Qualcomm might ditch TSMC, embrace GloFo

Qualcomm is rumoured to be thinking about shifting SoC production from TSMC to other foundries, namely Globalfoundries.

The company allegedly believes the move would improve its competitiveness and allow it to grow market share. With Qualcomm’s mobile SoC business booming, there should be no shortage of interested foundries.

As Seeking Alpha recently put it, Qualcomm is selling shovels in a goldmine, but it doesn’t build the shovels – TSMC takes care of that. Now that TSMC has apparently landed a lucrative high-volume deal with Apple, Qualcomm might want to look for preferential treatment elsewhere. The report comes from Digitimes, so it’s flavoured with a pinch of salt.

Perhaps the most obvious choice would be Globalfoundries.

After a rather slow start, GloFo’s 28nm process seems to be doing just fine and the AMD spinoff needs all the business it can get.

GlobalFoundries has apparently stepped up development of 20nm and 14nm nodes and it is gearing up to take on TSMC. With Qualcomm on its side, GloFo could become a force to be reckoned with.

GloFo’s new Fab 8 can churn out 60,000 300mm wafers per month and it should lead the way as far as sub-28nm production is concerned.

Globalfoundries and Qualcomm are old chums. They started working together on a range of technologies back in 2010. Qualcomm also picked up ATI’s Adreno graphics team, so they’ve got some family ties as well. This isn’t the first Glofo-Qualcomm 28nm rumour, either.

Could we even end up with something much bigger than a simple foundry deal?

Qualcomm certainly has the cash to acquire a sizable stake in both AMD and Globalfoundries. In fact, Qualcomm could outright buy AMD without breaking a sweat, provided that regulators don’t interfere. Qualcomm could benefit from AMD’s graphics IP and know-how, as it’s facing much stiffer competition in the mobile GPU segment. AMD is also working on ARM A57-based server parts, but it doesn’t want to dabble in consumer SoCs.

On the face of it, all three companies could gain a lot from some sort of long-term strategic partnership, or they could consolidate. But QualFo MicRo Device-O sounds rather like a mouthful.