Tech giants Apple and Intel have emerged as the first adopters of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s next-gen chip production technology ahead of its deployment as early as next year, Nikkei Asia reported.
Both the companies are testing their chip designs with TSMC’s 3-nanometre production technology, according to several sources briefed on the matter, with a commercial output of such chips expected to start in the second half of next year.
Nanometre refers to the width between transistors on a chip. The smaller the number, the more advanced the chip, but also the more challenging and expensive they are to build, the report said.
The most advanced chip production tech being used for consumer products today is TSMC’s 5-nm technology, which is used for all iPhone 12 processor chips.
According to TSMC, 3-nm technology can increase computing performance by 10 per cent to 15 per cent compared with 5-nm, while reducing power consumption by 25 per cent to 30 per cent.
Apple’s iPad will likely be the first device powered by processors made using 3-nm technology, citing sources, the report said.
The next generation of iPhones, which are to roll out next year, are expected to make use of the intermediate 4-nm tech for scheduling reasons.
Intel, the US’ biggest chipmaker, is working with TSMC on at least two 3-nm projects to design central processing units for notebooks and data center servers in an attempt to regain market share it has lost to AMD and Nvidia over the past few years.
Mass production of these chips is expected to begin by the end of 2022 at the earliest.
“Currently the chip volume planned for Intel is more than that for Apple’s iPad using the 3-nanometre process,” one of the sources said.
For Intel, which both designs and manufactures chips, the collaboration with TSMC is aimed at tiding the company over until it can get its in-house production technology on track.
The company has delayed the introduction of its 7-nm production technology to around 2023, well behind Asian rivals TSMC and Samsung Electronics.
The release of Intel’s latest Xeon processors powered by the company’s 10-nm technology has also been delayed from the end of this year to the second quarter of next year, the company said this week.
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has described the company’s relationship with TSMC as one of “co-opetition” — a blend of cooperation and competition.
The US company earlier this year confirmed it will work with TSMC on several processor chip projects, marking the first time in its history that it will outsource the manufacture of its core products.