The bottom line is that to move the "A" chip business to Intel, two things had to happen; Elpida had to be saved in order to supply mobile DRAM chips to Apple and Intel's Infineon division had to come up with a discrete 4G LTE solution in order to de-fang Qualcomm/Samsung. The first of those is done, but Infineon is nearly a year behind schedule on the 4G LTE solution. It now appears that Intel/Infineon has a certified LTE solution that Apple can use.
So, now all of the potential blackmail roadblocks are out of the way of Apple's intense wish to end all supply business with Samsung.
Now what do we get? An oft-repeated rumor from the notorious Taiwan rumor rag Digitimes, that Apple has signed a three year deal with TSMC (TSM) for 20nm, 16nm, and 10nm versions of future "A" chips. Does that make sense? TSMC, who would have all the reasons in the world to shout about even a 20nm (planar) test chip, has shown exactly nothing, while Intel is shipping 100s of millions of 22nm Trigate devices and in a matter of months will be shipping production chips based on 14nm, again Trigate.
I really don't have anything against TSMC; as a matter of fact I admire the company for all they have done. The fact remains that TSMC is nearly two nodes behind Intel and in the case of Apple; a conscious decision to put all their beans in the TSMC basket is suicidal. On the other hand, if I were Apple and the largest and best foundry on the planet promised me 20, 16, and 10nm fab services, I would give them orders for a piece of anything they asked for. In the unlikely event that TSMC were to catch up with Intel, Apple would have two sources of leading edge foundry work, TSMC and Intel.
My bet would be that Intel is all set to run the "A" chips as well as the LTE chips for Apple and has been ready for some time while the two roadblocks, mobile DRAM and 4G LTE chip supply are being resolved.
How could something like this be kept secret? I honestly don't know, but I remind the readers that the Apple move from Power PC to Intel X86 was kept absolutely secret for the six years that it took to re-write OSX for X86.
If the TSMC rumors were true, the stock price should be up $10. It's not.
Intel helped Micron pull Apple's bacon out of the fire by saving and buying Elpida. Micron's payoff for this move, which seemed like insanity at the time, is acquiring Elpida at 20 cents on the dollar, packed to the roof with Apple mobile DRAM orders. Where is Intel's payoff for its help in getting Apple off the Samsung hook?
It will come in the form of application processors (either "A" chips or x86 chips) and LTE chips. Having Apple in the bag goes some way to explaining the huge apparent overcapacity at Intel.
At last, a logical, even keel analysis on the entire Apple/Intel deal. I still maintain that Apple has folks on the inside fighting for Intel and others fighting for TSMC, GF or Samsung. Tim Cooks is a logistics guy so you pretty much can assure that he's going to check out all avenues before committing to one vendor. Apple must have contacted these foundries and asked "How far can you go, what time frames and what do you need from us?" But you know how things turn from an inquiry to a signed contract in the tabloid press.
I like Russ's story. One part he left out is if a good chunk of the market isn't buying SoC's from TSMC how can the rest of the market really afford to pay for 20, 14, 10nm trigate development? How can TSMC afford to catch up on it's own to Intel?