You can't drive two miles without seeing at least half a dozen people with a smartphone wedged up against their ear or down in front of them as they fire off a text message, some of which do so while behind the wheel. And if not wielding a smartphone, many people at this point own a tablet. Mobile is where it's at right now, and it explains why TSMC is now making more money from semiconductor chips than Intel.
TSMC's 2012 chip sales were nearly four times higher than that of Globalfoundries.
Remember M.C. Hammer? Someone press play on "Can't Touch This," which should be the theme song for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the top contract chip supplier in 2012. Barring something extraordinary, TSMC will probably lead 2013 sales too, considering its nearest competitor, Globalfoundries, raked in almost four times less cash last year.
The industry-wide move to the 28nm manufacturing process has been slowed by the 28nm manufacturing struggles suffered by TSMC and other for-hire chip fabricators. Poor 28nm yields have adversely affected product availability for several of TSMC's partners, to the point that Nvidia and Qualcomm were rumored to be threatening to take their business elsewhere. Those dark days may be (mostly) behind, however, as TSMC's 28nm production skyrocketed in the second quarter.
ARM's relentless attack on Intel's dominant position continues. In recent months, the mobile-friendly company has won major victories in the form of the ARM-compatible Windows RT operating system and cracking the 3.0GHz clock speed barrier with a smaller, 28nm-based Cortex A9. Now, ARM's following Intel's lead on another major front: 3D transistors. Today, ARM announced it has signed a long-term deal with TSMC to develop sub-20nm 64-bit CPUs based around TSMC's FinFET 3D transistor technology.
For processors, smaller is super, but bigger is better for the wafers the processors are made from. Earlier this week, the Taiwan government gave TSMC -- which manufactures chips for virtually everybody -- permission to build a new $10 billion facility dedicated to creating 450mm-wide wafers, up from the 300mm-wide wafers being developed today. Intel also has plans to move to 450mm wafers. Larger diameter wafers yield more processors, which lowers production costs and makes everybody happy. Just don't expect them to come easy.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) may have underestimated the challenges involved with churning out 28nm parts, or perhaps the company is simply inundated with orders. In the end, it doesn't really matter what the problem is, as far as clients go, and when Nvidia reportedly threatened to place orders with TSMC's competitors, suddenly the GPU maker was bumped to the front of the line.
Nvidia today officially launched its GeForce GTX 690 (see some of our preliminary benchmark results here) dual-GPU graphics card, which arrives a little less than six weeks after the official unveiling of Kepler in the form of the GeForce GTX 680 (see our benchmarks of that card here). Both are formidable graphics cards capable of driving a high-end gaming PC, provided you can find one in stock.
Trouble with TSMC's (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) 28nm process technology could force Nvidia and Qualcomm to seek out other foundries. In fact, Nvidia reportedly has already started sampling its chips on Samsung's 28nm process technology, representing a significant shift in behavior and a potential huge loss for TSMC, which is currently the sole provider of chips for Nvidia.
When AMD spun off its manufacturing arm as GlobalFoundries back in 2009, it was assumed their controlling interest would drive the bulk of its investments in the same direction. AMD has been forced to use TSMC, a rival to GlobalFoundries in recent years to keep pace in the graphics card wars, however new rumors are suggesting Bulldozer might be forced to shift over as well.
A super group of five tech giants led by Intel and IBM will invest $4.4 billion over the next five years developing the next generation of computer chip technology in New York. This joint investment is expected to create nearly 7,000 jobs and retain thousands more, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced. The rest of the fab five include Globalfoundries, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), and Samsung.