Intel is planning to use Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing to expand the reach of its Atom processors for mobile Internet devices and the small notebooks known as netbooks. Intel and TSMC announce a partnership that allows Intel to port its Atom CPUs onto TSMC's technology platform. The deal also allows TSMC to have access to some Intel intellectual property and designs.
is looking to expand the reach of its Atom processors for netbooks and other
types of mobile Internet devices thanks to a new partnership with Taiwan
Semiconductor Manufacturing, one of the world's largest semiconductor
Intel and TSMC announced the agreement, officially called a memorandum of
understanding, on March 2.
Under the agreement, Intel plans to port its Atom CPU over to TSMC's
technology platforms. In turn, TSMC now has access to some of Intel's
intellectual property along with other designs. The goal is to expand the reach
of Intel's Atom processor to a range of different devices.
here to read more about the success of Intel's Atom CPU for netbooks and MIDs.
In addition, Intel and TSMC will work on SOC (system on a chip) designs for
has already said it plans to offer an Atom-based SOC design in the next year
that includes an Intel Atom processor at the
heart of the design. In February, Intel
announced that Lincroft would form the foundation of a new type of smartphone
from LG Electronics
that is now scheduled to hit the market in 2010.
"Today marks a milestone of collaboration," TSMC CEO
Rick Tsai said during a presentation.
Intel Executive Vice President Sean Maloney, along with Tsai, made the
announcement the morning of March 2. The collaboration, they said, will enable
an expansion of "mutual market interests," though Intel and TSMC did not
say which specific markets they plan to target with the new partnership.
"Clearly we have markets in mind, but can't talk customers today,"
The technologies resulting from the agreement are expected to find adoption
in products extending far beyond smartphones, and including netbooks, handhelds
and consumer electronics, Tsai said.
However, Maloney was quick to point out that Intel is not giving up on
manufacturing processors. Recently, Intel
announced that it planned to close some of its older facilities to help reduce
That move helped fuel speculations about the March 2 announcement.
"We're not passing over manufacturing," Maloney said. "TSMC
and Intel are both happy where they are."
Intel will continue to produce Atom chips in its own facilities and other
existing products will also be unchanged, he said. New products, however, will
be sold by Intel and created in TSMC facilities.
"We will have full control of who we sell to, but we believe this opens
up new series of design opportunities for our customers," Maloney said,
praising TSMC's professionalism and savvy within its ecosystem, which he said contributed
to Intel's desire to deepen what was already a longstanding relationship.
"It's a bold move," Maloney said. "But it's the tradition of
the company to make bold moves in difficult times."
Ross Seymore, an analyst with Deutsche Bank, wrote in a March 2 research
note that the agreement between Intel and TSMC means that Intel was looking to
expand Atom into the smartphone and handset markets and needed an outside
partner with experience in that field.
"We believe this announcement was driven by customers who would like to
use Atom, but are hesitant to port their existing designs and IP blocks to
Intel process technology. Intel's process technology does not have the reputation
for being the most cost-effective, nor does it offer the flexibility of
TSMC," Seymore wrote.
"These customers are more comfortable with an ARM
model, and this is a step by Intel to accommodate those customers," he