Fab firm Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co might just be able to beat Intel by releasing the world's first 3D processor, as the former is said to be launching its first commercially available 3D chips before the end of 2011, which would pitch it against Intel's own scheduled 22nm Tri-Gate products (Ivy Bridge) according to a person close to the situation.
This could be a massive selling point should TMSC want to convince Apple to switch production from Samsung Electronics for the successors of the iPhone 5 & iPad 2. The iPhone manufacturer is apparently looking to move because both Apple and Samsung have become significant competitors in a number of segments, and allowing Samsung to build the brains in its devices would leave Apple with a significant competitive disadvantage.
Apple's appetite for silicon chips is big enough for TSMC to consider granting Apple exclusivity to the manufacturing process for the foreseeable future. That would also guarantee that TSMC doesn't provide 3D chips for Apple's competitors (like Nvidia, Qualcomm, Marvell or Broadcom), all of which are fabless companies relying on TSMC for producing the goods.
Going 3D is expected to boost performance by a third while slashing power consumption by half, a compelling argument when planning for more powerful smartphones and tablets.