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2019

07/30

The second half of AI chips is an opportunity for industry chain to reshuffle.

AI chips, after a round of player influx, also from the publicity period to the real scene landing application. This "new thing" between AI and semiconductor industries has also entered a precipitation period.


Taiwan, which has a place in the semiconductor industry, has been on AI for several years. Just this month, Taiwan set up an AI chip alliance, bringing together many of the world's leading IC companies.


Questions arise. When the upstream and downstream enterprises of the industry chain join the AI chip tide, will they change the current AI chip industry pattern? What will AI chips bring to the semiconductor industry?


Taiwan's Semiconductor Past


Taiwan has made remarkable achievements in many key links of electronic products manufacturing. At that time, the titles of the Asian Four Dragons were not unreal. However, in the later stages of technological transformation, Taiwan has always been a little worse. It is still the OEMs such as TSMC and Unicom that support half the sky, and the rising stars are few. Lack.


However, in the semiconductor field, Taiwan's advantages have always been outstanding, with a strong OEM capability. At present, most of the "core" of consumer electronic terminal products are basically from Taiwanese enterprises.


At that time, when Taiwan was determined to promote the semiconductor industry, it also made some painstaking efforts. First, led by the government, a number of decentralized industrial research institutes set up industrial technology research institutes, and then sent a large number of talents to study in the United States Radio Corporation. Then, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, the Hsinchu Science and Technology Industrial Park, known as Taiwan's Silicon Valley, was established.


Those who went to the United States to study technology basically became the mainstay of Taiwan's semiconductor industry, including Zhang Zhongmou of TSMC, Cai Mingjie of the United Development Section and so on.


Then we are very familiar with the story, TSMC and Unicom together changed the traditional production mode of IDM (semiconductor manufacturers design and manufacture their own chips), creating an era of wafer OEM. It is the appearance of wafer substitution factories that lowers the technical and financial threshold for new entrants to the semiconductor industry and makes many IC design companies successful.

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During that period, Taiwan seized the opportunity of industrial division of labor and transferred low-profit, high-investment chip manufacturing, sealing and testing into the island. So around semiconductor manufacturing, Taiwan has formed a complete industrial chain in four core industries: components, design, equipment and materials. For example, Taiwan's solar and moonlight silicon products have always been the industry leader in IC sealing and testing besides wafer OEM.


The OEM characteristics of Taiwan's semiconductor industry have also led them into a trap: when everyone began to turn to the short and fast profit-making mode of OEM, they also lost the possibility of developing core technologies.


In other words, Taiwan's semiconductor OEM is too mature. On the one hand, it has created TSMC and Unicom, on the other hand, it has also suppressed the development of Taiwan's IC design industry. Accustomed to other people's ghostwriting, the original will naturally encounter bottlenecks.


In recent years, when Taiwan's semiconductor industry has stabilized, the upstream consumer electronics industry has shifted from early PC to smartphone. The change of application scenarios has eliminated the giants such as HTC. In the past two years, AI has been in full swing. Especially when the mainland is building large-scale "AI cores", it has occupied half of the industrial chain. Taiwan is not very dynamic.


Similar AI Chip Market



At present, AI chips do not have a clear definition. Generally speaking, chips for AI computing applications can be called AI chips. In addition to the AI acceleration chips represented by GPU, FPGA and ASIC (based on traditional chip architecture, AI computing acceleration for a specific algorithm or scenario), there are more advanced research, such as brain-like chips, reconfigurable universal AI chips and so on.


Startups can easily build their own cores, making the threshold for the semiconductor industry seem to be getting lower and lower. Magnesium Passenger Network's previous article, "AI chip market needs a fire or a bucket of ice? 》 I've also talked about this question. Is it possible for everyone to make AI chips?


If so, what does Taiwan's AI alliance mean?


Firstly, 56 enterprises in the alliance are composed of information technology and semiconductor manufacturing companies, integrated circuit design and software companies. The purpose is simple: to speed up the development and production of AI chips in Taiwan. Zhang Shijie, deputy director of Taiwan Institute of Industry and Research, disclosed at the meeting on the founding day of the alliance that the cost of developing AI chips should be reduced by 10 times and the development time should be shortened by 6 months.

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It is reported that Taiwanese enterprises can work together to develop AI chips, which can be more specifically disassembled as: developing semi-general AI chips, heterogeneous integrated AI chips and emerging computing AI chips, and building a software compilation environment for AI chips. That is, pay attention to the coordination of hardware and software, software and hardware joint optimization.

MediaTek can be said to be an outstanding representative of Taiwan's AI chip manufacturers, who this year shouted the slogan "5G leading, AI top". On July 10, MediaTek launched two AIoT chips: intelligent AI Internet of Things chip i700 and 8K intelligent AI TV chip S900. Intelligent speakers such as Skycat Elves and Amazon Echo also use the Interfax AIoT chip.

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Also in the middle of this year, Taiwanese companies have released AI chips that can be used in 3D face recognition scenarios. Another company, Lianyong Technology, has launched AI chips and solutions in the fields of security and smart city.




There are also Weisheng Electronics, which has been competing with Intel. Although it has gone downhill, it has been transforming towards AI since last year, such as the introduction of Mobile 360 ADAS Advanced Driving Assistance System.




All of these, some of the layout of AI chips by Taiwan manufacturers has not achieved very outstanding results, and from the application scenario, it is similar to the mainland, grabbing the same market.