Apple secretly met with TSMC to reserve 2nm production for A-series, M-series, and new AI chips

Apple secretly met with TSMC to reserve 2nm production for A-series, M-series, and new AI chips
A clandestine meeting between Apple and TSMC is the subject of a report published today by the Economic Daily News (via TrendForce, 9to5Mac). According to the Economic Daily News, Apple COO Jeff Williams met with TSMC President and Co-Chief Executive Officer C.C. Wei for a secret meeting that reportedly focused on Apple's desire to reserve production capacity for TSMC's upcoming 2nm process node. Apple wants to secure the production capacity for its in-house AI chips.

As the foundry's largest customer, Apple often gets special treatment. For example, the tech giant was able to lock up all of TSMC's 3nm production capacity last year which allowed it to equip the iPhone 15 Pro models with the first and only 3nm smartphone application processor (AP) used on any smartphone released in 2023 and so far, 2024. That would be the A17 Pro chipset, built on TSMC's first-generation 3nm process node (N3B) and currently found powering the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Reserving all of TSMC's 3nm capacity also helped Apple obtain 3nm M4 chips which are used on the recently released iPad Pro (2024) tablets. TSMC says that it will start mass-producing 2nm chips during the second half of next year. For this year, all four new iPhone 16 models will be powered by an A18 AP manufactured using the foundry's second-gen 3nm node (N3E). The iPhone 16 Pro series will feature the A18 Pro SoC while the basic non-Pro phones will feature the A18 SoC.

In addition to the A-series APs being made for the iPhone, and the M-series chips used for Macs and iPads, Apple is reportedly hard at work designing a new AI chip that would be used to power data centers used for cloud-based AI. Apple wants to use on-device processing of AI tasks which would maintain user privacy while delivering faster results. Still, it would need to allow some processing to be done in the cloud in order to take full advantage of its AI capabilities. 

For its cloud-based AI processing, Apple plans to pack its data centers with servers that will, at first, run on the 5nm M2 Ultra chip. The latter is currently found inside the Mac Pro and Mac Studio.

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