GlobalFoundries may be gearing up to produce chips for Apple. The Albany Times Union broke the story, which contends that GloFo will manufacture SoCs for iPhones and iPads at its new Fab 8 facility in New York. Samsung, which currently builds SoCs for Apple, will reportedly send staff to GlobalFoundries to help set up production. The Times Union doesn't have additional details, though.
All Things D did some digging, and it looks like this deal is all about "flex capacity." According to "sources close to the situation," Samsung will lean on GloFo to provide additional production capacity when its own fabs can't meet demand. GloFo wouldn't be considered a second source for Apple chips. Instead, it would serve as a sort of subcontractor for Samsung, which would continue to be the iDevice maker's primary chip supplier.
Apple is one of Samsung's biggest semiconductor customers, but it's not the only one. The South Korean firm also makes chips for devices that bear its own name. With smartphones sales continuing to rise, it's easy to see how Samsung could need help keeping up. Samsung's Q3 smartphone shipments were up 40% from last year, and iPhone shipments increased 25%. Fabs are incredibly expensive, so it's not as simple as building a new one to meet growing demand.
We shouldn't be too surprised to see Samsung and GlobalFoundries working together. The two are part of the Common Platform Alliance, which also includes IBM. This consortium has been collaborating for more than a decade, and it once sought to push a uniform production model that would allow chips to be fabbed at multiple sites run by different member companies. Although that vision has since been discarded to suit customer demands for more customization, it may have laid the groundwork for GloFo to pick up the slack for Samsung here.