Right now, Apple gets its A4 and A5 processors manufactured by Samsung. Judging by the recent legal tizzy between the two companies, though, the partnership might not last. That leaves the question of which lucky semiconductor company will get to make chips for iPads, iPhones, and iPods.
Taiwan’s TSMC seems like one obvious candidate. EE Times reported last month that Apple was indeed pursuing a chip manufacturing partnership with TSMC. Now, the rumor mill is also suggesting that Apple might strike a manufacturing deal with—wait for it—Intel.
EE Times bases its story on a report by Piper Jaffray & Co. analyst Gus Richard, who claims that partnering with Apple would give Intel a "position" in the smart-phone and tablet markets. At the same time, Intel’s cutting-edge manufacturing would help Apple distance itself from its competitors… including Samsung.
If you think Intel would never open up its fabs to a third party, think again. Last year, the chipmaker struck a deal with FPGA designer Achronix, which will receive "strategic access" to Intel’s upcoming 22-nm fab process. I’m not sure I buy the analyst’s line about a deal with Apple benefiting Intel, though. Intel already has tablet-ready Atom processors out the door, and x86-based smartphones are expected later this year. Giving Apple access to its fabs might only cannibalize sales of those products…
…unless, of course, Apple decides to go x86. It wouldn’t be the first time.