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Apple's A6 chip in pilot production

Apple's A6 chip is being test-manufactured at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, marking a shift away from Apple's traditional manufacturing partner Samsung, according to Reuters.

Apple has consigned trial production of its future A6 processor to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and not Samsung, its traditional manufacturing partner, according to a Reuters report.

The A6 processor is still a distant destination on Apple's chip road map. It isn't expected to appear in products until 2012, and analysts believe it will be quad-core, a first for an Apple A series chip. The A5, used in the iPad 2, is a dual-core processor.

After the A5 comes the A6, which may mark a shift to TSMC and away from Samsung.
After the A5 comes the A6, which may mark a shift to TSMC and away from Samsung. CNET

Talk of Apple jumping to Taipei-based TSMC has been driven, in part, by the legal skirmishes between Apple and Samsung. The latter has been Apple's sole manufacturing source for A4 and A5 processors.

Linley Gwennap, who heads the Linley Group, a chip consulting firm, told CNET last month that he expects Apple to continue to consign production of the A5 processor to Samsung but switch to TSMC for the A6. A possible alternative scenario would have Apple getting TSMC to make a "shrink"--a version of the chip with smaller geometries--of the A5 too. That version of the A5, for example, could be used in a future iPhone 5.

Of course, the most significant development would be for Apple to actually contract with TSMC for commercial, high-volume production of the A6. That hasn't been decided yet, according to Reuters. That said, TSMC is the largest contract chip manufacturer in the world and it seems likely that the relationship with Apple would move forward.

Intel's name is popping up, too. Piper Jaffray analyst Gus Richard told CNET last month that Intel, the largest chipmaker in the world, is aggressively seeking business with Apple. But that relationship is much more speculative at this point than the Apple-TSMC ties.