Intel’s New Chief Exec Serious About Foundry Business: Could Even Build ARM-Based Chips

Brian Krzanich Seeks Strategic Customers for Intel Custom Foundry Division

by Anton Shilov
06/28/2013 | 11:44 PM

Being the world’s largest and most progressive maker of semiconductors, Intel Corp. is tremendously interested in keeping its manufacturing capacities fully loaded. The new chief executive of the company, Brian Krzanich, is expected to be much more flexible when it comes to making chips for others to keep fabs busy. He appears to show signs of being so.

 

The new chief executive of Intel does not rule out possibility of building chips based on ARM architecture that rivals Intel’s x86 in smartphones and tablets. At the same time, he remains cautious about such a project since Intel now has an indisputable advantage over companies that rely on ARM Holding’s architecture when it comes to manufacturing technology and the chip giant naturally does not want to share this trump.

Paul Otellini, the former chief executive officer of Intel, clearly stated that the company could make various chips – not necessarily x86-based – on a contract basis for Apple, a company that is a strategic customer of Intel. Brian Krzanich, the new CEO, seems to be a little more open: he is ready to manufacture chips for important clients in general, not just Apple. Given the recent rumours about Apple's contract with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the company may be a client that Intel is not going to get.

“I think you will start to see stuff with our silicon toward the end of the year and the beginning of next year. We are trying to get our silicon into some of them, create some ourselves, understand the usage and create an ecosystem,” said Brian Krzanich in an interview with Reuters news-agency.

 

At present Apple utilizes Intel’s x86 microprocessors inside its Macintosh personal computers. However, the amount of those PCs it sells is relatively limited. Meanwhile, all Apple’s iPhones smartphones and iPad media tablets – which sales are growing very rapidly – are based on Apple-designed custom ARM-architecture processors. Apple needs to make those chips using the most advanced process technology possible in order to provide better performance and longer battery life for its devices. However, Apple also needs over 200 million of its A-series system-on-chips per year, which requires production capacities that Intel may not be able to provide as this is comparable to the number of chips it sells per year.

While the foundry deal between Apple and Intel is unlikely to be signed until Intel starts to manufacture chips on 450mm wafers and starts to build completely new fabs, it is very likely that the new chief executive officer of the world’s largest maker of chips will pay more attention to the contract manufacturing business since its importance may grow dramatically over long-term future.