Exciting times in Taiwan last week… I met with people from the Taiwanese version of Wall Street. They mostly cover the local semiconductor scene but since that includes TSMC and Mediatek they are interested in the global semiconductor market as well. They also have an insider’s view of the China semiconductor industry which is very complicated.
The big news of course is that TSMC is predicting double digit revenue growth and 10nm is on schedule for production in 2016. What that really means is that Apple will use TSMC 16FFC exclusively for the A10 (iPhone 7) and 10nm will be ready for the A10x. Morris Chang of course predicted this last year when he said TSMC would regain FinFET market leadership in 2016. This also means that TSMC will officially have the process lead in 2016 since Intel has pushed out 10nm until 2017. So congratulations to the hard working people at TSMC, absolutely!
The other big news is that 7nm is also on track. It will be déjà vu 20nm to 16nm for TSMC where 10nm will be a very quick transitional node right into 7nm. 20nm and 16nm used the same fabs which is why 16nm ramped very quickly, one year after 20nm. 10nm and 7nm will also share the same fabs so yes we will see 7nm in 2017 and that means TSMC 7nm will again have the process lead over Intel 10nm. Exciting times for the fabless semiconductor ecosystem!
Given the quick transition of 10nm to 7nm, quite a few companies will skip 10nm and go right to 7nm. Xilinx has already publicly stated this, I’m sure there will be more to follow. SoC companies like Apple, QCOM, and Mediatek that do major product releases every year will certainly use 10nm. I would guess AMD will use 10nm as well to get a jump on Intel. That would really be interesting if AMD released 10nm and 7nm CPUs before Intel. The server market would certainly welcome the competition.
The other interesting news is that Chipworks confirmed that the A9x in the iPad Pro is manufactured using TSMC 16FF+. I have read the reviews of the iPad Pro and have found them quite funny. One very young “Senior Editor” from Engadget, who has zero semiconductor experience and doesn’t even own an iPad Pro, made this ridiculous statement:
“It’s often vaunted that ARM-based chips are more power efficient than those based on Intel’s x86. That’s just not true. ARM and x86 are simply instruction sets (RISC and CISC, respectively). There’s nothing about either set that makes one or the other more efficient.”
I brought my iPad Pro with me to Taiwan and must say it is a very nice tablet. When it first arrived I was a little shocked at how big it actually was but the performance, display, and battery life is absolutely fabulous! I’m comparing it to a Dell Core i7 based laptop and an iPad 2 of course so the bar is pretty low. But it also runs circles around my iPhone 6. Given the size of the A9x (147mm) versus the A8x (128mm) I’m wondering if it will be used for the next iPad Air. If so, that would be the tablet of the year for sure.
And can you believe our own Oakland Warriors are 20-0 to start the season which is an NBA record!?!?!?!? GO WARRIORS!!!!!