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SAN FRANCISCO -- South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. will build 14-nm processors for future Apple Inc. iPhones and iPads under the terms of a deal signed over the weekend, according to a report by the Korea Economic Daily.
According to the report, Samsung will build 14-nm A9 processors for Apple with FinFET process technology starting in 2015. The A9 will be used in Apple's iPhone 7.
Apple has used Samsung as its chip-making foundry since it started designing its own custom processors for its smartphones and tablets several years ago. But the relationship between the two companies has become strained in the past couple of years, including several high-profile patent litigations in several countries (see Apple-Samsung trial coverage).
It has been widely reported that Apple chose TSMC as its foundry for 20-nm A8 processors. However, some believe that Apple may have foundry supply contracts in place with both firms (see Samsung, TSMC and the A6: not OR but AND?). Recent reports also indicate that Apple is in negotiations with US-based foundry Globalfoundries on a supply agreement (see Why GlobalFoundries Should Appeal to Apple).
Last month, Digitimes reported that Apple inked a deal with TSMC for 20-, 16- and 10-nm processors (see TSMC signs up Apple for three-year FinFET deal).
There is probably a bit of truth to the stories floating around the past couple of weeks, but here's my take on it. Apple and Intel have been talking. Intel is of course talking about 14nm. Apple is talking to the other suppliers like TSMC , GF and Samsung and discussing what they could do to one up the Intel offer. What price could they do, how many units and what do they need from Apple? TSMC is probably saying that they could ramp up to 20nm and that they would go to the bank, take on huge debt and invest heavily in 20nm if Apple could give them a three year contract. GF and Samsung are making their best pitches as well. Nenni would have broadcasted loud and clear if TSMC inked a deal.
I don't see Apple as a company that needs cutting edge technology. But as the new Intel fab comes online they are going to have to make a decision. The processor wars are heating up and Intel has them concerned enough to not be 2 to 3 generations behind. Instead of jumping the ARM ship why not see what TSMC,GF and Samsung are will to offer? And then there's Intel's offer. It's a big decision. I doubt that analysts and bloggers have the inside track to secret contracts from Apple. If Apple were to sign such contracts you'd most likely hear about it from their own press releases.
There are of course folks who are desperate to keep ARMH above $40 a share so any news that they can exploit, even being the slightest bit true is put out in the press. That's the way ARMH rolls.
Don't be surprised if there is a G-F backup to this backup too ;-). Let's face it Intel has set a pace that all the foundries are struggling to match and Apple does not want to be left stuck with a loser although all the foundries are strictly losers as none of them have a genuine 14nm in sight while Intel has 10nm already done and dusted and in the pipeline.