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TSMC begins small-scale A6 production for Apple

Reports claim that Taiwan Semiconductor has already started trial production of the Apple's ARM-based A6 processor as the company looks to cut ties with its rival Samsung following the pair's tit-for-tat legal action.

While Samsung and Apple have long been partners, the two companies have had a falling out of late. Each has accused the other of infringing patents, trademarks, and registered designs with their respective smartphone and tablet ranges, culminating in a decision by a court in Düsseldorf to impose an injunction on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 until everything is sorted.

That has left Apple in a somewhat precarious position: the company relies on Samsung for the production of the A4 and A5 processors which power its iPhone and iPad portable devices. As a result, the company has been looking elsewhere with TSMC coming top of the list for its new foundry partner.

What isn't yet known is how far along the negotiations are, but a report in the Taiwan Economic News claims that the company's next-generation A6 processor is already in limited production at the firm's plants with full-scale production expected to start early next year.

While little is known about the A6 processor, it is believed to take the existing A5 design and increase the performance using TSMC's 28nm production process and a 3D stacking technique. The new design is also expected to launch in both dual and quad-core variants.

There have been rumours that the A6 processor will form the heart of Apple's iPhone 5, but if so claims of a September launch would appear to be scotched: the report claims that TSMC's A6 processor design wouldn't be publicly released until Q2 of 2012, meaning that either the iPhone 5 is a an A5-powere device or fans have longer to wait than expected.

Thus far, neither TSMC nor Apple have commented on the rumoured A6 production.