Computerbase has dug up an interesting news item that already happened at the end of 2020. Namely that Sony has bought 35 so-called GAA patents from Intel. At first glance, this looks strange in many respects.
Briefly explained, GAA (gate-all-around) is THE hot transistor technology for chip production of the next decade. After FinFETs, almost every manufacturer is betting on GAA and there is little doubt that GAA transistors will be an important building block for chip production in 2-3nm.
Since Intel has been researching GAAs for many years, a lot of patents have already been accumulated. Which brings us to the first oddity: All other news sources reported on this topic that Intel SELLS the patents. At first we thought that "licensed" was the wrong translation, but it seems that Intel is actually selling the patents to Sony.
For Sony this should mean a clear commitment to more manufacturing power in the chip sector. Anyone who buys rather than licenses wants to be at the forefront of future production and needs the corresponding patents (among other things, as protection against competitors like Samsung, who can be legally tamed by a patent exchange agreement). Thus, the purchase is a very clear declaration of intent by Sony to remain dominant in image sensor production in the next decade. It fits in well that Sony will very soon start up a newly built factory for image sensors in Nagasaki, Japan.
But what is going on at Intel? Do they not need these patents because they hold so many manufacturing patents that they are on patent exchange parity with every major manufacturer anyway? Or has Intel given up on GAAs as the way of the future and is taking a completely different path for its own processors?
In fact, Intel is now using the self-developed SuperFins, which are considered the saviour of Intel&s 10nm production for its current 10nm production as a successor to FinFETs. Should these perhaps be able to serve for future processes instead of GAAs? That would be a nice bang, though, if Intel sees (its) future without GAA and this would become obvious through this Sony deal. But we don&t quite want to believe this either, because we think this should have caused more of a stir in the tech media landscape than a late report at Computerbase (and now at ours ;)
What remains certain, however, is that Sony obviously sees a lot of future in its sensor production and that we can expect a lot of innovative pressure from the Japanese...