The Apple chips of Project Azalea

Posted by Trent Nouveau

A number of US states are reportedly competing over the location of a mysterious company known as Azalea.

Documents recently obtained by The Business Review describe the entity as a 3.2-million-square-foot semiconductor factory that could potentially employ at least 1,000 people who would be tasked with fabbing microprocessors for Apple's iPhone and iPad.

According to the EE Times, TSMC is likely the industry heavyweight behind the nascent project. Currently, Samsung builds all custom A-series processors powering Apple's iOS lineup in an Austin, Texas plant, including the latest 32-nanometer A6 processor (iphone 5) and A6X (fourth-gen iPad).

Then again, Apple is said to be interested in moving away from Samsung, as it is currently mired in a number of patent suits with the company. Plus, TSMC's 20-nanometer process make it an attractive choice for Cupertino.

In related Apple chip news, Rick Merritt of the EE Times recently speculated that Nvidia could develop ARM-powered chip stacks for Cupertino which would "make for some pretty interesting iMacs, Macbooks, and iPads."

According to Merritt, Nvidia could lay two to four graphics chips down on a 2.5-D substrate using through silicon vias to create an ultra powerful graphics-card-on-a -chip driving a muscular iMac.

"It might even add a memory chip to the mix to create a device with fast memory access, good for either an iMac or Macbook," Merrit explained. 

"What’s more, Nvidia could place one of its new Project Denver ARM cores next to a graphics chip and maybe some memory to enable a high performance, low power Macbook running iOS. A low cost iOS laptop could leapfrog anything we have seen to date out of the Windows 8 crowd."

Meritt also noted that Apple may supply its A-series SoC to Nvidia - with the company  adding graphics and memory to a stack for a high-end iPad.

"It would create a novel premium product injecting fresh life into tablets at the high end, putting more distance between Apple and its growing Android tablet competitors," he added.