Supply chain
Rumors flying over Apple's next chip partner/s
Jessie Shen, DIGITIMES, Taipei

Following speculation that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) already struck a deal with Apple to supply foundry services for the next A-series chips built using 20nm, 16nm and 10nm process nodes, more rumors have surfaced recently suggesting Apple is also looking at other options in addition to TSMC.

A Digitimes report on June 24 cited industry sources as saying that TSMC and its IC design service partner Global UniChip had secured a three-year agreement with Apple to supply 20nm, 16nm and 10nm A-series chips. TSMC would start to produce A8 chips - made using 20nm process technology - in small volume as soon as July and substantially ramp up the output after December.

And most recently, rumors circulated late last week suggesting Apple could be exploring possible deals with other foundry chipmakers. Globalfoundries and United Microelectronics (UMC) are both identified as Apple's potential new partners.

SemiAccurate claimed in its July 12 report that UMC could play a part in Apple's efforts to have better control over its supply chain. Apple may make a huge investment in UMC, and buy into one of the Taiwan foundry's wafer plants.

The SemiAccurate report is followed by CNET's story that indicated Apple is "kicking the tires" on a potential deal with Globalfoundries. CNET cited its own sources as saying that "Samsung's fab in Austin and GF's fab in New York could both ramp a similar product and GF could offset capacity that Samsung can't fulfill."

The Korea Times reported on July 10 that Samsung's contract with Apple would be valid until the first half of 2014. However, another Korea media outlet The Korea Economic Daily cited industry sources as saying in its July 15 report that despite the loss of 20nm chip orders from Apple, Samsung already signed a new deal with Apple to supply A9 chips that would be built on its 14nm FinFET process.

No matter the outcome, whether the new iOS devices would continue Apple's growth will still be fundamental, and only companies benefiting from Apple's continued momentum are the winners.

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