Intel is the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturing company, but Intel is talking about a crazy idea that is impossible for them: not to make their own chips anymore, but to outsource chips.
Outsourcing chip manufacturing has become commonplace in today’s $ 400 billion chip industry, but for Intel, a company that has 50 years of designing and manufacturing its own chips, this is what it is. Unusual.
“In case we need to use another company’s process technology and need those contingency plans, we’ll be prepared to do so.“Mr. Swan told investors during the earnings call, after warning about having to delay the 7nm chip launch time for another 6 months.”That gives us more choices and flexibility. So in a situation where there is a delay in the process, we can try another company’s technology, instead of doing everything ourselves.. ”
He added this flexibility “.Not a sign of weakness. ”
Intel’s plan to outsource chip production could start with 7nm Ponte Vecchio GPUs, the company’s first graphics chip. Based on the chiplet design, this GPU will launch in late 2021 or early 2022.
Cowen & Co analyst Matt Ramsay said that pursuing this option represents a major shift in both the chip industry as well as the end of Intel’s distinctive characteristics.
While chip designs may only partially affect semiconductor performance, new chip manufacturing processes are an important factor in ensuring new semiconductors can store more data and process them. Faster information and less energy usage. Combining these two factors has helped Intel improve its operations for decades now.
However, Taiwan’s TSMC has succeeded in focusing solely on chip manufacturing and design outsourcing for other companies. Their factories not only surpass Intel in terms of technological progress but also output power. That has helped not only Apple, Qualcomm but also AMD, Intel’s leading rival, to create products with outstanding performance.
Fab 42 factory for manufacturing 7nm chips of Intel, 2017 image.
When 7nm chip products became popular with smartphones, as well as started appearing on AMD CPUs and Nvidia GPUs, Intel was still stuck in 14nm products, as well as only a few 10nm CPU for laptops Not only that, the delay of 7nm process products for another 6 months shows that Intel’s chip roadmap has been “broken”.
Intel’s lag in chipmaking technology has left analysts and investors frustrated and posed countless questions to CEO Bob Swan about the company’s future plans. Responding to these questions was Mr. Swan’s vague and vague answer about having a backup option for chip production by an outside company.
The contingency plan is likely to be to choose TSMC to manufacture their chips. But this will not be easy. Analyst Ramsay said that TSMC’s other customers, who are competing with Intel, are likely to oppose the Taiwanese company if they prioritize Intel’s design. Moreover, TSMC will also hesitate to expand production capacity to meet demand from Intel when the US company can fully return to its factories.
Refer to Bloomberg