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Samsung closes Texas R&D center, leaving future of Exynos chip in doubt

There are concerns over the future of Samsung’s Exynos processor after the company confirmed 290 employees will be laid off at its CPU research and development office in Austin, Texas. The news comes after rumors of the closure spread at the beginning of October, and raises questions over whether the Exynos processor will survive, or how it may be altered in the future.

Local news source the Statesman obtained a letter sent to the Texas Workforce Commission as a regulatory necessity, additionally stating the job cuts would also affect some workers at Samsung’s Advanced Computer Lab in California. The manufacturing facility in Austin will not close down, and the 3,000 employees there will not be affected. Samsung opened the Austin plant in 1996, and added a second plant in the area in 2007. It has invested $17 billion in total, and at the end of 2018, committed to invest $291 million in its wafer fabrication lab.

When asked for comment, Samsung told Digital Trends:

“Based upon a thorough assessment of our System LSI business and the need to stay competitive in the global market, Samsung has decided to transition part of our U.S.-based R&D teams in Austin and San Jose. With over 20,000 U.S.-based employees focused on design, R&D, investment, and manufacturing for next-generation technologies at the cutting edge, Samsung remains committed to supporting and growing our American workforce that are an integral part of the company’s success.”

The future of Exynos

Samsung uses its Exynos chip in a wide variety of its smartphones, most of which are sold outside the United States, where the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is used in its place. The Galaxy Note 10, for example, comes with the Snapdragon 855 chip when purchased in the U.S., but if you buy the same phone in the United Kingdom, it comes with the Exynos 9825 instead. It’s Samsung’s first built using the 7nm process, and replaces the 8nm Exynos 9820 found in some Galaxy S10 phones.

What does this closure mean for the Exynos chip? Samsung has not said it is discontinuing the processor, or that the 9825 will be the last version released. Samsung’s statement to Digital Trends doesn’t specifically mention the future of the Exynos chip, but the wording does suggest the chip has not reached the end of its life. The Austin research center is not Samsung’s only semiconductor R&D site either. It has several around the world, including in the U.K., China, and India.

There have already been hints the Exynos chip is going through some changes. Samsung recently announced a partnership with AMD to produce custom AMD Radeon graphics chips for the Exynos platform. It’s also possible Samsung will adopt ARM cores in the future. An industry analyst told Samsung’s last chips were powerful but not very efficient, and, “What it is going to do now is actually license the design, not just the IP from ARM.”

The future for the Exynos chip is cloudy, but it’s not certain the chip has been discontinued.

Updated on November 6: Added statement from Samsung

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