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IDF: ARM plays down its ties with TSMC

Talk doesn't match actions
Tue Sep 11 2012, 03:12
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SAN FRANCISCO: CHIP DESIGNER ARM said its customers favour chip fab TSMC despite the firm's relationships with fabs such as Globalfoundries and Samsung.

ARM's processor designs are licensed to many firms including AMD, Apple, Nvidia and Qualcomm, and in recent years TSMC has been used for the high-performance chips designed for cutting-edge process nodes. With ARM and TSMC's relationship obviously close - the two firms were jointly meeting with the press at an offsite IDF event - ARM said "customer pull" was towards TSMC.

ARM generally releases "hard macros" - designs that are pre-optimised for particular process nodes - for TSMC process nodes. When Nandan Nayampally, director of CPU product marketing in ARM's processor division was asked why TSMC was ARM's fab of choice he said, "Whenever you do a hard macro they are usually done by customer pull. If there are more customers asking for that, we as a company have limited resources. We chose our projects based on market pull and usually that market pull with these type of products is TSMC."

When Nayampally was asked whether ARM is happy with the apparent special relationship between the two firms, he told The INQUIRER, "If anything over the last two years the relationships with foundries on the physical IP side has got that much stronger because of the competition with Intel to a lot of these players. Tuning the phyisical IP, both the physical IP and the process node become that much more important. TSMC is very close to us, but so are a lot of other foundries."

While ARM might work with other fabs, it's clear that licensees prefer TSMC, otherwise the firms wouldn't go to the trouble of creating prepared designs for smaller chip vendors. The problem might come with over-reliance on a single fab for hire, which could come back to bite ARM's licensees. µ


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