Intel and TSMC to join forces with the popular Atom processor

Producing the silicon chips at the heart of the myriad of electronic devices we take for granted today is becoming more and more expensive. As a result of this predicament, many companies that once built their own chips are now outsourcing the manufacturing of chips to other sources.

Intel and TSMC have announced details on a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) today that has the two firms collaborating on addressing technology platform, intellectual property infrastructure, and SoC solutions. TSMC is the world's largest made-to-order chip foundry.

As part of the collaboration, Intel Atom CPU cores will be ported to the TSMC technology platform including processes, IP, libraries, and design flows. The result will have Intel Atom SoCs available for a wider range of applications. Intel says it will significantly broaden the market opportunities for the Atom SoCs and accelerate the deployment through multiple SoC implementations.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini said in a statement, "We believe this effort will make it easier for customers with significant design expertise to take advantage of benefits of the Intel Architecture in a manner that allows them to customize the implementation precisely to their needs. The combination of the compelling benefits of our Atom processor combined with the experience and technology of TSMC is another step in our long-term strategic relationship."

President and CEO of TSMC, Rick Tsai said, "TSMC values our strategic relationship with Intel. This MOU brings together the Intel Architecture and the TSMC technology platform. We expect this collaboration will help proliferate the Atom processor SoC and foster overall semiconductor growth. With this agreement, our technology platform extends beyond the two companies’ current collaboration to support future Intel embedded x86 products."

The current economic climate is making things hard for the largest chipmakers including AMD and Intel. AMD recently received shareholder approval to complete the spinoff of its foundry operations into a new company tentatively called The Foundry.

Intel reportedly already outsources the construction of some of its chipsets and wireless silicon to TSMC. Intel still maintains that it will continue to ramp the production of its 32nm fabs that it will operate for future technology processors. However, Intel has closed older fabrication facilities and cut jobs over the last several months. Intel has previously announced that it intends to spend $7 billion over the coming years building 32nm fabrication facilities for its processors.

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