Did Intel miss out on the Apple A7?

By Tony Clark, 2-Dooz Inc. – April 15, 2013 (Original Publication Date)

EE Times Asia recently reported that Apple is ditching Samsung as the manufacturer of its A7 processor—the next generation system on a chip to be broadly used in Apple’s consumer electronics products.  It appears that Samsung’s loss is TSMC’s gain.  Understandably, especially given their ongoing battle, the focus of most articles discussing this rumor has been on the deteriorating Apple and Samsung business relationship. I have a different take: if the rumor is true, then this is a big missed opportunity for Intel.

Recently published articles in this blog—“Intel Puts ARM On Notice,” “Is Tri-Gate The New Intel-Inside?,” and “Tri-Gate: The New Intel-Inside Part 2”—explore the implications of Tri-Gate becoming the new Intel-Inside.  The main take-away from the articles is that a more broadly defined Tri-Gate Inside everything strategy has the potential to cause even more disruption than the x86 PC architecture.  Tri-Gate has the potential to become the de facto industry standard transistor technology especially since at 16nm it is at least a generation ahead of the competition.

Back to the A7 rumor, the scuttle bug is that TSMC is going to build the A7 using a 20nm process with availability in 2014.  A Tri-Gate based A7 at 16nm would clearly be a superior product.  And, as Apple and Intel are already business partners, this is an obvious fit. 

Finally, given the struggles it is having in trying to become more relevant in the smart phone and tablet computer segments, the A7 foundry business opportunity appears to be one that Intel can’t afford miss.

Those are my thoughts.  And, as always, I invite and look forward to learning what you think. 


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