AMD scrapping Wichita, Krishna, ditching GloFo at 28 nm?

A few days ago, SemiAccurate reported that AMD had canceled Wichita and Krishna, the two 28-nm APUs meant to succeed Zacate and Ontario next year. (Zacate and Ontario are, of course, known as the E series, the low-power wing of AMD's APU lineup.) Quoting its own sources, ExtremeTech has now echoed that story and added an interesting twist: AMD has replacement 28-nm APUs in the works, but it will reportedly have them manufactured by TSMC, not GlobalFoundries.

As ExtremeTech points out, such a foundry switch would be quite significant, both from technical and strategic standpoints. TSMC's 28-nm high-k metal gate process has a gate-last design, but GlobalFoundries' is gate-first. Also, while GlobalFoundries is in large part made up of AMD's former foundry business, the relationship between the two companies seems to have cooled as of late. When issuing its revenue warning for the last quarter, AMD specifically blamed 32-nm manufacturing issues at GlobalFoundries for the lower-than-expected revenue. ExtremeTech says the situation is no cheerier behind the scenes:

AMD reportedly cancelled Krishna/Wichita when it became clear that GlobalFoundries wouldn’t be able to ramp the parts at volume and was unwilling to negotiate a new wafer agreement. Right now, AMD only pays GF for good 32nm dies, which means GlobalFoundries has been stuck building Llano at a loss for most of this past year. That agreement expires on January 1, at which point Sunnyvale goes back to paying a flat fee per wafer. . . . AMD doesn’t want to pay a per-wafer fee for a slow, low-yield product ramp, while GlobalFoundries is stuck with product lines dedicated to 32nm SOI production for a company with decidedly uncompetitive products.

Regardless of the politics, the cancellation of Wichita and Krishna could hurt AMD's prospects in the mobile business—one of the areas where the company has vowed to concentrate its efforts after the recently announced reorganization and mass layoffs. We may see 28-nm die shrinks of Zacate and Ontario next year, but there's no telling whether such products would, say, let AMD carve itself a significant slice of the booming tablet market.

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