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Intel Hardware

Intel Recruits TSMC To Produce Atom CPUs 109

arcticstoat writes "Intel has surprised the industry by announcing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Taiwanese silicon chip maker TSMC to manufacture Atom CPUs. Although TSMC is already employed by AMD, Nvidia and VIA to make chips, it's not often you see Intel requiring the services of a third fabrication party. Under the MOU, Intel agrees to port its Atom CPU technology to TSMC, which includes Intel's processes, intellectual properties, libraries and design flows relating to the processor. This will effectively allow other customers of TSMC to easily build Atom-based products similarly to how they might use an ARM processor in their own designs. However, Intel says that it will still pick the specific market segments and products that TSMC will go after, which will include system-on-chip products, as well as netbooks, nettops and embedded platforms."
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Intel Recruits TSMC To Produce Atom CPUs

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  • Re:Nice Intel (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @07:40PM (#27046177)

    Not too surprising given the situation with the economy. I'm sure its far cheaper manufacturing chips overseas than it is here.


    Labor costs? I doubt a chip fab is really that senstive to hourly wages. Its not like each chip is hand crafted. Its all automated; and the robots are the same price anywhere. So sure labor is a bit cheaper, but we're probably talking a labor as fractional cents per cpu... they can afford it.

    Materials cost? I can't really see it making much difference.

    Environmental regulation compliance? Maybe; I have no idea how much a chip fab pollutes.

    IP? Are there per cpu royalties that would be owed in the manufacturing process itself that they can avoid by doing it elsewhere? Maybe; but I doubt it. Intel's got plenty of patents and surely has the ability to easily cross-license with anyone that could prevent it from manufacturing.

    Or is TMSC hurting for business due to the economic downturn, and is willing to make them dirt cheap, just to keep the factories running...?

    So, serious question, why is it cheaper to have it done overseas?

  • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @07:41PM (#27046197)

    Still awaiting (stock) 4 GHz CPUs.

  • by gravos ( 912628 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @07:48PM (#27046261) Homepage
    Actually, the Intel Atom can execute up to two instructions per cycle. The performance of an Atom is equal to around half that offered by an equivalent Pentium M. So I'm not sure why you think it's so slow.
  • Re:Nice Intel (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 02, 2009 @07:51PM (#27046295)

    "Labor costs? I doubt a chip fab is really that sensitive to hourly wages... So sure labor is a bit cheaper, but we're probably talking a labor as fractional cents per cpu... they can afford it."

    Companies move production to China because often it is cheaper to produce something with a small army of underpaid manual laborers than to produce it with high-tech machinery.

    CPU fabrication is NOT one of those instances. I

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 02, 2009 @08:23PM (#27046575)

    You know netburst is dead, right? The megahertz race is over.

    CPU makers have decided to make CPUs with better architectures, better branch prediction, higher IPC and such instead (besides having more cores) i.e. a better CPU, instead of crap like netburst, but then trying to scale it to ridiculous speeds (and failing).

  • by c.r.o.c.o ( 123083 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @09:25PM (#27047035)

    Taiwan does have lower slightly lower corporate taxes than the US and last year I know the proposal was made to lower by 5% I believe, but I don't know if it ever went through. The US could easily address this situation, but the Obama administration seems intent on doing the opposite.

    I know I'll open a can of worms for saying this, but the Bush administration had 8 years of mostly positive economic growth to address this situation. Instead they chose to invest in other, less profitable ventures, like the war in Iraq. Obama is faced with the worst recession in recent times, unemployment at 7.6% if you don't count discouraged workers, a housing market that is dead, a financial sector that is about to collapse and a budget deficit that is in the trillions. Cutting corporate taxes, which are already lower compared to most other countries would be counterproductive.

    As history has shown, those companies will still move their manufacturing to China, will still outsource their IT to India, and will still downsize, while paying lower taxes on their profits. The only way lower corporate taxes would work is if they were tied to certain conditions, like requiring the manufacturing and support services to be located in the US in order to qualify for them.

  • Re:Nice Intel (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Teckla ( 630646 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @09:44PM (#27047113)

    From what I understand, pretty much every employee at the fabs being closed are being offered jobs at other fabs, and pretty much the only way that anyone's losing their job is if they can't move, or refuse to do so.

    Picking up your life and your family's life and moving involves, for many or most people, selling their house, which is insanely difficult or involves selling at a very low price in the current economic crisis.

    Intel executives likely realize this, and realize many people will have little choice but to not accept a position at a different fab. However, isn't it so nice for Intel executives that they get to make it look like they're purely good guys?

  • Re:Intel (Score:3, Insightful)

    by toddestan ( 632714 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:35AM (#27047943)

    So I would bet that Atom and other underpowered cpus are a fad. They will not look very good next to a mobile Core i7 that is 20x faster when all cores are used.

    Why do you think they are a fad? They obviously aren't going to be much use for what you do, but the vast majority of people can do what they want to do with with fairly low powered hardware. For them, a cheap Atom-based computer may be hard to pass up. The Atom 330 is a dual core 1.6Ghz processor with Hyperthreading. That's a fairly respectable amount of power for a computer used for browsing the internet, viewing photos, and managing a music collection. You can buy an Atom 330 CPU/board combo for $80 by the way.

  • Re:Nice Intel (Score:3, Insightful)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:05AM (#27048535)
    Land, cheaper in TAIWAN?!? I don't think so! This is all about fighting with ARM in the netbook and similar mid market categories. Intel hasn't been hugely successful in making a complete low power solution so turning this IP over to a third party and allowing Atom to become a licensed core will mean there will be single chip low power solutions using Intel designs at their heart. This is good for Intel since there is a real threat that Linux on ARM and company could completely lock Intel out of one of the few sectors that will see significant positive growth in the next couple years.
  • by Tweenk ( 1274968 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @08:02AM (#27049691)

    Of course, the Taiwanese government bureaucracy is at fault for doing a piss poor job of marketing their own country in every way.

    Doesn't this have SOMETHING to do with the fact that China is very unhappy about Taiwan's existence as an autonomous entity, and doing everything they can to subjugate them?

  • Re:Intel (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:58AM (#27051057)

    The Atom 330 is a dual core 1.6Ghz processor with Hyperthreading. That's a fairly respectable amount of power for a computer used for browsing the internet, viewing photos, and managing a music collection. You can buy an Atom 330 CPU/board combo for $80 by the way.

    The megahertz myth is important here though. A 1.6Ghz Core2 Duo based chip - very powerful for most user's needs. A 1.6Ghz Atom (even dual core) - not so much. When comparing single cores the Atom doesn't even stack up Mhz to Mhz to the Via chips.

    Then compare: for about $90 you can get a dual core 1.6ghz Celeron chip based on the Core 2 Duo architecture that will smoke a 1.6ghz Atom in performance terribly.

    Basically, the low-low end of standard desktop components is on parity in price to the high end Atom chips, but still is leaps and bounds ahead in performance. The main area where the Atom shines is power consumption - but even in that it's close enough that for desktop use, the faster chip is still not doing that badly. Dropping to Atom performance is really only worth it if you plan on running on batteries for a significant chunk of time.

    I still personally see Atom as a mobile chip. Mobile devices are gaining in popularity, but the desktop is still here and likely will be on some level for the foreseeable future.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.