Intel’s Unexpected Embrace: Rivals Welcome at the Foundry Gates

When it comes to the cutthroat world of tech, the notion of a semiconductor giant cozying up to its rivals seems about as likely as a cat willingly sharing its favorite spot in the sun. But hold on to your hats, folks, because Intel’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, has just thrown a curveball that’s leaving the industry scratching its collective head in bewilderment.

During the IFS Direct Connect event, Gelsinger reiterated Intel’s audacious plan to open its foundry doors to any and every company, including long-standing rivals like AMD. Yes, you read that right – the same AMD that has been giving Intel a run for its money in the processor game could soon be manufacturing its chips using Intel’s most advanced process nodes and top-notch intellectual property (IP).

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, what? Isn’t that like handing the enemy the keys to the kingdom?” Well, according to Gelsinger, it’s all part of Intel’s grand strategy to become the “global foundry leader.” And in the world of business, sometimes you have to make strange bedfellows, right?

But the real kicker here is that Intel isn’t just offering its foundry services; it’s also putting its entire IP portfolio on the table, including its leading-edge packaging technology. Imagine AMD or, heck, even Nvidia, using Intel’s own tech to potentially outshine Intel’s internal product teams. Talk about a mind-bending scenario!

Gelsinger didn’t delve too deep into the logistics of how Intel plans to handle this potential conflict of interest, but he did offer a glimpse into the company’s thinking. Apparently, Intel’s foundry business will operate as a separate legal entity, with its own financial reporting and a singular goal: “fill the fabs and supply the broadest set of customers in the world.”

Now, some might call this move counterintuitive, but Gelsinger sees it as a necessary step to cement Intel’s position as the go-to foundry for the entire industry. After all, as he put it, “We can’t afford to discriminate against any company that wants to use it.”

And if you’re still skeptical, just take a look at the unexpected camaraderie on display at the event. Intel Foundry Services chief Stu Pann referred to longtime rival Arm as one of their “most important customers,” even inviting Arm CEO Rene Haas to share the stage. It’s a scene that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but hey, times are changing, and Intel is determined to lead the charge.

intel Foundry says that Arm is its "most important customer"

As Gelsinger boldly proclaimed, “I expect my foundry business to be used by everybody, period. We want to help build Nvidia chips, AMD chips, Google’s TPU chips, Amazon’s inference chips, period.” And if that means cannibalization of Intel’s own product divisions, so be it – the foundry must be fed.

With Intel opening its doors to rivals, the race for innovation just got a whole lot more exciting – and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see some unexpected alliances and groundbreaking advancements emerge from this unconventional approach.

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