Globalfoundries' $6 billion New York chip plant waits for Apple

Apple could turn upstate New York into a global chipmaking hot spot if its rumored discussions with Globalfoundries bear fruit.

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
Inside Globalfoundries Fab 8.
Inside Globalfoundries Fab 8. Globalfoundries

Build it and Apple will come?

Globalfoundries has a spanking-new $6 billion semiconductor plant/campus (though, when an additional development center is construced, will be valued at $8 billion) in Saratoga County, N.Y., ready to make world-class chips for smartphones and tablets.

But no big customers. At least, nothing like Apple.

Then speculation surfaced Friday about Apple eyeing Globalfoundries as a possible maker of its chips, or even as a partner in a joint venture.

That could turn upstate New York's silicon corridor into something more akin to Silicon Valley. You know, like back in the day, when chip companies actually had chip fabs in California.

Fast forward 30 years to Upstate New York and Globalfoundries.

GF, the erstwhile chipmaking arm of Advanced Micro Devices, has "a lot of idle capacity and a lot of new [production] tools," a source familiar with the chipmaker told CNET on Friday.

It gets better. GF is now ready and willing to make just the kind of advanced ARM chips that Apple uses.

And what about Apple's chipmaking arrangement with Samsung and the rumored switch to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company? The Apple-Samsung relationship is slated to be renegotiated.

Apple could, theoretically, switch with relative ease to GF because "Globalfoundries and Samsung have the same technology foundation based on an IBM joint development agreement," according to the source.

The rumors about TSMC are still just rumors, though it seems likely that TSMC is set to be an Apple supplier in the near future.

For what it's worth, SemiAccurate believes that Apple may purchase a portion of GF's Fab 8 in New York, or all of it. Essentially making Apple a chipmaker in every sense of the word.

Whatever happens, it's probably very likely that Apple is seriously thinking about moving some production to GF.