Samsung and Intel bosses discuss silicon cooperation

Details? Nope. Potential? Enormous.


Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and Samsung Electronics boss Lee Jae-yong met on Monday in South Korea and “discussed how to cooperate between the two companies."

That quote comes from Samsung, which also let the world know the two leaders talked about next-generation memory chips, silicon for PCs and mobile devices, fabless chip design, the foundry business, and more.

It is unclear if the talks addressed a particular issue, or just represented the heads of the world’s top two chipmakers getting together for a chat while Gelsinger was in town.

Whatever the pair discussed, the talks were tantalizing, for several reasons.

For starters, the two companies’ products scarcely overlap. Both make CPUs, but Samsung uses the Arm architecture and has a negligible presence beyond its own smartphones and tablets. Some of Samsung’s Exynos SoCs use AMD's RDNA 2 graphics. Gelsinger would doubtless prefer that changes.

Intel’s memory business is dwarfed by Samsung’s and Chipzilla’s Optane storage-class memory looks set to be strongly challenged by Compute Express Link (CXL) bringing pooled memory to the datacenter. Samsung is already championing CXL. But plenty of Samsung’s memory is designed to run inside Intel-powered servers. Any collaboration could be fascinating.

Both companies are also spending billions on new chip fabs in the USA, Samsung in Arizona and Intel in Ohio.

Under Gelsinger, Intel has also vowed to re-enter the foundry business and become a chipmaker for hire while also making its own products. Samsung may need some of that capacity while it waits for its new factories to come online.

It’s also conceivable the pair discussed supply chain issues. All chipmakers have supply chain challenges, some connected to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. The combined might of Intel and Samsung could perhaps secure supplies in ways others could not match.

The meeting took place as part of Intel CEO Gelsinger’s tour of Asia, during which he has met key suppliers and tried to address supply chain issues.

Gelsinger has also, at times, suggested that dependence on Asian suppliers represents a weakness that the USA needs to address by making sure more silicon is made stateside.

Yet on this trip, Gelsinger announced an expansion of Intel’s activities in Vietnam, news that was warmly received by the nation’s prime minister Pham Minh Chinh. ®

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