An expanded custom chip business isn't out of the question, though. Processors-to-order can keep the fabs a-flowing until Intel strikes the mobile mother lode.
Intel does bring unparalleled processor design technology to the table. Then, too, some of its fabs are running slim these days, and the custom chips they've designed thus far have all been of the high-margin variety. Plus, the impending move to larger 450mm wafers means that existing fabs will have even higher capacities in the future.
"If they don't feel they can fill their fabs [with in-house work], that's the time for Intel to do a very broad foundry business," Moorhead says. Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research, told PCWorld that eventually 20 percent of the chips coming out of Intel fabs will likely be contract work, no doubt of the high-margin variety.
So, we might see Intel take on more custom foundry customers here and there, but it's basically a side gig--albeit potentially a billion-dollar side gig.
But hey, it's always good to have a Plan B. Intel has to pay for that $18 billion in R&D costs somehow.
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