GlobalFoundries being eyed as a chip producer for Apple
MALTA & STILLWATER There’s at least the possibility that Apple’s future smartphone and tablet chips could be made by GlobalFoundries, with work done at Fab 8.
Tech news sites bubbled Monday with reports coming out of last week’s Semicon West trade show in San Francisco that the maker of the iPhone and iPad is talking to GlobalFoundries about contracting for some future chip production.
Apple currently uses Samsung Electronics to make its chips in Texas. Reports for months have said Apple is looking to change or diversify suppliers.
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer’s office has been quietly trying to encourage a relationship.
“GlobalFoundries CEO Ajit Manocha visited me several months ago to talk about developing a stronger relationship with Apple as it looks for more ‘Made in America’ opportunities, and I have been urging Apple to consider developing a manufacturing and research partnership with GlobalFoundries,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a news release Monday. “This would be show-stopping news in the Capital Region, and I am doing everything I can to make this a reality.”
There was no comment on the reports from GlobalFoundries, which is still building up production capacity at its Fab 8.1 in Luther Forest, while seeking town zoning approvals for an even larger second plant.
“I’ve seen the stories but we do not comment on rumor or speculation,” said GlobalFoundries spokesman Travis Bullard.
No deal is near, but the parties are “kicking the tires,” an industry source told CNET, a computer industry website.
Previous published reports have said Apple was looking to move at least some work from Samsung to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest foundry company, to diversify its supplier base.
GlobalFoundries is the industry’s second-largest foundry company.
A manufacturing relationship between Apple and GlobalFoundries would fit with GlobalFoundries’ leadership’s recent emphasis on the mobile device market as the industry’s future growth sector, said Dennis Brobston, president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., who attended Semicon West.
Manocha delivered the opening keynote address at the conference, talking about “Foundry-Driven Innovation in the Mobility Era.”
Foundries, which are computer chip plants that make chips to order for device manufacturers like Apple, have been the fastest-growing segment of the semiconductor industry.
The $7 billion Fab 8.1 won’t be fully operational until late this year, but GlobalFoundries has been aggressively pursuing local approvals for a $14.7 billion second plant, to be known as Fab 8.2. The towns of Malta and Stillwater are in the process of finalizing zoning approvals, but the company has consistently said it’s made no final commitment to proceed.
Under one scenario discussed in the trade press, Apple might provide money toward the capital costs in return for some guarantee of access to manufacturing capacity.
If Fab 8.2 is approved and GlobalFoundries secures business from Apple, “that will mean new opportunities,” Brobston said in an informal briefing Monday for the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency.
He said flooding in recent years has damaged or temporarily closed semiconductor plants in Asia, and that has raised New York state’s stock as a high-tech manufacturing location.
“Aside from snow and occasional thunderstorms, we don’t really have natural disasters,” Brobston said.
GlobalFoundries, which is headquartered in Malpitas, Ca., has promoted its ability to shift manufacturing production between fabs in the United States, Germany and Singapore as providing reliability to its customers.
Just a few months ago, the buzz in the region’s high-tech community was about the secret “Project Azalea,” which would have involved the construction of a massive new chip factory somewhere in the United States. New York state sites, including the Luther Forest Technology Campus, were under consideration, with Oregon thought to be the leading competitor.
It was widely speculated that either TSMC or Apple was the company behind the Azalea proposal, of which nothing has been heard recently.