UMC wins Xbox chip supply contract

TSMC can't make enough of 'em

Updated UMC looks likely to sneak Nvidia's Xbox chip production contract - or a good portion of it, at least - from under the nose of its arch-rival, TSMC, sources close to the foundry have claimed.

The company recently completed the process of implementing the production of the Xbox GPU graphics chip and getting it qualified for full-scale output by Nvidia, the sources said, according to an EE Times report.

Long-time Nvidia partner TSMC is currently the exclusive supplier of the Xbox GPU and MCP chips. However, the foundry - the world's largest - has been criticised by Nvidia chief Jen-Hsun Huang for the poor yields it is achieving.

TSMC produces Xbox parts using a 0.15 micron process. Nvidia is also rumoured to be unhappy with TSMC's 0.13 micron process, which has already been said to be behind the problems Transmeta has had shipping its 0.13 micron Crusoe processors, the TM5600 and TM5800.

That said, TSMC this week said its Q4 sales figures would be up around 20 per cent on the back of increased orders. It wouldn't reveal from whom this extra demand had come, but analysts and investors immediately looked to Nvidia and its Xbox contract, the Microsoft games console having launched in the US this month.

High demand for Xbox components may well be fuelling demand for TSMC's production lines. If Nvidia is booking UMC to produce the parts too, it could equally have arisen because TSMC's 0.15 micron output is already up to maximum. Certainly there have some reports of late that its 0.13 micron and 0.15 micron lines are sold out.

Chinese-language newspaper the United Daily News yesterday reported that UMC's Xbox production will ramp up through December, achieving volume output of 5000 parts per month early next year. Eventually, production could hit 10,000 chips a month.

»Acer has confirmed it has begun shipping DVD-ROM drives to Microsoft. The drives will be built into Xbox for which the software giant has ordered some 300,000 units. The drives are more expensive than standard units because of the incorporation of extra anti-piracy components. ®