Intel Foundry, Arm target startups on chip innovations: Gold

Jack Gold

Intel Corporation and Arm are building on their previously announced relationship, which saw Arm commit to multi-generational IP targeted at Intel's 18A process technology being developed by Intel Foundry, the independent chip manufacturing business owned by Intel. What seems like the pairing of strange bedfellows is really advantageous to both.

The latest announcement looks to foster innovation targeting startups and smaller fabless chip companies. While this benefits both Intel Foundry and Arm, it has much wider implications. And it's important in that this targets the hardware side of things. Much of the focus and investment on new technology is in software, which is important, but not sufficient for major market advantages (e.g., AI, IoT, autonomous vehicles, robotics, etc.).

The majority of startups in the AI and other emerging technology chip space use Arm IP for their general compute needs, along with highly specialized acceleration circuitry specific to the targeted workloads or custom algorithms. In the past, most have had to have their chips fabricated at TSMC (or perhaps Samsung Semiconductor) to achieve leading edge processes. But with relatively small quantities, at least to start, they often went to the back of the queue as TSMC fulfilled the needs of its major clients first (e.g., Qualcomm, Apple, Nvidia, etc.).

These smaller companies now have another manufacturing option to get them to market faster, and on the Intel Foundry 18A leading edge process. Even though a significant portion of startups ultimately may not succeed, supporting innovative new companies ultimately results in advances and some successful companies that will become large customers for Arm and Intel.

There are a series of benefits that the Intel Foundry and Arm partnership brings. The benefit to Intel Corporation is that it gets more work for its foundry as it looks to becoming a major foundry player, and potentially even include some Intel Corporation IP in the resulting SoC.

The benefit to Arm is that it can diversify its licensees and achieve greater volumes by including more smaller chip players, which increases chip volumes that drives Arm's IP based revenues. It may also enhance the preference for Arm cores, rather than those of x86 (Intel, AMD) or in some cases Nvidia technology.

The benefit to the startups and smaller volume players is they don't necessarily have to be relegated to the back of the queue, and they have an additional foundry option which gives them some negotiating potential, or at the very least, a second source manufacturing option.

The benefit to the marketplace is that new products become more available more quickly, and provide more diverse options to advancing AI and other "hot" emerging technologies. The bottom line is that this arrangement is a major win for all of the players involved and the market in general, and will likely accelerate new advanced solutions from a larger number of players than if this arrangement had not been established.

RELATED: Arm and Intel Foundry to collaborate, building on past work

RELATED: The coming landscape for AI chips: Jack Gold

Jack Gold is founder and principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, LLC. With more than 45 years of experience in the computer and electronics industries, and as an industry analyst for more than 25 years, he covers the many aspects of business and consumer computing and emerging technologies. Follow him on Twitter @jckgld or LinkedIn at