AMD's move out of fabs was a terrible idea

Last week AMD finally got shot of GlobalFoundaries and no longer had any connection with any fabrication plant. Instead, it has the option to shop where ever it liked.

But it is starting to seem that thefFabless chipmakers might not be getting the sorts of deals they expected and AMD might be joining a crowd of designers who can’t get foundries to do what they  are told.

Problems with yields at 28nm might have pushed AMD to lose patience with GloFlo but there are indications that other fabs are having the same problems.

While most have their fingers crossed that foundries which may deliver processes in time to meet their deadlines they have little control over the timing of their process transitions.

Electronics Weekly points out Intel started showing off 32nm in early 2010 and 28nm is supposed to use the same process. Yet the foundries seem unable to get 28nm, which is based on the same process, running properly.

Some of the problems have been caused by the fabless chipmakers listening to the cocaine nose jobsworths of Wall Street who have been saying for ages that real men don’t need fabs and advanced digital CMOS didn’t add value.

The fact that Intel did not fall for this advice means that it has a huge process lead. 32nm was a doddle too because they moved to hi-k a node earlier than the rest.

The next generation of development, 20nm planar at the foundries/22nm finfet at Intel, looks set to push Chipzilla even further into the lead. Intel deep throats have suggested that this will happen in July.

So this means that AMD sold its fab at the time that it needed process engineering to compete. It also means that Qualcomm will not bring terror to Chipzilla, as expected, until it starts making its own chips.

Electronics Weekly thinks that there could be a new player in the market. Apple has $100 billion in the bank, a few years of R&D and is finding that its access to 28nm is slowed. It might be better for Jobs’ Mob to start fabbing its own chips.

It is also clear that if the fabless chip makers out there don’t do something they will quickly become also rans to the likes of Intel and Samsung who have them. It is possible that the likes of Qualcomm would have to enter a consortium of companies made up of Xilinx, Altera, Nvidia and AMD to buy their own fabs.

It might be that last week’s announcement that AMD paid Global Foundries (GloFo) $420 million to get out of their contractual relationships was the beginning of a shift towards such a consortium. With GloFo off its back AMD is free to play with whatever friends it wants.