Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) is an important and long-term partner, Intel Corp chief executive officer Pat Gelsinger said yesterday upon arriving in Taiwan on a trip that is widely believed to be a quest to secure the Hsinchu-based chipmaker as a supplier of advanced 3-nanometer chips.
The move would seem to backtrack Gelsinger’s remarks that Taiwan is geopolitically unsafe, and that the US should not overly depend on Asia for semiconductors, but should invest more in the country’s homegrown chipmakers.
With the construction of a new fabrication factory in Phoenix, Arizona — its first major expansion overseas — TSMC is vying for US government subsidies to roll out 5-nanometer chips at the fab by 2024. The firm hopes that subsidies and incentives will help cut the cost of manufacturing in the US.
Photo courtesy of Intel Corp
Yesterday, Gelsinger addressed the importance of local supply chains, saying that Taiwan is also home to more than 1,000 Intel employees who have been working closely with “our Taiwan customers and partners for the last 36 years to deliver leadership products.”
“Prominent among these partnerships is our long-standing relationship with TSMC. TSMC has unlocked the magic of silicon for us and others in the industry in so many ways, creating products that would otherwise never have existed,” he said in a prerecorded video. “What TSMC has done is spectacular.”
Although Gelsinger has not revealed the reason behind his visit, industry insiders and analysts believe that he came for TSMC’s 3-nanometer chips, which are to be the most advanced chips when they become available in the second half of next year.
“Obviously, Gelsinger came to Taiwan to secure a supply of advanced chips from TSMC,” Cornucopia Capital Partner Ltd (聚芯資本) managing partner Eric Chen (陳慧明) said by telephone yesterday.
With the 3-nanometer chips, TSMC “will play a key role in helping Intel fend off competition from AMD [Advanced Micro Devices Inc] in the CPU [computer processing unit] segment, in particular,” Chen said.
Intel makes chips at its own factories, but it has lagged behind TSMC by about two years in migrating to next-generation process technologies, Chen said.
AMD, one of TSMC’s major clients, is usually the first adopter of TSMC’s most advanced chips, along with Apple Inc.
TSMC and Intel declined to comment on what their executives would discuss.
Gelsinger said that Taiwan — home to an entire, vibrant ecosystem that has woven technology, culture, business and competition into a hub of the semiconductor industry — is at the heart of much of the innovation transforming digitization.
Now, more than ever, semiconductors are in the spotlight, he said, adding that without semiconductors, everything stops.
To tackle the global chip crunch, Intel must have factories in multiple geographic locations — here in Taiwan and in other key locations around the world, he said, adding that Intel would continue to invest in Taiwan.
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