CHIP FOUNDRY Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) captured almost half of the global foundry market in 2012 thanks to its 28nm process node.
Analyst outfit Gartner totted up the scores in the chip foundry business and showed what many had already figured out from news reports, that TSMC is in the lead. According to Gartner's figures, TSMC's $17.1bn in 2012 revenues indicates that it took 49.5 percent of the worldwide chip foundry business, with Globalfoundries coming in second with $4.2bn or 12.1 percent of the market.
Gartner cited TSMC's "advanced technology nodes" for its strong revenue growth. Such was demand for TSMC's 28nm process node in the first half of 2012 that a number of high profile customers such as AMD, Nvidia and Qualcomm were kept waiting while TSMC tried to get chips flying out the door.
While TSMC's 28nm supply restrictions have eased, the firm is preparing a 20nm process node that AMD has already said it is waiting for. However TSMC wasn't the biggest mover in Gartner's list, as that distinction fell to Samsung, which saw 175 percent growth in its chip foundry business to $1.3bn, thanks in no small part to its production of Apple's A6 series chips.
Gartner also cited demand for wafers fabbed on 40nm process nodes for low-cost chips and noted that foundries that had good yields at both 40nm and 28nm were able to take advantage of demand. The pinstriped market analyst firm also said that 2012 was the first year that more more chips were made for mobile devices than PCs.
Intel, which is trying to get into the foundry business, is not on Gartner's 2012 list but surely will be hoping to make an entry in 2013. The firm technically has been a foundry for its own designs, but in the last year it has tried to secure business from chip designers. Some industry watchers are saying that this is one way for Intel to ensure that its fabs remain busy as falling demand in PC chips leads to surplus capacity.
Nevertheless, Gartner's figures go to show that leading edge process nodes such as those offered by TSMC and Globalfoundries are key to a semiconductor foundry's financial success, even if it means billions in investment.
Gartner's figures might also show Intel how much money it can expect to make if it takes the chip foundry business seriously. Judging from talks with industry insiders, this is not something that many believe Intel is doing yet. µ