CHIPMAKER Intel, which has struggled to match the power efficiency of its Atom chip architecture to that of its rival ARM, will open its semiconductor fabrication plants to ARM chip designers.
In a world of strange alliances, this will go down as one of the strangest.
It was revealed at the ARM Developers Conference that Altera, one of the largest semiconductor makers in the world and an ARM partner, will be making chips at Intel fabs starting in 2014, after a deal was struck in February.
This is a surprising move, considering that Intel essentially will be building chips for its rival. This sort of thing is not completely unheard of, however. After all, the Apple A7 system on chip (SoC) processor in the new iPhone 5S is made by Samsung.
This appears to begin a new attitude of "come one, come all" for Intel, meaning that it could begin to seek business from other rivals, like Apple, Qualcomm or Nvidia, for example.
A spokesperson for Intel told us, "We have several design wins thus far and the announcement with Altera in February is an important step towards Intel's overall foundry strategy. Intel will continue to be selective on customers we will enable on our leading edge manufacturing process."
The result of this first move towards opening Intel's chip foundry business could see chip prices come down as the market to fab them becomes more competitive and other foundries are forced to compete.
That could lead to some even stranger bedfellows than Apple and Samsung in the future. µ
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