[News] TSMC’s Arm Investment Strategy: Elevating Customer Transition Costs

According to a report by Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Arm, the semiconductor company, made its debut on the U.S. stock market with its stock price surging nearly 25% on the first day. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) participated in Arm’s initial public offering (IPO), potentially yielding over 7 billion New Taiwan Dollars in returns. However, industry experts assert that TSMC’s primary focus is not on stock gains; rather, their strategic investment aims to elevate the cost and barriers for clients seeking to transition their semiconductor manufacturing to other foundries.

TSMC’s strategic investments are not unprecedented. In the past, TSMC collaborated with Intel and Samsung to jointly invest in ASML to facilitate the development of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography equipment, enabling TSMC to advance to an enhanced 7-nanometer manufacturing process.

Arm has been a long-term partner of TSMC, with cumulative shipments of Arm architecture chips exceeding 250 billion units and commanding a market share of over 99% in the smartphone industry.

Industry analysts speculate that if TSMC and Arm strategically collaborate, offering integrated services that allow customers to utilize Arm’s IP-designed products in conjunction with TSMC’s process IP, it would enhance customer service and simultaneously increase the cost and barriers for customers looking to switch to other semiconductor foundries, thereby improving customer stickiness.

Currently, Arm’s applications span across cloud infrastructure, automotive, IoT, and artificial intelligence (AI), and industry experts contend that, apart from traditional CPU leaders like Intel, Arm provides the most comprehensive and robust semiconductor intellectual property (IP) design solutions for chip designers.

(Photo credit: TSMC)


[News] CoWoS Production Shortage, TSMC Expects Capacity Will Catch Up in 1.5 Years

According to Taiwan’s Economic Daily, TSMC Chairman Mark Liu stated on 9/6 that semiconductor technology development “has reached the exit of the tunnel, and there are more possibilities beyond the tunnel; we are no longer bound by the tunnel.”

Regarding TSMC’s progress in establishing a factory in the United States, Liu mentioned that this project has received support from the local government and has made significant progress in recent months. He added, “We will certainly make it very successful.”

As for the recent shortage of chips caused by generative AI, Liu noted that it is not due to TSMC’s manufacturing capacity but rather the sudden threefold increase in CoWoS (Chip-on-Wafer-on-Substrate) demand. TSMC will continue to support the demand in the short term but cannot immediately ramp up production. Liu estimated that TSMC’s capacity will catch up with customer demand in about a year and a half, considering the capacity bottleneck as a short-term phenomenon.

Regarding SoftBank Group’s subsidiary, Arm, planning an initial public offering (IPO) to raise funds, Liu also revealed that they are evaluating whether to become an investor in Arm, with a decision expected in the next one or two weeks. He emphasized Arm’s importance within the semiconductor ecosystem, expressing TSMC’s desire for a successful Arm IPO.


TrendForce’s Analysis of Notebook CPU Market 2022-2024

According to the latest report from TrendForce, the primary factors influencing the global market share of notebook CPUs in 2024 can be categorized into “Architectural Design” and “Economic Factors.”

“Architectural Design” as a long-term factor affecting market share:

(1) Both AMD (AMD 3D V-Cache) and Intel (Intel Foveros Direct) may potentially integrate 3D packaging technology into notebook computers in the future.

(2) Apple’s M-series processors, using the Arm core architecture, as well as Intel processors, have adopted a big/little core hybrid design. AMD might also introduce this in the Ryzen 8000 series.

(3) Despite further advancements in processor technology by 2024, the notebook computer market remains highly sensitive to the cost for IT equipment.

“Economic Factors” as more immediate influencers of market share:

(1) Until 2024, a return to lower interest rates in the global economic environment could favor corporate expansion of capital expenditure. This could result in increased procurement of business-oriented notebook models, potentially allowing Intel to further expand its CPU market share beyond 70% in the business sector.

(2) Concerns about economic prospects among global citizens until 2024 could have significant negative implications for the consumer notebook computer market. With the restart of physical economic activities, the demand for consumer-oriented notebook models has declined from the high levels seen during the pandemic. Consequently, the consumer market demand outlook for 2024 remains uncertain. For AMD, which relies more on consumer market demand, changes in market share may be harder to predict compared to Intel.

In the post-pandemic era, AMD, Arm/Apple, and Intel are pursuing distinct technological competition strategies to capture market share in the personal computing market.


(1) The Socket AM5 platform is poised to aid AMD CPUs in achieving substantial performance and efficiency gains.

(2) The AMD Ryzen 7040 incorporates an artificial intelligence engine to emphasize AI computing performance’s importance in the thin and light notebook market.


(1) The M2 Ultra processor heralds Apple’s complete transition of personal computing products to the Arm core. Apple Mac computer products will no longer be sold with Intel processor.

(2) The Apple M-series processors, built on the Arm core architecture, facilitate a “fanless design” to maintain MacBook’s slim profile. This feature highlights its irreplaceable positioning in the portable notebook computer market, emphasizing portability.


(1) With the waning trend of the “hybrid work mode,” Intel is optimistic about diversified development in the post-pandemic era for desktop computer products. This includes microcomputers, micro workstations, and general workstations. Due to the characteristic of continuous operation for 24 hours, desktop computers still possess unique attributes that cannot be replaced by notebook computers.

(Photo credit: Intel)


ARM-based Server Penetration Rate to Reach 22% by 2025 with Cloud Data Centers Leading the Way, Says TrendForce

According to TrendForce research, corporate demand for digital transformation including artificial intelligence and high-performance computing has accelerated in recent years, which has led to increasing adoption of cloud computing. In order to improve service flexibility, the world’s major cloud service providers have gradually introduced ARM-based servers. The penetration rate of ARM architecture in data center servers is expected to reach 22% by 2025.

In the past few years, ARM architecture processors have matured in the fields of mobile terminals and Internet of Things but progress in the server field has been relatively slow. However, companies have diversified cloud workloads in recent years and the market has begun to pay attention to the benefits ARM architecture processing can provide to data centers. TrendForce believes that ARM-based processors have three major advantages. First, they can support diverse and rapidly changing workloads and are more scalability and cost-effective. Second, ARM-based processors provide higher customization for different niche markets with a more flexible ecosystem. Third, physical footprint is relatively small which meets the needs of today’s micro data centers.

Influenced by geopolitics and the strengthening of data sovereignty in various countries, major cloud service providers and telecom operators are actively developing micro data centers which will further drive the penetration of ARM-based processors. At the same time, from the perspective of cloud service providers currently adopting ARM-based processors, Graviton, led by AWS, has the largest market scale and began encroaching gradually into the market in 2021. TrendForce also observed that AWS’s deployment of ARM-based processors in 2021 reached 15% of overall server deployment and will exceed 20% in 2022. This forces other major cloud service providers to keep up by initiating their own projects at various foundries. If testing is successful, these projects are expected to start mass introduction in 2025.

In addition, according to the Neoverse Platform plan previously released by ARM, its Platform Roadmap will also be one of the key drivers of penetration. This product line is set up to target ultra-large-scale data centers and edge computing infrastructure. However, it is worth mentioning, since x86 is still mainstream in the market and ARM-based server CPU suppliers only maintain small-batch production orders at this stage and primarily focus on ultra-large-scale data centers, introduction of ARM-based servers into enterprise data centers will be slow going. Thus, TrendForce believes that it will still be difficult for ARM-based servers to compete with x86-based servers before 2025.


Gaming market remains the most hotly contest battleground in the competition among processor suppliers

In recent years, notebook computer (laptop) brands and processor suppliers alike have been actively adjusting their product strategies and business operations in response to behavioral shifts in the way consumers purchase and use computing devices. While notebook brands jostle for superiority in industrial design with improvements to their product appearances every year, competition in the processor industry has been even fiercer. TrendForce’s investigations indicate that the current competitive landscape in the processor industry consists of three developments, indicated below:

First, competition between AMD and Intel. Not only are both companies focused on expanding their respective ecosystems, but they have also been aiming to conquer the gaming market by releasing new products aimed at gamers this year. Apart from making headways in the PC processor market, AMD has introduced the AMD Advantage Design Framework.

AMD Advantage gaming notebooks are certified to meet standards of performance set by the company. AMD hopes that this certification system will allow it to generate a more consolidated gaming ecosystem while raising its brand equity. Intel, on the other hand, has been cultivating its presence in the creator and 5G notebook markets in an attempt to become the primary driver of digital transformation in the post-pandemic era.

Second, the Nvidia-Arm collaboration. This collaboration took place for the purpose of establishing an AI-enabled reference platform for notebook computers. More specifically, Arm’s CPU/NPU/GPU product stack delivers such wide-ranging AI solutions as real-time recognition, vibration detection, and keyword spotting. Following Arm’s successful foray into the PC segment, Nvidia will speed up its release of notebook products, including CPUs based on the Arm architecture.

Third, Qualcomm’s cross-sector ambitions. By architecting always connected notebooks* with Microsoft and Google, Qualcomm is now leveraging its advantages in 5G technology to prepare for upcoming competition with Intel in the 5G services market.

As the aforementioned companies’ presentations at Computex 2021 would suggest, not only do these processor suppliers possess their own competitive technological advantages, but they also share the common goal of upgrading their gaming competencies, including graphics cards, graphics technologies, and cooling performances.

Some of their current offerings aimed at the gaming market include the AMD RX 6000M, Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti/RTX 3070 Ti GPU, and Intel 11th Gen Core H45. Interestingly, the AMD Advantage Design Framework, which certifies OEMs’ gaming notebooks based on the AMD platform, represents the company’s intention to challenge Nvidia’s dominance in the gaming market.

After Nvidia announced its US$40 billion acquisition of Arm last September, the partnership is expected to yield considerable technological synergies by way of the two companies’ AI collaboration. TrendForce believes that, in the long term, Arm Cortex CPUs based on the Armv9 architecture will allow Nvidia to break free from the dominance of Intel and AMD in the notebook CPU market. In particular, Nvidia will be able to cultivate its presence in the high-performance notebook market by combining its existing graphics technology with Arm Cortex CPUs.

Qualcomm’s main impetus for entering the notebook market can be attributed to the fact that the pandemic has brought about a new normal in which consumer adherence to notebook products has become increasingly strong. On the whole, Qualcomm’s cross-sector ambition appears to be on the cusp of victory, given the company’s preexisting 5G competencies and its experience in always-connected applications, advanced camera technologies, immersive audio/visual and display experiences, AI acceleration, and power efficiency for smartphones. As a case in point, Qualcomm is set to release Windows on Snapdragon notebooks as its own 5G *always connected PC platform.

It should be noted that Intel has also adopted MediaTek’s 5G chip technology in 5G connected notebooks featuring “Intel 5G Solution 5000”. On the other hand, Qualcomm is also developing mobile processors aimed at the entry-level always connected 4G/5G notebook market. TrendForce expects competition in the always connected market to generate a fresh wave of replacement demand in the mobile computing market.

*Always connected laptops (notebooks): notebooks that feature modem chips and have a constant internet connection much like smartphones. These notebooks can connect to the internet using 4G/5G networks without the need for Wi-Fi.

(Cover image source: Pixabay)

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