With 64-bit chips now powering smartphones thanks to the new 1-billion transistor Apple A7 chip used in the iPhone 5s, the logical trend in the market is that smartphone chips will eventually be the processors we use in tablets, desktops and servers. This is not really news as we have seen the migration of processors based on ARM technology showing up across a broad spectrum of devices from handheld to server such as in the HP Moonshot System.
An important point of course is who is making the A7 chip for Apple? We know the relationship with Samsung isn’t going well thanks to a strong line of Android devices – the Galaxy gadgets made by the Korean company. The natural processor partner instead was said to be TSMC according to a great article by Daniel Eran Dilger at Apple Insider which cites sources such as the Wall Street Journal and others.
What caught my eye this morning though was a piece by Russ Fischer at Seeking Alpha suggesting TSMC doesn’t have the technology (yet) to deliver a one-billion transistor chip on 102 square millimeters. This would require a 20 nm planar process and TSMC says it won’t have this ability until 2014.
Either TSMC has made misleading comments or they aren’t making the A7. In this case, the natural manufacturer would be Intel according to Fischer.
Jason Perlow at ZDnet has suggested the A7 will be the end for Apple needing Intel and he could be correct – but then again, Intel may be as involved with Apple as ever if it starts making all the new iOS-device processors for Cupertino.
Much of this will likely shake out in the upcoming weeks – for now it is a fascinating mystery with serious implications for tech miniaturization and power usage.