Intel is finally starting to flex its fab muscle.
Intel has failed to make a mark in the mobile SoC market with its Atom lineup of processors, but the chip vendor has announced plans to manufacture ARM-based designs on its 10nm FinFET manufacturing process. Intel also said that it will partner with LG to fabricate a "world-class mobile platform" based on the 10nm node.
The deal will see Intel leverage ARM's Artisan physical IP and POP IP to build 10nm Cortex cores. For now, it doesn't look like Intel will be able to fabricate custom solutions from architecture licensees like Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and others.
Samsung scored a massive victory last year by being the first in this space to make the shift to a 14nm manufacturing process, leading to Qualcomm partnering with the South Korean company to manufacture the 14nm Snapdragon 820 SoC at its semiconductor fab. While Intel will start off with off-the-shelf Cortex cores, it is still a huge deal for the chip vendor in its bid to challenge TSMC and Samsung in the mobile segment.
TSMC is already well on its way to 10nm, with mass production set to commence from the end of 2016. Samsung has also stated that it would begin the shift to 10nm later this year. With Intel joining the fray, we're going to see competition intensify in the mobile space.
As for LG, the South Korean company failed to make a mark with its Nuclun SoC, which made its debut in the LG G3 Screen. Going with Intel means that we'll be looking at a stock Cortex core implementation, but other than that, there's no further information as to what we can expect from LG's upcoming SoC.
LG's decision to go with an in-house SoC in lieu of Qualcomm's offering isn't surprising given the headway Samsung made with its Exynos lineup. Samsung offers its own Exynos M1 CPU cores in the Exynos 8890, and fabricates them at its own foundry. However, LG will likely emulate Huawei's efforts in this segment with its Kirin SoCs, which offer stock Cortex cores with its own secret sauce in the form of custom ISPs and baseband modems.
We'll have to wait and see what comes out of LG, but with Intel deciding to fabricate ARM cores starting next year, things are about to get very interesting in the mobile SoC segment.