Apple buys San Jose semiconductor fab

December 15, 2015 // 11:36 a.m.

Tags: #apple #arm #fab #gpu #ip #manufacturing #samsung #semiconductor #soc

Apple has given meat to rumours that it is developing its own in-house graphics processor technology to match its CPU designs, purchasing a former semiconductor fabrication facility in San Jose for $18.2 million.

While Apple's laptop and desktop product lines use off-the-shelf processors from Intel - albeit frequently being given early access to technologies and models before the mainstream PC industry - the company has long maintained its own custom CPU designs for mobile products, based on intellectual property from UK chip design giant ARM. Its graphics processors, while embedded into these custom system-on-chip products, have previously been similarly off-the-shelf IP - but rumours have been circulating that Apple is looking to change that by switching to an in-house design.

These rumours are nothing new, of course: back in 2013 the company hired at least a dozen former AMD GPU staff in a move pundits claimed was to develop in-house GPU tech, and while no product releases have appeared in the last two years another acquisition this week suggests the company's plans are proceeding apace. In a deal valued at $18.2 million and reported by Silicon Valley Business Journal, Apple has purchased a 70,000 building in San Jose previously owned by semiconductor manufacturer Maxim Products - giving Apple it's first wholly-owned silicon fab.

Apple isn't likely to stop ordering its parts from third-party fabs like Samsung, though: the small-scale facility, which is tooled for 600mnm to 90nm process nodes rather than the sub-30nm nodes commonly used for mobile processors and GPUs, is more likely to be used for small-scale production runs of components to test out new designs before committing to a larger third-party run.

Apple, as is common for the company, has remained silent on its plans for the manufacturing facility.
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