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The race for the 10nm process seems to be the battle for the life of Intel. TSMC and Samsung are accelerating the development of this process and during 2017 they could be able to produce (mass production) with this node before Intel.



If this circumstance will be true, Intel will lost its predominance in the foundry world, after over 25 years of leadership. This accident is turning into reality due to the success of Mobile market: Apple, Qualcomm, MediaTek and the others fabless company are pushing high the income of TSMC (SoC, Modem), Samsung (Dram, NAND Flash), UMC and GlobalFoundries, so they can increase their capital expenditures very fast (during 2015 TSMC will spend more than Intel in capital expenditures).

Today China Post writes: “Foreign cash pushed Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.'s (TSMC) share price to NT$154.5 yesterday, resulting in a record-high market capitalization that topped NT$4 trillion. TSMC has churned out wafers for Apple's A9 processors with a very low defect ratio, and due to Apple's preference for higher quality, TSMC is likely to become Apple's major A9 manufacturer, said a U.S.-based institutional investor”. This January TSMC posted record revenue: +69,4% YoY.

Intel, on the other hand, are having problems to made profitable its own best node (14nm) in the Mobile market, especially because it's too expensive (14nm are 3x/4x more expensive than 22nm). For this reason Intel have to sell its own SoCs at a discount price (Contra-Revenue) and this situation it's not supportable in the long term. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said about Contra-Revenue: “I don’t want to do that with phones. I would really like to avoid that”. Reuters also wrote: “Intel Corp's plan this year to pay manufacturers to use its processors to make tablets was boosting the chipmaker's market share, Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich said on Tuesday, adding that he hoped to avoid such a costly strategy with smartphones”.

If Intel will not be able to find a solution to this issue, it couldn't be able to support the immense development cost of 10nm node. Intel has to hope that the alliance with RockChip and Spreadtrum will be a success. Meanwhile Samsung and TSMC, thanks to the Mobile fabless companies and the success of Mobile market, will have a lot of money to spend for the 10nm node.

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Gian Maria Forni
Autore: Gian Maria Forni
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Esperto di mercati e CPU
Sebbene sia laureato in Lettere e Filosofia, indirizzo Storia Contemporanea, e scriva per quotidiani e riviste di tale settore, ha sempre avuto la passione per l'informatica ed ha collaborato quale moderatore in importanti forum del settore
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