Last August I presented possible scenarios for the manufacturing of the Apple A9 processor. Quite a bit has changed since then so I think it is worth revisiting. There has also been quite a lot of misinformation in the press which is now pretty much a daily thing. Attending the IEDM conference last month really was a stark difference than what “The Google” has to offer people who are looking for answers in all the wrong places. Seriously, the chasm between the two sides (semiconductor professionals and non-professionals) really is quite large.
Also Read: Who will Manufacture Apple’s Next SoC?
As we all know Apple has disrupted many different industries with innovative technology and aggressive business practices, the semiconductor industry included. Apple is now one of the largest and most innovative fabless semiconductor companies and becoming part of their supply chain is bringing a whole new level of competition amongst the fabless semiconductor ecosystem. Let’s start with last year’s blog Samsung ♥ GLOBALFOUNDRIES.
You have to ask yourself why Samsung REALLY did this deal with GF? One theory, which I firmly believe, is to get the Apple SoC business back from TSMC. Apple amongst many others (myself included) really wants GF to be successful for the greater good of the pure-play foundry business. Take a look at the last paragraph I wrote:
An interesting thing: On one side of the briefing table was Ana Hunter, Vice President of GLOBALFOUNDRIES, formerly Vice President Foundry, Samsung Semiconductors. On the other side was Kelvin Low, Senior Director, Foundry Marketing Samsung, formerly Director Product Marketing, GLOBALFOUNDRIES. It’s a small world after all.
Ana Hunter was instrumental in the foundry relationship between Samsung and Apple so who better to bring Apple to GF? Since the GF 14nm is a copy exact version of the Samsung 14nm, Apple has two manufacturing sources for the A9. And from what I learned at IEDM, both are now yielding in time for the next iPhone launch (September 2015). The Apple A9X (higher performance version) is still slated for TSMC 16FF+. This chip will go into tablets but may also be seen in laptops and possibly a high performance version of the iPhone making it a much higher volume chip than originally expected.
Yes I know Barron’s is still repeating that the foundries have not figured out FinFETs leaving the door wide open for Intel blah blah blah… absolute nonsense:
“Could Intel (INTC) be in a position to be Apple’s (AAPL) savior? That intriguing bit comes from Drexel Hamilton’s chip analyst Rick Whittington, from a note on Micron. In passing, Whittington notes problems had by Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) and Samsung Electronics (005930KS) trying to produce 3-D transistors. Intel has mastered 3-D transistors, and so, writes Whittington “btw, very good for Intel if neither Samsung or TSM can do FinFET this next year; puts them in line to supply Apple’s internal foundry needs; more likely TSM/Samsung operate FinFET under very low yield output, keeping capacity tight.”
Yet another analyst pretending to be a semiconductor professional…..
Again, Samsung, GlobalFoundries, and TSMC are now yielding FinFETs with high volume production starting in Q2 2015. The next versions of iPhones and iPads will be FinFET based, absolutely.