TSMC, Intel and Samsung continue to compete for the leadership in more advanced technologies beyond 7nm node. Samsung has already foretold that it will mass produce for 4nm technology in 2021, with the 3nm process likely to be available in 2023. In the future, Samsung will produce its own chips with its 3nm GAAFTE process. As we all know, Samsung has a lot of contracts from its internal system design center. Only when Samsung wins orders from external customers can there be structural improvements. But many external customers are wary of Samsung's dual role as player and referee which leverages its technology, production capacity and market operations against its customers. Samsung has considered spinning off its wafer foundry business to endorse its credibility, but has not made a move because semiconductor is a highly capital-intensive industry. TSMC has announced that between 2021 and 2023 it will invest US$100 billion or an annual capital expenditure of US$30 billion for capacity expansions. The budget is more than double Samsung's sales from wafer foundry business. A spun-off Samsung foundry business wouldn't be able to afford such big investments all on its own, and would face enormous challenges trying to make profits.
Chip shortages have undermined shipments to the notebook market. The top-5 notebook vendors saw their combined shipments drop 3% sequentially in August, according to the latest figures from DIGITIMES Research. Acer chairman Jason Chen has disclosed Chromebook demand has shifted from 11.6-inch models to 15-inch ones to meet needs from high school and college students. In the memory sector, DRAM contract prices will drop faster than previously expected in fourth-quarter 2021, as demand from PC OEMs decelerates.
According to market research reports, the global wafer foundry market size was about US$82 billion in 2020, with TSMC having a 55% global market share, and Samsung taking only 15%. In terms of profit in the global wafer foundry sector, TSMC took nearly 85%, compared with less than 5% for Samsung. In other words, TSMC's profit in wafer foundry business was 17 times Samsung's. Evidently, the two players are competing in different divisions. But why has Samsung been so constantly provocative? Why is South Korea going all-out, vowing to be a dominant power in the global semiconductor industry by 2030?
NAND flash pices may stablize in 2022, but supply is likely to turn tight in the second half of next year, according to Silicon Motion's president. Meanwhile, Chinese memory maker YMTC is ready to volume produce 128-layer QLC NAND flash, initially targeting consumer SSDs. And in a recent interview by DIGITIMES, Harish Krishnaswamy, CTO and co-founder of MixComm, and Marzieh Veyseh, CTO/CPO and co-founder of SiTune, talked about their views on the development of mmWave market, latest chip crunch, and the Satcom market opportunities.
MixComm, a provider of millimeter-wave (mmWave) and front-end solutions for 5G and Satcom applications, has recently announced a collaboration with SiTune, an innovator of multiple generations of RF and mixed-signal system on a chip, to develop 5G mmWave reference designs. Both companies have been recognized for their high-performance energy-efficient 5G solutions.
Since the 1970s, Taiwan and South Korea have been parallelly developing semiconductor and new-geneation IT industries. The national conditions and industrial strength of the two countries are very similar. During the Cold War, Taiwan and South Korea were part of the first island chain facing the communist world. Now the US and China are rivals that compete head to head with not only weaponry, but also the strength of the technology industry, the most representative of which is the semiconductor industry and the ubiquitous supply chain. About 60% of Taiwan's and Korea's semiconductor exports go to China. In 2020, China imported as much as US$350 billion of semiconductors, with about half of them from Taiwan and South Korea. Taiwan and South Korea both export enormously to China on the one hand, and vie for the industry leadership position on the other. South Korea specializes in memory, but Taiwan's industry structure is more diverse: wafer foundry, IC design, packaging and testing. Taiwan and South Korea dislike each other but also rely on each other.
Following in the footsteps of International IDMs and automakers to promote their SiC components for EVs, China auto and semiconductors makers are also preparing their homegrown SiC chips and modules for EV applications. After the announcement to develop SiC components a few weeks ago, Foxconn continues its investment in EV business with PPT in Thailand to expand its EV supply chains to Southeast Asia. In addition to EV manufacturing, its maintenance service recently has aroused many discussions from different sides, due to the eight-year warrants of early Tesla Model S and Model X being expired soon.
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) are becoming parts of important criteria to evaluate a company's value. ESG is crucial for a company not only because it brings positive changes to society, but also because it provides another indicator for its investors to evaluate a company's ability to mitigate risks and identify opportunities.
In a recent interview by DIGITIMES Etron chairman Nicky Lu explains why monolithic/heterogeneous integration is important to the future of the semiconductor industry. Meanwhile Apple has increased the storage capacity of its new iPhone 13 series to up to 1TB, and memory makers believe this will prompt other smartphone brands to follow suit and equip their flagship devices with the same internal storage capacity. Backend service providers believe Apple's new iPad mini 6 will generate strong orders for 5G RF modules.
While global chip shortages can hardly ease in the short term and prices continue to rise further, regional semiconductor fleets are quietly taking shape as the US, EU, South Korea, Japan and China are all moving to enhance localized chip production, strengthen foundry capability and capacity, build sound ecosystems, or pursue semiconductor self-sufficiency, according to Nicky Lu, chairman of Etron Technology, a Taiwan-based vendor of specialty buffer memory products.
Apple has just unveiled its iPhone 13 series. Digitimes Research estimates that the vendor will place orders for about 90 million units of the new smartphones with its manufacturing partners for 2021, with the iPhone 13 model expected to account for the biggest portion. The IT supply chain has endured long spells of component shortages, but constraints of consumer ICs have now shown signs of easing. But notebook battery module makers are still being troubled by IC shortage, and rising costs.
The ever-changing business environment has urged companies to always stay agile to prepare for the unexpected. Innovation, then, becomes the main factor for companies in different industries to ensure their organic growth. The traditional industries, such as textiles and apparel, bike manufacturing, food, and even real estate, are also looking for innovations either internally or via collaboration with partners.
The US-China trade tensions are driving US chip vendors away from Chinese foundry houses, which neveretheless still see strong demand from the domestic market. China's top foundry house SMIC is gearing up expansion of its mature process manufacturing capacity. US-based notebook vendors remain optimistic about demand from the enterprise segment in 2022, as they step up component purchses.
China's Big Fund is stepping up investments in the country's memory sector in line with its push for IC self-sufficiency. Meanwhile, the world's major memory chipmakers are ramping up their QLC NAND chip output, eyeing robuts demand from both the PC and server segments. And IDMs, Foxconn and BYD are gearing up deployments in third-generation semiconductors, eyeing EV applications.
Energy storage systems make renewable energy controllable, manageable, adjustable, and reduce the problems that may be caused during power delivery, according to senior director Paul Ai for Energy System Solutions Business Unit under Delta Electronics.