The rumours started when the Korean outlet SE Daily claimed that Intel and Samsung were in negotiations for production of Intel's 14nm Rocket Lake processors in 2021, citing trade war pressures and Intel's production capacity constraints (amidst record demand) that led to a shortage of 14nm processors.
However, Tom's Hardware deep throats have confirmed that processors are not on the negotiating table. Instead, the talks centre around simpler devices, likely chipsets, on an unspecified node.
The report was a little flawed given Chipzilla’s multi-year design cycles for large processors and the fact Intel's IP would have to pass on a lot of its secret sauce to Samsung.
Intel is now designing new microarchitectures which are portable between nodes. That will allow the company to move forward even if it encounters roadblocks on its path to smaller transistors. The Sunny Cove microarchitecture is the first new design that can be used on multiple nodes, but Intel has stated the new core will debut on the 10nm node.
If Samsung was to produce 14nm wafers it would have to use Intel's process technology, which is extremely unlikely.
Intel has used TSMC in the past but only for simple designs, like Atom processors and chipsets.
"Tom" says that Intel and Samsung are in negotiations, but the talks center on simpler designs, likely chipsets, that are far easier to outsource. That move would also make sense given
Intel's move back to the 22nm node for chipsets last year due to a shortage of 14nm production capacity. Intel produces one chipset per processor, so the small chips consume a significant portion of the company's wafer output and packaging and test capacity, so offloading that production to Samsung would be a good fit. That approach also allows Intel to focus its own production capacity on high-margin products.
It would allow Intel to sidestep the China tariffs by using Samsung's South Korea facilities. Intel already moved some packaging and test facilities to Vietnam last year, and last week moved PCH (chipset) assembly and test from Chengdu, China to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.