Apple driving move to 64-bit mobile processors, TSMC says

After Apple announced its A7 processor last year, the industry has been moving to 64-bit, says a TSMC co-CEO.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Apple's 64-bit A7 processor: TSMC's co-CEO said that Apple is driving the industry to 64-bit. Apple

Apple has moved the mobile device industry to 64-bit, an executive from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. said at an earnings conference.

"If you observe the mobile device industry, in the past six months we do see the...conversion to 64-bit [in processors] after the Apple [64-bit A7 processor] announcement," Mark Liu, co-CEO of TSMC, said at a conference on Thursday after TSMC announced its first-quarter results.

Apple announced the 64-bit A7 processor in September of last year. The announcement surprised Qualcomm, galvanizing it to announce a slew of 64-bit processors in the following months. MediaTek -- another large mobile processor supplier -- has chimed in too with 64-bit announcements.

Because of that "we see increased demand on 28- and 20-nanometer, this year as well as next year," Liu said, referring to the current 28-nanometer manufacturing process and the more advanced 20-nanometer process, which the company has been ramping up.

TSMC just started production in January of 20-nanometer system-on-a-chip products (which the company calls 20SoC). It is the "fastest ramp in TSMC history," said C.C. Wei, co-CEO.

TSMC is the largest contract chip manufacturer in the world and has been rumored to be one of the suppliers of Apple's next-generation processor, sometimes referred to as the A8.

Maybe related to this, TSMC said that big changes are under way at the company.

"This is one of the largest mobilizations in semiconductor history. In one year we have fielded [a team] of 4,600 engineers and 2,000 operators in two fabs (manufacturing facilities)," according to Wei.

Executives said that demand for chips in the second quarter is "unseasonably strong."

Analysts seemed to be hinting at Apple as a potential customer during the Q&A session of the conference.

"In the not-too-distant-future, TSMC's top two customers may have 25-30 percent of total revenues, both in the mobile segment," one analyst commented.

TSMC is also working on an even more advanced 16-nanometer process for future delivery to customers.

Finally, it should be noted that Samsung is also expected to participate in the production of Apple's next-gen processors. To date, Samsung has been the exclusive processor supplier to Apple.