[News] Qualcomm Challenges Intel & AMD in AI PC Chip Race

At this year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit, the company announced its latest PC processor, the Snapdragon X Elite. With impressive performance metrics, this development is poised to shake up the PC processor market as Arm architecture gains ground, posing a substantial challenge to the established x86 architecture.

At this year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit, the company announced its latest PC processor, the Snapdragon X Elite. The launch of laptops featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite is expected in mid-2024, marking an opportune moment for a “counteroffensive.”

TrendForce indicates that Arm architecture PC processors have secured around an 11% market share this year, primarily propped up by Apple’s laptop processors. Industry insiders reveal that, in light of the growth potential in the PC processor market, semiconductor giants are increasingly adopting ARM architecture to venture into the market.

2024 Sees Laptop Upgrade Surge, Desktop Market Shrinks                  

Statistics reveal that the surge in remote work during 2020 prompted a shift in consumer preferences from desktop computers to laptops. Moreover, the ongoing establishment of cloud platforms by businesses in 2021 and 2022 has generated positive momentum, signaling a shrinking desktop market and an expanding PC market.

AI-powered PCs and Windows 12 next year are expected to ride a fresh wave of upgrades in 2024. Therefore, when PCs featuring ARM architecture become widespread, Intel and AMD may not be predominantly affected in the laptop processor business based on the x86 architecture. Instead, the desktop processor segment could face the most significant impact.

Kedar Kondap, Qualcomm’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Compute and Games Division, foresees an upgrade wave fueled by AI PCs next year, with further growth anticipated in 2025. It is expected that consumers will lean towards AI PCs for their next computer purchases.

The initial wave of products equipped with Qualcomm’s AI PC processors has been unveiled, aligning with the upcoming wave of device upgrades in next year. While Intel is set to launch its first AI acceleration engine, the Intel Core Ultra, featuring integrated NPU in December, its Microsoft Windows 12 certification remains a point of observation.

In a broader perspective, Intel and AMD are positioned to follow up with the AI PC trend by 2025. This coincides with the ending service of Windows 10 and the gradual implementation of Wifi 7 and 6G technologies. By 2028, they are expected to play a pivotal role in driving AI PC growth.

On another note, a South Korean analyst anticipates that the growth momentum in AI PCs hinges on when Apple incorporates AI features into Mac computers.

ARM vs. x86, Microsoft’s Crucial Role                                    

This is because Microsoft is set to launch Windows 12 next year, featuring the built-in Copilot AI assistant. It will collaborate with operating systems and software such as Windows, Edge, Microsoft 365, Outlook, and the Bing search engine, ushering in an entirely new AI-driven user experience.

Several tech giants are fiercely competing in the AI PC market, with NVIDIA and AMD investing in the development of Arm architecture processors. It’s worth mentioning that in 2016, Microsoft agreed to let Qualcomm exclusively develop Windows-compatible chips, and this agreement is set to expire in 2024. Consequently, Qualcomm may gain a strategic advantage. In contrast, the collaboration between NVIDIA and MediaTek on Arm processors might only begin to bear fruit in 2025.

As for AMD’s foray into Arm architecture research and development, whether this indicates a less optimistic outlook for the x86 market is a matter for ongoing observation. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger expressed that he isn’t concerned about Arm architecture processors vying in the PC market. From a different perspective, Intel may even consider assisting with manufacturing.

(Image: Qualcomm)


[News] SK hynix’s LPDDR5T Mobile DRAM Verified Compatible with Qualcomm for AI-Boosted Smartphone  

SK hynix has introduced LPDDR5T (Low Power Double Data Rate 5 Turbo), a mobile DRAM with a remarkable 9.6Gbps speed. What sets this apart is its compatibility with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Mobile Platform.

LPDDR5T features a 16GB-capacity version, delivering data processing speeds of 77GB per second while maintaining low power consumption. Its efficiency and speed are achieved through the incorporation of HKMG (High-K Metal Gate) technology, which reduces power usage and increases processing speed.

“Generative AI applications running on our new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 enables exciting new use cases by executing LLMs and LVMs on device with minimal latency and at the lowest power,” said Ziad Asghar, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “Our collaboration with SK hynix pairs the fastest mobile memory with our latest Snapdragon mobile platform and delivers amazing on-device, ultra-personalized AI experiences such as AI virtual assistants for smartphone users.”

“We are thrilled that we have met our customers’ needs for the ultra-high performance mobile DRAM with the provision of the LPDDR5T,” said Sungsoo Ryu, Head of DRAM Product Planning at SK hynix.

This collaboration between SK hynix and Qualcomm signals a new era for smartphones, aims to provide on-device, ultra-personalized AI experiences. As smartphones continue to evolve with enhanced DRAM for mobile, the partnership is set to strengthen and drive innovation in this space, positioning the devices as key vehicles for AI applications in the coming years.

(Image: SK hynix)


[NEWS] Huawei’s Resurgence Could Impact MediaTek and Qualcomms’ Market Share

Source to China Times, on the 25th of this month, Huawei introduced its top-tier flagship smartphone, the Mate 60 RS. The entire supply chain is buzzing with anticipation. However, major chipset manufacturers, MediaTek and Qualcomm, both stand ready for what lies ahead. The reason for their vigilance stems from their previous share of the pie, which was snatched away by Huawei. Now, there’s concern that those gains may slowly be taken back.

For MediaTek, although Huawei’s new phone is positioned as a high-end model, it doesn’t pose a direct threat to MediaTek’s focus on mid-range and low-end 5G chips. However, industry insiders believe that Huawei might not rule out the possibility of launching mid-range and low-end 5G phone chips in the future, deepening the HarmonyOS, which could further squeeze MediaTek’s market share.

Huawei has traditionally used its in-house HiSilicon-designed chips for its smartphones. However, due to US sanctions, Huawei’s market share plummeted, allowing other Chinese smartphone competitors to seize opportunities. MediaTek and Qualcomm benefited from this shift in orders.

Recently, Huawei has made a strong comeback. Following the low-key release of the Mate 60 Pro, it has now unveiled the flagship RS model. After 3 years of intensive efforts, Huawei has achieved comprehensive self-reliance in operating systems, software, databases, and other foundational software. It has also completed the development of domestic alternatives for 13,000 components, investing heavily in the semiconductor supply chain.

The most impacted player in this scenario is Qualcomm, which primarily targets the high-end market. There are even expectations that by 2024, Qualcomm will lose all Huawei smartphone orders. Although MediaTek’s mainstream models have not been directly affected, there’s a possibility that Huawei may strengthen its HarmonyOS ecosystem, gradually penetrating the mid-range and low-end segments. MediaTek needs to remain vigilant. Huawei’s Nova series, for instance, is aimed at mid-range models, and it may not rule out using its in-house Kirin 5G chips to gain a stronger foothold in the market.

The initial stock of the Mate 60 series reached 15 million units, and the shipment target for 2023 has been raised to 20 million units, including foldable phones like the Mate X3 and X5. Supply chain sources suggest that Huawei has internally raised its overall shipment target for 2023 to 40 million units, and the market anticipates even higher volumes of 50 million to 60 million units in 2024.

Industry insiders point out that due to strong demand for Huawei’s products and better-than-expected i15 orders, there are reports of inventory replenishment in the smartphone supply chain. However, in the future, both China and the United States will cultivate their respective supply chains, reducing the win-win situations. For instance, in the RF Front-end segment, Huawei has started to use domestic supplier Maxscend Technologies, which could squeeze market orders for US and Taiwanese suppliers. (Image credit: Huawei)

(Source: https://www.chinatimes.com/newspapers/20230927000252-260204?chdtv)

[Report Highlights] Self-Driving SoCs Are Becoming A Critical Gateway for IC Design Firms

In the era of increasing electric vehicle penetration and automotive electrification, the future of cars resembles smartphones on wheels, demanding substantial computing power for advanced autonomous systems. As a result, future vehicles equipped with high-end self-driving systems are akin to mobile data centers. With the growth rate of the consumer electronics market slowing down, Self-Driving System-on-Chip (SoC) has become a crucial avenue for IC design firms to expand.

TrendForce Insights:

  • Sluggish Growth in Consumer Electronics Market Spurs IC Design Firms to Focus on Self-Driving SoCs

With the deceleration in growth of mainstream consumer electronics products like smartphones and PCs, IC design firms are venturing into the automotive sector, with Self-Driving SoCs emerging as a key area of expansion. Key competitors in this space include NVIDIA, Mobileye, Qualcomm, Ambarella, and Horizon Robotics. Qualcomm, with solutions spanning smart cockpits, ADAS, and V2X, showcases its advantage in entering the automotive sector after years of success in the smartphone market. To avoid sustained dominance by international giants in the Chinese smart cockpit market, Chinese companies such as Siengine Technology, Navinfo, Autochips, Semidrive, Huawei, Rockchip, and Unisoc are actively entering this market.

  • NVIDIA and Qualcomm Offer Broad Computing Capabilities, While Mobileye, Ambarella, and Horizon Robotics Bring Unique Strengths

NVIDIA and Qualcomm offer Self-Driving SoCs with broad computing capabilities. Initially targeting Level 4 and above autonomous driving, NVIDIA has adjusted its focus to Level 3 and below due to regulatory delays. Its high-computing SoCs cater to the computing needs of both smart cockpits and self-driving systems, achieving a “cockpit-and-drive integrated” approach. Qualcomm’s products cover computing requirements from Level 1 to 4. Intel’s Mobileye emphasizes low power consumption and integrates image sensing hardware and software. Both Ambarella and Mobileye possess core computer vision technologies, while Horizon Robotics provides highly open platforms to developers, offering software development tools (AIDI) and cloud-based AI training platforms. Horizon Robotics is also poised to benefit from China’s domestic production plans.

  • NVIDIA’s Collaboration with MediaTek (Dimensity) is Crucial for Hardware-Software Integration

In May 2023, NVIDIA announced a partnership with MediaTek (Dimensity) to target the automotive market, with a focus on smart cockpits. NVIDIA concentrates on the main computing chips for in-vehicle computers and essential software, while MediaTek specializes in peripheral audiovisual entertainment and V2X communication systems. In Dimensity Auto, NVIDIA’s GPU and software are integrated, enabling the development of smart cockpit solutions. However, the collaborative car SoC development between MediaTek and NVIDIA is expected to launch by the end of 2025, with mass production slated for 2026-2027, necessitating a wait-and-see approach for the results of this collaboration.

Currently, high-end vehicles have software lines of code (SLOC) exceeding 100 million lines, more than double that of a PC. Vehicles with Level 5 self-driving systems in the future could potentially have over 1 billion lines of code. In the era of Software Defined Vehicles (SDV), hardware-software integration will be the key to competitiveness for manufacturers. NVIDIA, dominating the AI market with its CUDA platform, is well aware of this fact. Consequently, the results of NVIDIA’s collaboration with MediaTek (Dimensity) are highly anticipated.

(Photo credit: MediaTek)


[News] TSMC’s 3nm Wins Big Qualcomm 5G Deal, Outshines Samsung, Intel

According to a report from Taiwan’s Economic Daily, TSMC’s 3-nanometer technology has attracted another heavyweight client. Following Apple and MediaTek, it is rumored that Qualcomm will also commission TSMC to produce its next-generation 5G flagship chip using the 3-nanometer process. The chip is expected to be unveiled in late October, making Qualcomm the third client for TSMC’s 3-nanometer technology.

In response to these rumors, Qualcomm has not provided any comments, while TSMC has chosen to remain silent. Industry experts speculate that TSMC’s 3-nanometer technology will likely attract additional orders from major players such as NVIDIA and AMD in the future. With various leading-edge fabs continuously seeking TSMC’s services, it appears that TSMC’s 3-nanometer technology remains the top choice for international giants.

Last year, Qualcomm unveiled its annual 5G flagship chip, the “Snapdragon 8 Gen 2,” manufactured using TSMC’s 4-nanometer process. The previous-generation Snapdragon “8 Gen 1” was produced using Samsung’s 4-nanometer process, but it encountered issues related to heat dissipation. Consequently, Qualcomm released an upgraded version, the “Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1,” using TSMC’s 4-nanometer process.

Qualcomm has traditionally adopted a multi-supplier strategy for semiconductor manufacturing. It is rumored in the industry that Qualcomm has privately informed its smartphone brand customers about the upcoming next-generation 5G flagship chip, the “Snapdragon 8 Gen 3,” expected to be announced in late October. This chip will be available in two process versions: TSMC’s 4-nanometer (N4P) and 3-nanometer (N3E).

(Photo credit: TSMC)

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