No lasting friends, no lasting enemies, only lasting interests

Colley Hwang, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: Y. C. Lo on Pixabay

To ensure their competitiveness, vertical integration isn't merely a catchphrase for businesses; it's an ongoing imperative. When TSMC focuses on advanced packaging, what's ASE's game plan?

Back in 1995, Intel was manufacturing motherboards in Puerto Rico, while Taiwan's nascent motherboard industry grappled with uncertainty. Intel feared that Taiwan's motherboard sector might lag behind, sticking to previous-generation products and failing to keep pace with Intel's ever-evolving microprocessors. To tackle this challenge, Intel conjured up a hypothetical rival or enticing bait to keep Taiwanese enterprises on their toes. A similar approach can be observed in Microsoft's Surface Pro laptop strategy.

Currently, analogous scenarios are unfolding in Silicon Valley. Nvidia, with its technological edge, is poised to fortify its grip on loyal manufacturing facilities to bolster server production. Over time, it wouldn't be surprising if they channel efforts into brand-building or offering enhanced cloud services for clients. Among tech titans, Apple commands a US$3 trillion market cap, with Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and other internet giants all exceeding US$1 trillion. Tesla is also in the race, and each of these companies has blueprints for in-house chip development. Their affiliations with Nvidia may not remain steadfast, elevating the likelihood of competition not only in chip manufacturing but also in data center operations.

Google, Amazon, Tesla – these prospective rivals are likely to seek support from companies like Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Marvell. So, what roles will Taiwanese firms like MediaTek, Realtek, and Phison assume? While we've witnessed K.S. Pua facilitating Lisa Su's honorary doctorate from Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in the headlines, what I perceive is a covert alliance between AMD and Phison.

For upstream semiconductor foundries, their clientele is also undergoing structural shifts. In the past, CPUs and application processors (APs) were the primary patrons, catering to the high-end computing needs of the PC and smartphone markets, propelling advanced process development. As we step into an era of differentiation and diversification, high-end computing remains pivotal, but the focus may expand to include differentiation, functionality, hardware-software integration, and security considerations.

Historically, eminent tech leaders made occasional visits to Taiwan for specific purposes. Over the past half-century, the Microsoft president visited Taiwan just twice, once during the WCIT 2000 and again when Steve Ballmer journeyed to China in 2009, making a pit stop in Taiwan. Rumor has it he was highly content with his Taiwan trip and left a parting note: "If I ever have a three-day visit to Asia in the future, one day will be reserved for Taiwan." This time, Jensen Huang stayed for 10 days, and Lisa Su for five. It's evident that Taiwan has transformed into a "strategic hub," and their stay isn't solely about savoring local cuisine.

In essence, there are no permanent foes or friends in semiconductor industry, but as long as Taiwan maintains its prowess, everyone will extend their stay in Taiwan!

Colley Hwang, president of DIGITIMES Asia, is a tech industry analyst with more than three decades of experience under his belt. He has written several books about the trends and developments of the tech industry, including Asian Edge: On the Frontline of the ICT World published in 2019, and Disconnected ICT Supply Chain: New Power Plays Unfolding published in 2020.