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How short is the supply of Intel CPUs? Are supplies constrained enough to turn even part of its processor production over to another foundry? If a report from SE Daily is accurate, the answer to that question is yes. Intel may be contracting Samsung to produce some CPUs on the Korean chip giant’s 14-nanometer process.
None of the TR staff can read Korean, and the Google Translation of the article is rough, to say the least. However, what seems clear from the report is that Samsung will produce CPUs with the codename “Rocket Lake” for Intel starting sometime towards the end of 2020 with a planned release in 2021. The report gives no indication as to what those CPUs are, but a report from Dutch website Tweakers.net claims that those chips will feature
glue discrete chiplets that handle graphics duties.
A source familiar with the negotiations told SE Daily that contract negotiations between the world’s largest x86 vendor and the Korean foundry are “in the final stages.” A quick look at the the calendar tells us that 2021 is still a ways off. That could mean that Intel will still feel the crunch for a while longer, and will sell a lot of 14-nanometer silicon for the foreseeable future.
Purportedly, Intel’s decision to use Samsung was based partly on TSMC’s decision to continue fabricating chips for Huawei, which is the subject of a trade ban after the U.S. Commerce Department added the Chinese device maker to its Entity List. Intel CEO Robert Swan (or “Bob Hong” in the translated SE Daily article) told Bloomberg that the company is reevaluating its supply chain in the wake of sanctions against Huawei.
Update 6/19/2019 10:00 AM: According to a report by Tom’s Hardware, a source “close to the matter” says that Samsung will potentially fabricate simpler chips like Intel’s desktop and notebook chipsets and not CPUs. Tom’s Hardware says that by using Samsung’s Korean facilities, Intel can likely sidestep higher U.S.-imposed tariffs on Chinese goods. The source specifically mentioned that Rocket Lake will not come from Samsung’s fabs.