News out of Taipei today states that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) announced yesterday that it's to start high-volume production of its most advanced 20-nanometer (nm) chips next month. The move would make TSMC the world's leading contract chipmaker supplying 20nm chips. Analysts say that mass 20nm chip production could put TSMC in a position to dethrone Samsung as the supplier of Apple's next-generation A8 chip next year. The only question remaining is whether Apple's iPhone 6 will use TSMC's 20nm or upcoming 16nm chip which begins production late this year.
TSMC's new president and CEO Mark Liu said in a keynote speech yesterday at the company's annual supply chain management forum in Hsinchu that "The 20nm system-on-a-chip is the most critical ramp-up TSMC has carried out in years. We will start high-volume production of this chip next month."
Daiwa Capital Markets analyst Eric Chen noted that TSMC is expected to ship 165,000 20nm chips to Apple next year. Yet to make sense, Chen likely meant to say 165,000 wafers.
In his speech, Liu highlighted TSMC's progress on the 16nm technology front, saying that the company recently initiated the production of 16nm chips and planned to begin mass production within a year or one year ahead of schedule.
Whether the 16nm chips will make it into Apple's production lines on time for Q4 2014 iDevices is unknown at this time. If they don't, we're likely to see them roll out some time in 2015.