Digitimes: TSMC confirmed as Apple’s new processor fab

The rumors have been going on for months, but Digitimes is today saying Apple’s new processor foundry is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). The move by Apple is believed to be precipitated by Apple’s ongoing legal battles with Samsung, who has provided Apple with processors since the original iPhone was released in 2007 through Apple’s release of “its own” A4 processor and A5 iPad processor earlier this year.

Apple has recently signed a foundry partnership agreement with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), industry sources have claimed. Under the terms of the agreement, TSMC will apply its 28nm and 20nm process technologies to produce Apple’s next-generation CPUs, according to the sources.

The contract appears to be long and lucrative for TSMC..

TSMC is believed to have quietly secured Apple’s contract, and even succeeded in extending the deal to cover the manufacture for the A6’s successor, the sources said.

In addition, the agreed contract quotes are favorable to bring little impact on TSMC’s profitability, the sources revealed. TSMC managed to negotiate a good price, allowing gross margins yielded by Apple’s orders to be similar to its overall gross margin performance at present, the sources indicated. TSMC’s gross margin for the second quarter of 2011 arrived at 46%.

The details weren’t released publicly and as can be expected, neither company is commenting on the move.

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Samsung no longer exclusive chip supplier as Apple turns elsewhere for A6 processor?

Samsung, a producer of critical parts for Apple’s gadgets, may be on the verge of suffering another financial blow from Apple. A new report alleges that the Cupertino, California-headquartered personal electronics maker began lining up alternative suppliers for the A6 chip. The in-house designed processor should debut in iPad 3 next year and eventually make its way into iPhone 6 .

Trade publication DigiTimes has it on good authority that Apple recently visited an assembly line of packaging and testing firm Siliconware Precision Industries (SPIL). Based on what they saw, they concluded that officials from Apple are reportedly willing to discuss the possibility of working together on the upcoming A6 processor:

Apple recently conducted a visit to SPIL’s assembly line, and both parties discussed opportunities for cooperation, the sources revealed. SPIL stands a chance of becoming the first packaging and testing service provider designated by Apple, cutting into the supply chain of the vendor’s processor line, the sources said.

The report explains SPIL is likely to “snatch outsourcing orders” for the A6 chip. Needles to say, SPIL is denying the story, which is what companies caught up in juicy Apple rumors always do.

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The A5 chip almost twice the size of A4, fabbed on Samsung's 45nm process


Floorplan comparison: Apple’s A4 chip (left) and the latest A5 processor (right)

Reverse engineering wizards over at Chipworks put the A5 chip under a microscope. Yes, it’s a Samsung – confirming our hunch. The experts came to this conclusion by putting the chip under a microscope and examining dielectric layers and the shape of the transistor gates. The teardown analysis also revealed a die almost twice the size of the A4 chip from the previous-generation iPad and iPhone 4, the 45-nanometer manufacturing process and other interesting tidbits.

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