Apple has acquired a former chip fabrication plant in San Jose, California, for $18.2 million, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal. The plant, a 70,000 square-foot building, was previously owned by Maxim Integrated Products. It sits just outside Samsung’s semiconductor plant.
Apple now owns a lot of land in Silicon Valley, including its spaceship headquarters, a second facility in Sunnyvale, and two other facilities in San Jose — one 300,000 square-foot facility on lease, another 290,000 square-foot facility bought for $138 million.
The company already designs its own chip for mobile devices, but the iPhone maker uses Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Samsung to manufacture them. Although there are many rumors that Apple will take matters into its own hands and start manufacturing its own processors, this particular 70,000 square-foot space is too small for actually making the chips.
That said, the company might use the facility as a test site for new mobile processors. The ability to heavily test the production line before manufacturing might give engineers ways to improve speed, consistency, and performance of the chipset before mass production. Of course, this is just speculation, and Apple has yet to announce any specific plans for the new San Jose plant.
Apple has surprised us before with its surge into the semiconductor market. The acquisition of P.A. Semi in 2008 for $278 million wasn’t seen as a move away from market leaders like Intel, Qualcomm, and Nvidia at the time, but it turned out to be the first in a series of acquisitions that allowed the iPhone maker to design its own chipsets. Manufacturing is a whole different beast, however, and it’s unclear if Apple will venture into actually manufacturing its own processors or not.
The bigger question is what does the company need all of this land in Silicon Valley for? The company has spent over $800 million in the past year acquiring facilities in San Jose, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale. Rumors of car testing, manufacturing, and other new hardware are all in the cards, but Apple hasn’t said a word about its plans for the new properties.