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TI's new strategy casts doubts on Samsung's foundry ambitions

Posted: 07 Apr 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Samsung foundry? OMAP 5? Samsung-TI? foundry partnership?

An obviously dissatisfied Texas Instruments Inc. recently declared that it has revised its leading-edge digital foundry strategy, a move that virtually negates the foundry activities of key partner Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

For its current applications processorthe OMAP 4TI has three foundry partners building the 40nm device: GlobalFoundries Inc., Samsung Electronics and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC).

Recently, TI rolled out the next-generation applications processor based on a 28nm process, dubbed the OMAP 5. Taiwan's UMC will take the "lead role" in making the OMAP 5 device on a foundry basis for TI, said Kevin Ritchie, senior vice president and manager of TI's technology and manufacturing group.

For the OMAP 5, TI may work with other foundries, but Samsung does not appear to be one of the candidates. With the OMAP 4, TI has been "dissatisfied" with its foundry arrangement with Samsung, Ritchie said.

"We have not been pleased with the results" at Samsung, he told EE Times in a telephone interview.

Samsung has indeed built and shipped parts for TI. "I can't complain about the yields," he said. "I can complain about everything else."

He implied that Apple Inc. is taking an inordinate amount of time and attention away from Samsung's foundry unita possible reason why TI is upset.

Apple is a huge customer for Samsung. As reported, Samsung is building Apple-designed processors for the iPhone and iPad on a foundry basis for Apple. Samsung is infusing an additional $3.6 billion to its fab in Texas, reportedly just for Apple. And Samsung is hiring 300 new fab engineers for the plant.

Regarding Samsung's future as a foundry partner within TI, Ritchie said TI will rely on Samsung to a "lesser extent" at 45nm. Samsung is "off our radar at 28nm," he said.

Surprisingly, TI's "lead" OMAP 5 foundry partner is UMC. "UMC, for us, is everything that Samsung is not," he said. UMC "does not get enough credit."

An e-mail to Samsung public relations officials was not returned. A call to Samsung was not returned by presstime.

GlobalFoundries, Samsung and TSMC have announced their respective 32- and 28nm processes and are not shy to talk about them. On the other hand, UMC has been eerily quiet in recent years. In various technical papers, Taiwan's UMC has discussed its process technology, but it does not brag about it.

TI's disclosure raises more questions about Samsung's ambitions in the foundry business. For some time, the company claims it will be one of the biggest players in the business and is throwing money around in the arena.

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