updated 12:05 am EDT, Fri April 6, 2012
TSMC may have low 28nm supply for CPUs, GPUs
A new and potentially far-reaching rumor has had TSMC's 28-nanometer manufacturing capacity significantly hampered for about half of the year. Supply was said by Digitimes, which has a mixed track record, to be tight enough that it wouldn't clear up until the end of the summer. The shortage was enough that it was purportedly forcing AMD, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm to all limit their releases or find alternative suppliers.
For Qualcomm, some orders for its current-generation Snapdragon processor were believed going to United Microelectronics. These still wouldn't be enough to match the demand for smartphones and tablets, according to the tips. Meanwhile, AMD's Radeon HD 7970 was said shipping only in low volumes, and NVIDIA's rivalling GeForce GTX 680 may be its creator's only 28nm desktop chipset shipping as it wanted to ensure stable supply.
TSMC was thought to be partly allowing the shortage on purpose. While it wanted to meet demand, it also wanted to preserve gross margins, which would be diluted if it made large volumes. Contract manufacturers often have to offer bulk discounts if they ship in large numbers or end up overstocking and having to clear supply.
The shortage hasn't been confirmed by Qualcomm and may be slightly contradicted by HTC haing started shipping the One S, the current and most prominent target for the 28nm Snapdragon S4. If real, though, a shortage would have extensive consequences for multiple Android phone and tablet designers' ability to meet shipping targets. Computer builders may equally be constrained if they want to use modern graphics. This could include even companies that don't normally deal with TSMC, such as Apple, as they sometimes depend on video hardware made by TSMC.