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Thread: Qualcomm commits to TSMC 7nm

  1. #21
    Admin Daniel Nenni's Avatar
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    Yes, Apple will be the first to TSMC 7nm, we should see new iPads in Q2 2018. The problem with iPads is that they last too long. I had my iPad 2 for 4+ years before replacing it with an iPad Pro and I couldn't be happier with the performance.

    It should also be known that Apple uses a custom version of 7nm that others do not use. So comparing TSMC Symposium PowerPoint slides to the process Apple uses is not an apples to apples comparison.... See what I did there?


    Quote Originally Posted by raghu78 View Post
    Thanks for the clarification. btw TSMC hitting HVM ramp in Q1 2018 sounds very achievable since they have been in risk production from Apr 2017 and recently TSMC said in their Q3 earnings call that they have moved 7nm from R&D to manufacturing which I assume means moving 7nm from risk to the start of high volume production.

    http://www.tsmc.com/uploadfile/ir/qu...transcript.pdf

    "Now, let me move to N7 and N7+. N7 been transferred from R&D to manufacturing in early third quarter this year. Right now, our efforts focus on defect reduction and fine-tuning device performance to prepare for mass production in the first half of 2018.We expect the yield learning in N7 to benefit greatly from N10 and our progress so far has been on schedule. The initial application for N7are high-end application processors and high-performance computing. We are working with major customers for their products to be introduced in 2018. We expect more than 50 tape-outs by the end of 2018"


    Since Apple is looking at A11x for 2018 iPad to be manufactured at 7nm and ship by mid-2018 , I think the TSMC N7 HVM ramp is well underway and we will see production chips start to ship to Apple supply chain by the end of Q1 2018 or early-mid Q2 2018. On the topic of GF 7nm they are still yet to start risk production and have stated risk production before mid-2018, which I assume means Q2 2018. I have my doubts as to whether GF 7nm HVM ramp can happen even by late 2018. imo I think GF 7LP HVM ramp is more a Q1 2019 event and I think TSMC has a solid 1 year time to market lead over GF 7nm. As for Intel well I am hearing the worst rumours and that their 10nm could slip into 2019 and that Cannonlake might be produced in very small volume in H2 2018 or be totally scrapped. Icelake on 10+ in H1 2019 seems to be the first real high volume product from Intel on 10nm process. I would like to hear your thoughts on when GF could ramp 7LP to HVM and what you are hearing on Intel 10nm too.

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  2. #22
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    So we can expect a next generation Snapdragon 800 in 2H 2018 built on TSMC 7FF ?

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  3. #23
    Admin Daniel Nenni's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lodix View Post
    So we can expect a next generation Snapdragon 800 in 2H 2018 built on TSMC 7FF ?
    Yes, I believe it is the Snapdragon 855. Here is the backstory in case you are interested:

    QCOM and TSMC were best friends until Apple came to TSMC at 20nm. With Apple as TSMC's best friend QCOM went to Samsung at 14nm. Samsung 14nm was very good so QCOM stayed for 10nm. Samsung 10nm was a catastrophe, it did not yield so QCOM jumped over to TSMC 7nm. That is QCOM in a nutshell by the way.

    I'm really interested to see a benchmark between the 10nm an 7nm Snapdragons. The should be close to an apples-to-apples process comparison.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Nenni View Post
    Yes, I believe it is the Snapdragon 855. Here is the backstory in case you are interested:

    QCOM and TSMC were best friends until Apple came to TSMC at 20nm. With Apple as TSMC's best friend QCOM went to Samsung at 14nm. Samsung 14nm was very good so QCOM stayed for 10nm. Samsung 10nm was a catastrophe, it did not yield so QCOM jumped over to TSMC 7nm. That is QCOM in a nutshell by the way.

    I'm really interested to see a benchmark between the 10nm an 7nm Snapdragons. The should be close to an apples-to-apples process comparison.
    The yield problems were only at the beginning. It would have been the same situation or worse if they had stayed with TSMC at 10nm. And they would have lost the opportunity to be used in Samsung's S8 family in the first half of 2017.

    Can TSMC really ramp in to volume production 2 products in a node that just went to mass production ? Qualcomm+Apple ( maybe Huawei too ) in the second half of this year ?

    The reason Qualcomm switched to Samsung was to not wait for Apple to get leading edge nodes.

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  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lodix View Post
    The yield problems were only at the beginning. It would have been the same situation or worse if they had stayed with TSMC at 10nm. And they would have lost the opportunity to be used in Samsung's S8 family in the first half of 2017.

    Can TSMC really ramp in to volume production 2 products in a node that just went to mass production ? Qualcomm+Apple ( maybe Huawei too ) in the second half of this year ?

    The reason Qualcomm switched to Samsung was to not wait for Apple to get leading edge nodes.
    I think Apple will get production 7nm in Q1 2018 and the rest (QCOM, Mediatech, Huawei, etc...) in Q2. Remember, 7nm uses the same fabs as 10nm so significant yield learning has been achieved. And after 7nm comes 7nm+ (EUV) in 2019 (same fabs) which I am told is already doing quite well. I will be in Hsinchu later this month and will know more then.

    Apple did get preferential treatment by TSMC, something like "most favored nation" status which included wafer availability and pricing. And remember, Apple gets an exclusive version of the process. But if you look at TSMC financials since 20nm when Apple came to Hsinchu TSMC margins have never been better and TSM stock price has about doubled so job well done in getting Apple to play and stay at TSMC.

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    It would be more unusual if Apple used exactly the same 7nm process as others, than it is for them to have their own spin.

    When you are the yield learning vehicle in a node, as Apple clearly is, you are at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to the fast followers. It seems like the pure foundry model works best for the fast followers who the leader enables. I think the real victory for a foundry, is when you have both: A pipecleaner product which establishes the node, and some followers who increase the volume and make the node sustainable.

    With the narrowing of the customer base at advanced nodes, you are starting to see 1-2 customer nodes, almost like an IDM. If the trend continues, we'll start to see the dissolving of the foundry model into a sort of IDM-for-hire model.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benb View Post
    It would be more unusual if Apple used exactly the same 7nm process as others, than it is for them to have their own spin.

    When you are the yield learning vehicle in a node, as Apple clearly is, you are at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to the fast followers. It seems like the pure foundry model works best for the fast followers who the leader enables. I think the real victory for a foundry, is when you have both: A pipe cleaner product which establishes the node, and some followers who increase the volume and make the node sustainable.

    With the narrowing of the customer base at advanced nodes, you are starting to see 1-2 customer nodes, almost like an IDM. If the trend continues, we'll start to see the dissolving of the foundry model into a sort of IDM-for-hire model.
    That's not really how it works. As a fabless company you want to be part of the process development and ramping so you get both first input into the specs and first output of wafers. Yes it is more expensive but the extra cost is nothing for companies like Apple and Nvidia. It didn't used to work that way of course. FPGA companies (Altera/Xilinx) were the pipecleaners. Then came the SoC revolution with QCOM and Mediatek and of course Apple now trumps them all. With the AI surge Nvidia also ranks right up there and will get a custom HP process at 7nm.

    The foundry model has definitely evolved with Apple driving TSMC and AMD driving GF but it is still a fabless semiconductor model. If not for Apple and AMD would TSMC and GF be ahead of Intel? Not in my opinion. And then there is the fabless semiconductor ecosystem which is a force of nature and will continue to dominate the semiconductor industry, absolutely.

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    Dan the foundry model has a killer app; choice. The network effects of a common, openly licensed architecture (ARM) are also obvious. So choice and network effects are both very powerful.

    Vertical integration seems to be growing though. Qualcomm is in the process of buying NXP which is a fab operator. I think China and choice do not mix and I am skeptical that foundries will truly have the same business model there. And as we approach maturity in semiconductors, the drive to reduce costs and remove a middle man (the foundry) will only grow greater and greater. I wouldn't assume the rear-view mirror (which is really just a story of one foundry success) will apply in the future.

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    After Qualcomm gave the Snapdragon 855 volume to TSMC for the Galaxy S10 (due in 2019), it looks very unlikely to me that they will switch back to Samsung for the Galaxy S11 (due in 2020) as that would require Samsung's EUV-heavy "7nm" or "6nm" process to be on time. Even with their strong ties, it looks very unlikely given unresolved availability concerns with higher power EUV.

    In summary, TSMC looks likely to take the lion's share at 7nm and even GF could have larger 7nm foundry share than Samsung in the next few years. Samsung's heavy bet on EUV (10+ layers etc) appears to have not paid off at all - a more measured, dual-track approach would have been the better strategy, but they were so late, they tried to take a big risk. At least, they can try and use the tools already ordered for DRAM in the short-term.

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    As usual I mostly agree with Daniel, but when talking Samsung please always consider that it is essentially a huge memory maker with a very large fabless and a mid size foundry. If they can have outside foundry customers partially paying for EUV introduction in their fabs, that will help in achieving even bigger gains from the memory business where EUV litho impact on costs and performance can be even larger than in logic (and Toshiba, Micron and Hynix will have more problems than TSMC following). So the choice of pushing an earlier EUV introduction is less damaging than it looks like, in my opinion.

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