Intel-TSMC Alliance Could Broaden Use Of Atom Processor

The move marks the first time Intel will allow another company to manufacture one of its core processor products.

Under the new alliance, Intel and TSMC will combine the circuitry of the ultra low-wattage Atom chip with the circuitry from other TSMC processors to create a new architecture that could be used to power a wide range of products. Today, the Atom chip is most widely used in netbook computers, including the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 and Hewlett-Packard's HP Mini 2140 Notebook PC.

Under the terms of the collaboration deal outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the two companies, Intel and TSMC will develop technology platforms, intellectual property and system-on-a-chip solutions using Atom and TSMC technology. Intel said in a statement that the Atom CPU cores will be ported to the TSMC technology platform, including "processes, IP [intellectual property], libraries and design flows."

"Intel intends to significantly broaden the market opportunities for its Intel Atom SoCs [system-on-a-chip] and accelerate deployment of the architecture through multiple SoC implementations," according to Intel.

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Under the deal, the Atom processor, which has 47 million transistors, could find its way into mobile Internet devices, smartphones, set-top boxes, cameras and AC-powered consumer electronics, Intel said.

The alliance marks a major departure for Intel, which has always manufactured its own microprocessor cores, a Reuters story said. TSMC already manufactures some wireless devices and chipsets for Intel.

The new Intel-TSMC relationship should open new markets more quickly for the Atom chip, Reuters quoted Raymond James analyst Hans Mosesmann as saying. The deal does not include any transfer of Intel's prized manufacturing process technology to TSMC.