In preparation for this blog I Googled around to get the latest information made available by Altera to see if it matches up with what I know from discussions amongst the fabless semiconductor ecosystem companies. Unfortunately when I Googled Altera+20nm+14nm the first three entries from the Altera website were Error 404 Page Not Found. Just a heads up, no big deal, sitemap errors happen to the best of us.
The real reason for this blog was to make it perfectly clear that I do not now nor have I ever believed that Altera would leave Intel for TSMC at 10nm. The Altera CEO made an unfortunate comment during the last conference call that Paul McLellan mentioned in his blog Altera Back to TSMC at 10nm? Xilinx Staying There. To me this was a leadership fail more than anything else. Publicly shaming your foundry partner is really a bad idea. It is like publicly shaming the chef before your meal has arrived.
Here are my top 10 reasons why Altera will NOT leave Intel at 10nm:
Tabula was the first Intel Custom Foundry customer, right? Seriously, would Altera have hired the Tabula design implementation team if they were switching back to TSMC? Great move by Altera hiring a team with serious FPGA FinFET experience by the way. Xilinx should have been all over the Tabula carcass the the day SemiWiki broke the story: TabulaCloses its Doors
If you think I’m wrong please say so in the comments section but I’m not so you probably shouldn’t waste your time.
The other thing mentioned on the conference call was that Altera has not taped out at 14nm yet. From what I hear it won’t happen until later in Q2 so do not expect to hear champagne bottles popping on this coming conference call (April). What is the problem you ask? Let me share with you my opinion, observation, and experience as we bloggers do:
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In any big fabless semiconductor company there are different design implementation teams. Let’s call them the A-Team and the B-Team. The A-Team does the first implementation and the B-Team does the follow-on design iterations. From what I understand the Altera A-Team, which is here in Silicon Valley, was still busy with 20nm so the Altera Penang (Malaysia) team was tasked with 14nm and the result was a delayed schedule. Now that Altera has the Tabula design implementation team here in Silicon Valley they will finish the 14nm tape-out then start Intel 10nm. Just my opinion of course.