Manufacturing Complicated Chips for Phones Is Real Expensive-Like

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That's the moral of this NYT story about the bubbling war in mobile chips. They're expensive to make. And, no one's better at making them than Intel, whose manufacturing tech is years ahead of anybody else.

Until recently, foundries which manufactured chips on contract stuck to simpler chip designs because that's what their tech was suited for. But now smartphones, and the chips inside of them, are a BFD, so competition's ramping up, with $3 billion plants. GlobalFoundries, which was spun out of AMD, is one of the hot-and-heavy new guys, and about to open a massively advanced (and expensive) new plant in Germany. The first chips they're making? For mobile devices.

Also expensive? Designing chips. The NYT pegs the cost of simply designing a chip at a billion dollars. (Exactly just how much "from scratch" they mean is debatable, since Apple's A4 chip and Nvidia's Tegra use off-the-shelf designs from ARM and others.)


Where things will get interesting is when these mobile chips, mostly ARM-flavored, finally start crossing the same line as Intel's, since ARM chips are scaling up as Intel scales down, and the intersection's not too far away. And that's where Intel's got a chance to really show what it's made of, since they're the last game in town that still designs and makes its own chips. [NYT]