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Intel Corp. on Thursday officially confirmed that it would make custom chips for third parties if there is demand. As the company enters the 22nm and subsequent 14nm era amid strong competition from ARM, the world's largest chipmaker needs to ensure that all of its manufacturing capacities are utilized. But Intel believes that it can pick up the customers and work under certain conditions only.

"There are certain customers that would be interesting to us and certain customers that would not. If Apple or Sony came to us and said 'I want to do a product that involves your IA (Intel architecture) core and put some of my IP around it', I would not blink. That would be fantastic business for us," said Stacy Smith, chief financial officer of Intel, at a press conference in London, UK, reports Reuters news-agency.

Intel is interested in making chips for large consumer electronics makers, especially if those chips are powered by x86 architecture. However, the giant hardly has motives to make system-on-chip solutions for rival semiconductor companies, who will then compete against Intel for design wins among actual electronics manufacturers. Certainly, Intel is not truly interested in making chips based on ARM or any other architecture, but would still consider such deals.

"Then you get into the middle ground of 'I don't want it to be an IA core, I want it to be my own custom-designed core,' and then you are only getting the manufacturing margin, (and) that would be a much more in-depth discussion and analysis," said Mr. Smith.

By the end of 2012 Intel will have five 300mm fabs that will produce chips using 22nm process technology. By the middle of the decade some of them will be capable of processing 450mm wafers to make chips using 14nm fabrication process. Under any scenarios, Intel is investing huge amounts of money into manufacturing and while the market of microprocessors for various devices is growing rapidly, Intel may still be naturally interested in making chips for others as well in order to ensure maximum utilization of capacities.

Keeping fabs busy all the time ensures that Intel receives enough revenue to continue developing innovating manufacturing processes as well as buidling new fabs to stay ahead of the industry. For example, only in 2011 the company plans to spend $10.2 billion on capital expenditures.

Tags: Intel, 22nm, 14nm, Apple, Sony, Semiconductor


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