SEC Filing Reveals NVIDIA Now Using Samsung for Some Manufacturing

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2015 - 12:09 AM |
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, Semiconductor, Samsung, process node, nvidia, gpu, fab

Want to liven up your weekend? Forget college basketball, we all know that few things are more exciting than SEC filings - and oh boy do we have a great read for you! (OK, this one is actually interesting!)

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Ah, legal documents...

NVIDIA has disclosed in their latest 10-K filing that none other than Samsung is manufacturing some of the company’s chips. TSMC has been the source of GPUs for both AMD and NVIDIA for some time, but this filing (the full document is available from the SEC website) has a very interesting mention of the suppliers of their silicon under the “Manufacturing” section:

"We utilize industry-leading suppliers, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, to produce our semiconductor wafers."

Back in December NVIDIA commented on its lawsuit against Samsung for alleged IP theft, which only makes this partnership seem more unlikely. However even Apple (which has their own famous legal history with Samsung, of course) has relied on Samsung for some of the production of their A-series SoCs, including the current crop of A8 chips.  Business is business, and Samsung Foundry has been a reliable source of silicon for multiple manufacturers - particularly during times when TSMC has struggled to meet demand at smaller process nodes.

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Samsung's Current Semiconductor Offering

It is unclear at this point whether the wafers produced by Samsung Semiconductor are for NVIDIA’s mobile parts exclusively, or if any of the desktop GPUs were produced there rather than at TSMC. The partnership could also be attributed simply to scale, just as Apple has augmented A8 SoC supply with their rival’s fab while primarily relying on TSMC. It will be interesting to see just how pervasive the chips produced by Samsung are within the NVIDIA lineup, and what future products might be manufactured with their newest 14nm FinFET process technology.

Source: SEC

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March 21, 2015 | 12:53 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Samsung happy to take Nvidia money. They can fund there legal fees and bank roll their counter suit against Nvidia with its own money.

March 21, 2015 | 01:30 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Samsung's ITC Case Against Nvidia Moves Forward,2817,2474163,00.asp

Its funny. Nvidia gets sued by Samsung on 6 manufacturing patents and then ask them to manufacture chips.

Samsung is probably saying thanks for the closer look and we will sue you with your own money.


March 21, 2015 | 10:53 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well AMD uses Intel Xeons in their SeaMicro server kit, and AMD makes money on the deal, so lawsuits are not about metaphysical hate from one company to another. Courts are where un-reconcilable disputes are settled. So Nvidia needs some chip fab capacity on a smaller process node, Nvidia is a fabless GPU maker, so it goes to the company that meets these requirements, do you thing Samsung can say no to the deal, not really if Samsung does not want to get hit with an unfair trade practices lawsuit! And really Samsung's fab division has its own management, and that management's goal is to sell fab services/capacity, and Samsung will take both Apple's, and Nvidia's business and Samsung fabs will make revenues, and profits. So all companies sue all the other companies at one time or another, that is why companies retain legal departments and sometimes outside legal help. It Business, and legal costs are factored in to the costs of every product. Legal costs are legitimate business expenses that are subtracted from any net profits, and are tax deductible.

Do you think companies' management base their decisions on any other reasons than the fiduciary responsibility to produce a profit for their investors. lawsuits are not personal, they are part of business, and the courts are where that final say on the dispute is settled. Corporate law is a field unto itself, that and product liability law, and trade Law, and antitrust law, patent law, etc. to name a few legal areas where businesses need legal services at some time or another.

March 21, 2015 | 10:55 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

edit: do you thing
to: do you think

March 21, 2015 | 04:07 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nobody asked you, nobody is impressed

March 22, 2015 | 11:29 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Everybody Knows that you are that guy with that wears the large Yellow prophylactic, the one with the Fanboi pathology, and the Jethro Bodine view of the technology business. Business is not a football game, its much more complicated, and your fanboi anger shows, at the very idea of the reality that exists beyond the stale air of the basement, and your little dream world where every thing is black and white. All those intricate shades of gray just boggle that single brain cell, so immediately surrounded by inches of thick bone, bone all the way to the scalp, and that prominent mono brow!

March 21, 2015 | 04:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Do you think companies' management base their decisions on any other reasons than the fiduciary responsibility to produce a profit for their investors."

Please tell me that's a joke question?

Management bases their decisions on producing profit for themselves. Period.

Sometimes that behavior equates to a long term growth strategy like Bill Gates implemented for Microsoft, but more often - especially lately - it's a smash and grab operation put in place to maximize quarterly earnings and the resulting bonuses at the expense of future revenues and growth. See IBM's current management as an example.

The incentives for management are all geared toward burning the company to the ground and making a quick fortune while doing it. Welcome to capitalism in the 21st century.

March 22, 2015 | 11:11 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Fiduciary responsibility yes, or its out the door with the CEO/others, and do you not notice the amount of shareholder lawsuits against management! The Management has to serve the interest of the stockholders, or the BOD will find itself in a lot of trouble, along with the CEO, CFO and others! Do you think that CALPERS, or any other huge pension fund, is going to keep their billions/trillions in any company that is being brought down by management, if management can survive that long without being removed. For sure American management is paid too much, and the Japanese have the right idea on just what an MBA is really worth. The only management who deserves to become a multimillionaire/billionaire is the one that invests his or her own money in the companies' stock at the ground floor beginning of a company's founding/IPO. Then the CEO/whatever is assuming risk along with the other investors. IBM's current management is not doing a good job, when the investors get tired of the business they will divest, or put pressure on the BOD to remove the current management, IBM has a peculiar problem in that they are not going to be able to keep earning those high margins, and they have recently gone fabless, but have retained their CPU IP, and research fabs/division. IMB has the fattest patent portfolio on the planet, so don't expect them to go under just yet.

For sure IBM's licensing of the Power8(Power8 variants) designs/IP via the OpenPower foundation to third parties will bring IBM more licensing/sales revenues, and if the licensed power8 market takes off IBM stands to make plenty of revenues from licensing, and the entire server market will obtain lower cost server SKUs of a more powerful than Xeon class for the server room Power8 variants. IBM is not doing to shabby with its federal systems contracts(Supercomputer contract Power9, with Nvidia Volta accelerators), or its large enterprise systems sales, they could be better for SMB, but not until IBM increases its market share with lower margin products. Even the third party Power8 licensees who opt for power8 on Linux, could still be later sold IBM's software products and services, be they Linux based, or IBM z/OS, z/VSE, z/TPF, Linux on z Systems and the z/VM hypervisor. Should the owners of the third party power8 hardware choose, who knows, but getting the power8 IP out there ARM holdings style will increase the market for all power8 based services, even AMD could acquire a power8 license and offer more options through its SeaMicro server division.

Your description of 21st Century capitalism looks an awful lot like late 19th early 20th Century capitalism, and people are starting to get tired of the rehash, and the US Justice department not enforcing the laws on the books.

Note: Many of the largest public pension funds have seats on the board of directors of many of the companies that the pension funds are invested in, with large shares of company stock comes representation on the BOD. For sure American management is overpaid, and needs to be brought down a peg or two!

March 22, 2015 | 11:13 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

edit: IMB
to: IBM

March 22, 2015 | 06:03 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's just the way big corporations work. If its profitable, they'll gladly sleep with the "enemy".

Remember Samsung also does a lot of manufacturing for Apple, and both sides are slugging each other out with lawsuits.

March 22, 2015 | 07:32 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

They will do whatever it takes to make sales, and dealing with one huge conglomerate like Samsung, and Samsung's foundry business, while simultaneously suing the conglomerate's phone/other division over IP/GPU patents happens all of the time. Business is not a war game, and having a patent does not guarantee success for certain technical occurrences!

If prior art can be shown, and Nvidia can not enforce the patent, sometimes patents can be awarded by the patent and trademark office, and when they go to trial it is discovered there is prior art, or the patent and trademark office allowed something to be patented that should never have been allowed in the first place, like a natural occurrence of miniaturization that allows more functionality to be integrated on a CPU/GPU Chip, the simple fact of being able to cram more on a chip is not patentable, but an exact process of doing so may be, if the process is innovative enough to be considered new ART, and just about everybody and their dog is getting more functionality, CPU/GPU/Other, on chips using many different patented processes.

Nvidia is suing over:

■ The entire concept of the GPU, or a dedicated graphics processing chip

■ Programmable shading

■ Unified shading

■ Multithreaded processing on a GPU

These are very broad categories, and may or may not hold, epically the first one, but if the first claim falls, then the other ones may not hold up, Nvidia's implementation of Programmable Shading/etc. may be defendable if someone copies the exact implementation, but if another company implements a different programmable shading functionality/implementation and integrates it on a GPU DIE, well Nvidia may not have a leg to stand on if the first claim fails, same for the remainder of the claims.

This is typical the types of claims companies have with each other especially in the technology sector. Nvidia is sticking its head out there on this one, because in court the patent holders patents will be subject to intensive scrutiny, and any mistakes the patent and trademark office may have made in awarding the patents in the first place, could come back to bite Nvidia in the wallet area.

For sure Nvidia needs that 14nm process going forward to keep up with AMD, and their other obligations, maybe GlobalFoundries is so busy with AMD's and now IBM's business that Nvidia needed to get the fab capacity from Samsung. Nvidia can't afford to let that supercomputer business with IBM get delayed, Nvidia makes gigabucks from its server/HPC/supercomputer contracts.

March 21, 2015 | 04:42 AM - Posted by JohnGR

That's a little old. It is known from the beginning of February that Nvidia Apple and Qualcomm would be the first to start using Samsung's 14nm. I guess the next Tegra chip will be done on Samsung's 14nm.

March 21, 2015 | 10:48 AM - Posted by Jabbadap (not verified)

yeah agreed, especially with tegra. I don't think that samsung has a node where you can bake full fat gpus.

hmm I wonder where umc vanished. If I remember correctly, nvidia made some of its gpus there...

March 21, 2015 | 06:30 AM - Posted by MarkT (not verified)

I saw this and went hmmm, 14nm....

March 21, 2015 | 01:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Wont belong before TSMC goes the way of UMC. Remember them? Yeah nobody does anymore.

Future will be the Samsung/Global Foundry alliance.

March 21, 2015 | 02:50 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Kinda contrary to what tsmc's financial reports are saying bub.

Why do you think that tsmc depends on gpu wafers to survive?

tsmc does 40, 28 20 and 16ff+ for soc's, and is getting into 14 and 7 by 2017

if you think they're going to disappear, you're soley mistaken.

March 21, 2015 | 09:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not saying they aren't making boat loads of money, but the truth is they are always one node away from near irrelevance from another market leader. TSMC being so far ahead of UMC on 28nm pretty much gave them market dominance overnight. Both are still making tons of money, but UMC isn't even in the race anymore.

Samsungs R&D and profits put TSMC to shame and they are starting to take their fabs seriously.

If TSMC wasn't so far behind on their planned 16nm/16nmFF+ Samsung would be largely irrelevant.

March 21, 2015 | 09:01 PM - Posted by Rick (not verified)

Didn't amd announce months ago they were using Samsung 14nm process? Remember everyone made a big deal when tsmc announced their 16/14nm process and nvidia was a partner. Everyone was say what about amd? Now nvidia is jumping off the tsmc boat.

All tsmc has been lately is delay delay delay. Who can blame everyone from jumping ship.

March 22, 2015 | 12:44 PM - Posted by Jabbadap (not verified)

If I remember correctly it was global foundries which was teaming up with samsung for 14nm ff. So not exactly directly for amd, but foundry whose biggest customer is amd.

So yeah if GF get their node ready in time, it actually could give a real competition for tmsc for big chip manufacturing(gpus and apu/cpu).

March 22, 2015 | 03:30 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Samsung, Globalfoundries, and IBM have been in a technology sharing partnership for some years now, and IBM is out of the commercial fab business, except for research fabs. Global foundries was paid by IBM to take over their commercial fab business, and Globalfoundries is contract bound to supply IBM with fabrication business, after that contract expires IBM is free to obtain fabrication services from the lowest bidder. You can be damn sure that IBM supplied Samsung with much of the IP assistance in getting that 14nm node up and running, and IBM is the reason that GlobalFoundries got license to the Samsung 14nm process. TSMC is not going anywhere, as it too will get a 14nm process node, and the OpenPower power8 licensees are free to choose their own power8 fab partners, and IBM could care less, owing to IBM's need for a fab partner for its power8, and power9 processors, the power9 processors(and Volta GPUs accelerators) are going into the government supercomputer contract that IBM/OpenPower/Nvidia won. Simple third party competitively low cost fab capacity supply is what IBM was after when it started the Fab/Other IP technology sharing project with Samsung/GlobalFoundries to begin with several years back.

IBM will continue to supply technology process assistance to any fab that IBM, and the third party Power8 licensees choose to do business with, IBM is looking for an ARM style market/ecosystem to develop around its power/power8/power9 third party licensees, and IBM's own needed supply of Powre8/power9 CPU internal needs. TSMC could very well benefit too, should one of those Chinese power8 third party licensees chose TSMC for its Fab partner, and both Samsung and GlobalFoundries may themselves not have enough capacity to handle all the Power8 fabrication needs that will need to come online to handle the third party licensed power8 business. Ramping up new fabs takes time, so if TSMC has any excess fab capacity that a Power8 third party licensee may need, for sure IBM will help out TSMC, like it did for Samsung and Globalfoundries, IBM will make a lot of money from the Third party licensed OpenPower designs and Power8 licensing.

The hardware business is going to be continuously moved towards commodity pricing, CPU, SOC, GPUs, so expect the profitability of the server CPU SKUs to be squeezed by competition, just as much as the mobile devices SOC market is. Most of the worlds fabrication business will be done by dedicated fab businesses, as it is the most economically efficient way of manufacturing, and spreads the costs of fab process node development across the whole market/industry. Even Intel is going to be hard pressed to keep its production on its own fabs, and will have to absorb all the continued multibillion dollar costs of its newer smaller process nodes! Note that Intel is using some 28nm third party(TSMC) fab process production on its x86 Rockchip co-designs, before Intel transitions it to its own 14nm process. So even Intel will have to become a third party fab of sorts, though not on the scale of Samsung/GF/TSMC.

The entire industry of CPU/SOC/GPU makers are/or will become fabless, or become third party fabs themselves to keep the economy of scale spread across the most possible unit sales. And keeping the volume of sales as large as possible in the only way to afford the continued process node shrinks, it's costs 10s of billions, and the Fabs have to be running at as close to full capacity as possible to make any economic sense.

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