The supply chain shortage has not seen any relief in 2021, particularly when it entered the third-quarter traditional electronic peak season. Market demand has increased, but overall production capacity has not.
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.
NAND flash prices are expected to stay stable in 2022, but the supply of such chips is likely to turn tight in the second half of next year, according to Wallace Kou, president of Taiwan-based NAND controller vendor Silicon Motion Technology.
China-based Yangtz Memory Technologies (YMTC) has shipped over 300 million 64-layer 3D NAND flash memory chips and is ready to volume produce 128-layer QLC (quad-level cell) NAND, according to the company's chief operating officer Cheng Weihua.
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.
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.
With Apple's new iPhones featuring one terabyte of storage, other brands are expected to follow suit by launching more flagship smartphones featuring at least 1TB of internal storage, according to sources at memory makers.
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.
Powered by digital transformation and other secular technology trends, global semiconductor equipment investments for front end fabs in 2022 are expected to reach nearly US$100 billion to meet soaring demand for electronics after topping a projected US$90 billion this year, both new records, according to SEMI.
TSMC is forecast to see its revenue in the second half of this year grow 14% from the level in the first half, with revenue for all of 2021 set to represent a 24% on-year surge, according to IC Insights.
Kioxia has announced it is sampling its FL6 Series enterprise NVMe SCM SSDs. Featuring Kioxia's SCM solution, XL-FLASH, the dual-port and PCIe 4.0-compliant FL6 Series SSDs bridge the gap between DRAM and TLC-based drives. This makes them well-suited to latency-sensitive use cases such as caching layer, tiering and write logging.
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.
Major NAND flash chip suppliers are poised to ramp up their output for QLC (quad-level cell) NAND chips between the end of this year and 2022, eyeing robust demand for not only PCs but also datacenter applications, according to industry sources.
More China-based memory makers will receive cash injections from the government, as China's National IC Industry Investment Fund (Big Fund) steps up its investment in the country's homegrown memory sector, according to industry sources.
Memory price growth is poised to lose momentum in the fourth quarter of 2021, as chip suppliers, and downstream distributors and module houses see their deliveries disrupted by the ongoing shortages of controller chips and other ICs, according to Team Group.