Oppo ditches chip design project, but retains Zeku architecture crew

Amanda Liang; Samuel Howarth, DIGITIMES Asia 0


In the era of artificial intelligence (AI), major cloud computing companies, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc., are competing to invest in in-house chip design capability.

Oppo, a leading Chinese smartphone manufacturer, surprised the market by discontinuing its self-developed chips in 2023 and recently emphasized that "Oppo will no longer make chips" after a product launch event.

Liu Zuohu, Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer of Oppo said in the current trend of generative AI, Oppo has invested a significant number of resources in its self-developed chip team. More importantly, Oppo leverages the strengths of MediaTek and Qualcomm to achieve a strong partnership, he added.

Oppo communicates daily with MediaTek and Qualcomm to translate the company's understanding of users into chip language. Liu Zuohu emphasized that without prior knowledge and experience in chip development, a company would be limited to the surface and unable to identify potential issues.

He said that by not developing its own chips, Oppo has gained more "willingness" from mobile chip providers like MediaTek and Qualcomm to discuss how chips should be made. This is a crucial reason for Oppo to focus on cooperation with chip platform manufacturers.

Although Oppo's self-developed chip team, Zeku Technology, unexpectedly disbanded in May 2023, Liu Zuohu revealed that Oppo still retains Zeku's architecture team. Their task is to communicate with major mobile chip manufacturers like MediaTek and Qualcomm, starting from the basics to bridge the gap between terminal requirements and SoC capabilities.

Liu Zuohu explained that Oppo's decision not to make chips does not mean giving up on having a powerful chip team. This team, well-versed in both user needs and collaboration with mobile chip manufacturers, allows Oppo to customize chips, especially based on the requirements of large language models (LLM) and algorithms.

Regarding chip design, Oppo, with its understanding of chips and insights into user needs, communicates these requirements to mobile chip manufacturers using the language of chips. Liu Zuohu emphasized that from a technical perspective, not all smartphones can perform the same tasks with the same chip.

Oppo's advantage lies in its ability to deploy a set of LLM with 7 billion parameters to mobile terminals. This is a task that requires significant technical expertise.

Liu Zuohu said that Oppo's core value lies in its ability to be the first to apply a 7-billion-parameter LLM to smartphones. The deployment of LLM, algorithms, and the adaptation and deployment with GPU and NPU are complex tasks that require expertise.

For Liu, Oppo's team, standing on the shoulders of giants and combining its capabilities, is the core value of this group.