While this news has been anticipated, the fact that more and more details are emerging are still incredibly surprising and thought provoking.  According to reports, TSMC, the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, has started test runs of the SOI technology used by all of AMD’s current processors.  AMD and TSMC already have plenty of agreements in place for sharing technology since ATI was a big TSMC partner before it was purchased by AMD in 2006 so the relationship should be easy to continue.  It seems more and more likely that we’ll be getting AMD processors made by outside fabs as soon as early 2009.

What is still unknown, because AMD’s CEO refuses to discuss the issue still, is HOW MUCH of the AMD production will move from their own fabs to TSMC and what the company plans to do with the excess fab space it has now once the transition is underway.  The idea is for AMD to save money and return to profitability by having TSMC take over some or most of CPU production but without actually selling off the uber-expensive fab facilities I don’t see how AMD is really going to be cutting corners. 

We still need more information…

If you wonder what that AMD/TSMC deal will mean for you, the effects of this tie-up are very simple: TSMC has a massive output capacity. TSMC manufactures more than two thirds of all chips sold by ATI, Nvidia, VIA, Conexant, Marvell, FPGA manufacturers and FPU accelerators. TSMC is considered the world’s largest foundry today.

Even if AMD puts restrictions on the use of SOI, TSMC is likely to gain experience to develop and enhance its manufacturing technologies with SOI wafers, including lucrative “half-node die shrinks”. One of the potential cash cows is the scaling of 45 nm SOI to 40 nm SOI. This also applies to the 32 nm process and its half-node shrink.