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Chipmaker TSMC drops hints of Apple processor deal

updated 11:00 pm EST, Fri January 18, 2013

Output of 28nm SoC's to triple in 2013, chairman says

A prominent Taiwanese processor maker that is already supplying Apple and other companies with chips announced on Friday that it expects to be responsible for "almost all" 28-nanometer chips made in 2013, a startling prediction that has the industry buzzing that the company has secured a large-scale deal with the iPhone maker. The news from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company that its output of the processors will triple this year, along with a possible new US-based facility, leads analysts to suspect a further Apple connection.

While not confirmed, a likely scenario is that TSMC would build Apple's next-generation processor, possibly known as the A7, that could go into the company's future iPhone model instead of being manufactured by Samsung as is the present arrangement. Apple has been steadily taking measures to reduce its involvement with Samsung, its top supplier and competitor that has lost Apple's business as the result of a series of deliberate copying and patent-infringing moves, though CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly said that he has no concerns that Samsung is copying Apple's SoC chip technology (and no evidence of such as so far appeared).

CEO and Chairman Morris Chang made the claim, reports AppleInsider, in the Taiwanese paper China Times while discussing the $9 billion the company plans to spend on the 28nm process. The company is also working on advanced 20nm and 16nm technology for future chip facilities. Chang also suggested a significant increase in revenues from the increased output, roughly a tripling to $6.2 billion in 2013, in line with the ramp-up in production.

Previous reports have suggested that TSMC is already responsible for some percentage of the A6X processors employed by the fourth-generation iPad. Current A-series chips are made using Samsung's 32nm process, but Apple is expected to use a more advanced technique (such as the 28nm TSMC process) for its next chips both for the size reduction as well as the increased energy efficiency of the process.

Reports have also suggested that it is TSMC that is behind the secretive "Project Azalea" development looking at sites in New York and Oregon for a possible chip fabricating facility devoted to making Apple-designed processors. The move to TSMC by Apple, if true, would add weight to the possibility that the Taiwan-based company is building a factory in the US to shore up Apple's desire to continue making the main iPhone processor domestically. Cook often points to the current Texas-based Samsung facility when asked about bringing more of Apple's advanced engineering and manufacturing jobs to the United States.




by MacNN Staff

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