant tells me Intel first started to market 32nm product in February 2010.
Assuming 28nm is the same process as Intel’s 32nm, that means the rest of the industry is still struggling to get onto the same technology with the time-lag growing for every month that 28nm is unobtainable from a foundry.
After 40nm and 28nm, will the problems get easier at 20nm? Is the Pope a Catholic?
So much for all that bollox – largely concocted by the financial community – about advanced digital CMOS becoming a widely-available commodity which didn’t add value!
Well Intel didn’t fall for the bollox and now enjoys this huge process lead. “32nm was easy for them as they moved to hi-k a node earlier,” says Bryant.
The next generation – 20nm planar at the foundries/22nm finfet at Intel – may extend that lead – depending on when Intel moves into for-the-market production on it. July seems to be the current expected date.
So it seems AMD sold its fabs at the very moment process engineering became so difficult that it is now a key competitive differentiator.
While it seems that Qualcomm has no hope of going up against Intel unless it starts fabbing its own chips. It has held such discussions internally for many years.
Moreover, with $100 billion cash, several years of process R&D behind it, strained relations with Samsung and, now, impeded access to 28nm, will Apple bite the bullet and start to fab? It seems a logical step in its increasing verticalisation.
Apple could go it alone, but Qualcomm would probably have to enter a consortium of companies. The obvious partners would, of course, be Xilinx, Altera, Nvidia and, of course, AMD.
But aren’t AMD contracted to GloFo?
No, not actually, they paid GloFo $420 million to get out of their contractual relationships last week.
Well, I wonder why.Tags: bollox, dram, foundry, process engineering, qualcomm