ATI to expand TSMC's production role in 2H

Just when 0.13 micron demand will outstrip supply

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Nvidia may have turned to IBM to share production of its GeForce FX chips with TSMC, but rival graphics chip maker ATI is quite happy with the Taiwanese foundry, thank you very much.

So said ATI CEO K Y Ho in a conference call with Far Eastern media this week, according to DigiTimes. The company expects to "significantly increase" orders with TSMC and its secondary foundry partner, UMC, later year, said Ho.

TSMC currently churns out all of ATI's 0.13 micron parts, including the upcoming Radeon 9600. The output of 0.15 micron chips, such the recently announced and now shipping Radeon 9800, and the old Radeon 9200, is shared with UMC. UMC may later win orders for 0.13 micron parts too.

Ho said the company was not considering a move to 0.09 micron/90nm until 2004 at the earliest.

TSMC has said it will begin volume production of 90nm parts in July.

Ho's comments follow Nvidia's announcement last week that it has signed IBM to produce GeForce FX chips, ending the graphics company's long-standing sole-supplier relationship with TSMC. At the time, Nvidia was quick to state that the move should in no way be seen as a criticism of TSMC - oh, really? - and affirmed its partnership with the foundry.

Certainly TSMC has been widely rumoured to be the cause of the problems experienced by Nvidia getting its 0.13 micron GeForce FX 5800 chip to market. Ho said he had heard such rumours but has found TSMC's 0.13 micron process to be no worse than anyone else's.

Ho's comments can be read as a dig at his old rival, essentially by shifting the blame away from TSMC and back to Nvidia itself. However, ATI is only now offering a 0.13 micron part, the 9600, long after Nvidia migrated to that process, so there's no call for getting all smug.

TSMC, meanwhile, has said it expects demand for 0.13 micron parts to grow by 10-20 per cent in the second half of the year. With its current capacity of 20,000 wafers a month, it will be unable to meet that demand. It is already looking at expanding 0.13 micron production at other facilities, the company said. ®

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