Wed, 22 Sep 2021

Intel to compete worldwide as it manufactures Qualcomm chips

Robert Besser
30 Jul 2021, 21:31 GMT+10

SANTA CLARA, California: Hoping to regain its lead by 2025 and catch up to rivals, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and Samsung Electronics, Intel Corp revealed plans this week to begin manufacturing Qualcomm Inc chips and expand its new foundry business.

Starting as early as 2025, it will also tap a new generation of machines from the Netherlands' ASML that use extreme ultraviolet lithography, which projects chip designs onto silicon, somewhat like printing an old-fashioned photograph.

"We're laying out a whole lot of details to The Street to hold us accountable," Intel Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger told Reuters in an interview, referring to investors.

Intel also said it will change its naming scheme for chipmaking technology, using names such as "Intel 7" that align with how Taiwan Semiconductor and Samsung market competing technologies.

Intel's first major customers will be Qualcomm and Amazon. Qualcomm will use what Intel is calling its 20A chipmaking process, which will feature new transistor technology to help reduce how much power the chip consumes.

Amazon is not yet using Intel's chipmaking technology, but will use Intel's packaging technology, the process of assembling chips and "chiplets" or "tiles", often stacking them up in so-called 3D formations.

"There have been many, many hours of deep and technical engagement with these first two customers, and many others," Gelsinger said.

Intel did not reveal how much revenue or manufacturing volume the customer wins would bring, though Gelsinger said during an event announcing the news that the Qualcomm deal involved a "major mobile platform" and engaging in a "deep and strategic manner."

What remains to be seen is whether Intel can make good on its technology promises, after years of delays under previous Chief Executive Brian Krzanich. In recent weeks, Intel announced the delay of a new data center chip called Sapphire Rapids.

But David Kanter, an analyst with Real World Technologies, said Intel is being more cautious than in the past.

"Intel is absolutely going to catch up, and be ahead in some dimensions, with TSMC over the next few years," said Kanter, as quoted by Reuters. "Intel really does have people who spend all their time looking at how to deploy new materials and technology to juice their performance."

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