NVIDIA Surpasses Qualcomm at the The Latest Ranking of the World’s Top Ten IC Design

Fueled by an AI-driven inventory stocking frenzy across the supply chain, TrendForce reveals that Q2 revenue for the top 10 global IC design powerhouses soared to US $38.1 billion, marking a 12.5% quarterly increase. In this rising tide, NVIDIA seized the crown, officially dethroning Qualcomm as the world’s premier IC design house, while the remainder of the leaderboard remained stable.

AI charges ahead, buoying IC design performance amid a seasonal stocking slump

NVIDIA is reaping the rewards of a global transformation. Bolstered by the global demand from CSPs, internet behemoths, and enterprises diving into generative AI and large language models, NVIDIA’s data center revenue skyrocketed by a whopping 105%. A deluge of shipments, including the likes of their advanced Hopper and Ampere architecture HGX systems and the high-performing InfinBand, played a pivotal role. Beyond that, both gaming and professional visualization sectors thrived under the allure of fresh product launches. Clocking a Q2 revenue of US$11.33 billion (a 68.3% surge), NVIDIA has vaulted over both Qualcomm and Broadcom to seize the IC design throne.

Qualcomm’s Q2 took a hit as the Android smartphone sector grappled with dwindling demand and Apple’s modem pre-purchases resulted in a subdued seasonal rhythm. Consequently, their revenue slid by 9.7%, rounding off at about US$7.17 billion. Broadcom, while benefiting from AI-ignited demand for high-end switches and routers, faced headwinds with revenue drops in server storage, broadband, and wireless. The result was a second-quarter revenue that essentially mirrored the previous quarter at around US$6.9 billion.

AMD’s Q2 performance plateaued at about $5.36 billion, weighed down by a slump in gaming GPU sales and its embedded segment operations. Conversely, MediaTek, after several quarters of inventory recalibration, witnessed a resurgence with components like TV SoCs and Wi-Fi stabilizing. The added impetus of urgent TV orders and escalating shipments for mobile phones, smart platforms, and power management ICs boosted MediaTek’s Q2 to a solid US$3.2 billion.

Marvell, though buoyed by AI deployments in data centers, faced headwinds with a decline in On-Premise Servers (enterprise private clouds). End-user demand remained frail, and with sectors like data centers, telecom infrastructure, and enterprise networking facing revenue drops, Marvell’s Q2 took a 1.4% hit, culminating at roughly $1.33 billion.

Taiwan’s IC design stalwart Novatek flourished as customers replenished TV-related inventories and ushered in novel products such as OLED DDI. Realtek, drawing strength from supply chain restocking of PC/NB-centric ICs, reported quarterly growths of 24.7% and 32.6%, respectively. Yet, without substantial signs of a holistic revival in end-sales and inventory restocking, growth in H2 seems set to face challenges.

Will Semiconductor secured the ninth spot with a Q2 revenue of $528 million, registering a modest decline of about 1.9%. Hot on its heels is the US-based power IC maestro, MPS, with its Q2 revenue tallying up to $441 million—a slip of approximately 2.2%.

Peering into Q3, while inventory levels across companies paint a rosier picture than H1, a pervasive end-user demand slump urges caution. However, a silver lining emerges with CSPs, internet titans, and private firms flocking to generative AI and large language models. As these high-value AI offerings gain traction, TrendForce projects that the top ten global IC design giants will continue their double-digit ascent in Q3, potentially reaching record-breaking figures.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com


[News] Qualcomm Initiates Major Layoffs in China, Shanghai R&D Center Closure Rumored

According to Taiwan’s TechNews, the ongoing soft demand for smartphones, combined with Huawei’s launch of the Mate 60 Pro, has severely impacted Qualcomm. Reports within the Chinese industry suggest that Qualcomm is planning significant layoffs in China, with severance costs estimated to be as high as N+7.

Based on discussions in Chinese forums and media reports, Qualcomm’s Shanghai R&D center is set to undergo substantial layoffs. This center primarily focuses on wireless-related businesses. The severance standards for permanent employees are at least N+4, which means the employee’s tenure plus an additional 4 months are considered for severance pay. As for contract employees, the severance compensation is set at N+7.

In fact, Qualcomm announced its downsizing plan in August, with reports suggesting that Qualcomm Taiwan plans to lay off about 200 employees in October. This will affect personnel in product engineering, testing, and verification fields, comprising 11.8% of the total workforce. The company is also implementing cost-saving measures such as eliminating annual salary adjustments and reducing bonuses to 70%.

This downsizing rumor has also extended to China, with reports at the time suggesting that Qualcomm China might lay off up to 40% of its workforce. The main reasons cited were sluggish demand for smartphones and Huawei’s new Kirin processor.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities stated that Huawei is expected to fully adopt its own designed Kirin processors in its upcoming phones next year. Qualcomm will be the major loser in this scenario, losing Huawei’s orders entirely.

According to Kuo’s data, Huawei purchased 23 to 25 million smartphone SoCs (System on a Chip) from Qualcomm in 2022, but this number increased to 40 to 42 million in 2023. However, starting in 2024, Huawei will use its own chip designs, causing Qualcomm to not only lose orders but also face the risk of declining shipments from other Chinese brand customers due to Huawei’s increased market share.

Kuo also expects that, influenced by Huawei’s actions, Qualcomm’s SoC shipments to Chinese smartphone brands will decrease by 50 to 60 million units next year and continue to decline in the following years.

With a significant potential decline in performance in the Chinese market and increasing price competition towards the end of the year, Qualcomm is expected to carry out more layoffs. As of September last year, Qualcomm had approximately 51,000 employees worldwide. The company’s restructuring costs in the last quarter amounted to $285 million, with most of it being severance pay. In June of this year, the U.S. headquarters also reduced around 415 positions.


[News] Apple’s 5G Chip Dreams Crushed, TSMC Wins Big

According to the news from ChinaTimes, Qualcomm announced on the 11th that it has reached a three-year agreement with Apple to supply 5G communication chips for Apple’s smartphones from 2024 to 2026. This also implies that Apple’s efforts to develop its own 5G modem chips may fall through, and the contract manufacturer TSMC stands to benefit the most.

Qualcomm did not disclose the value of this deal but mentioned that the terms of the agreement are similar to previous ones. Previous supply agreements have been highly profitable for Qualcomm but costly for Apple. According to UBS estimates from last month, Qualcomm’s sales of modem chips to Apple in the previous fiscal year amounted to $7.26 billion, accounting for approximately 16% of the company’s revenue.

This also highlights that Apple’s progress in developing modem chips may not be as expected, leading to a delay in their use in their flagship smartphones. Currently, Apple’s iPhones use 5G modem chips from Qualcomm.

Only a few companies worldwide have the capability to produce communication chips, including Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung. In 2019, Apple acquired Intel’s smartphone modem business for $1 billion, along with 2,200 employees and a series of patents. Intel faced difficulties in developing 5G modem chips, resulting in annual losses of around $1 billion.

The market expects Apple to gradually reduce its reliance on third-party chip suppliers. Qualcomm originally estimated that by 2023, their 5G chips would make up only 20% of iPhones. However, Qualcomm’s CFO stated in November of the previous year that “most” of Apple’s phones in 2023 would contain their chips.

(Source: https://www.chinatimes.com/newspapers/20230912000097-260202?chdtv)

[News] IC Design Chip Tape-Out Expected to Rebound at the Earliest Next Year

According to Taiwan’s Economic Daily, the consumer market is experiencing starkly low demand, causing IC design firms primarily relying on mature processes, such as those in driver ICs, power management ICs, CMOS image sensors (CIS), and microcontrollers (MCUs), to adopt a notably cautious approach in placing orders. Some manufacturers are hesitating to place orders due to persistently high inventory levels.

The industry consensus is that IC design companies are expected to increase their orders in mature processes, with the earliest effects possibly emerging by 2024, implying that the mature process market conditions might not improve significantly until the end of this year.

The consumer market entered a period of economic downturn in the latter half of last year, which in turn affected industries such as PCs, smartphones, and networking. This not only led to a surge in inventory levels for IC design firms but also significantly curtailed the momentum for chip tape-out. Looking ahead to the second half of this year, while inventory levels across various sectors have largely returned to normal, chip tape-out for Q3 have notably declined compared to Q2.

In particular, demand for high-speed I/O in the PC sector and Board Management Controller for data centers remains notably weak. The supply chain indicates that PC demand for the second quarter, driven by advanced stocking, has dampened the typical peak season effect for the latter half of the year. This trend is evident across desktop PCs, laptops, and Chromebooks.”

As for the smartphone sector, after various research institutions revised down this year’s smartphone market size, the supply chain’s chip tape-out momentum has cooled down significantly. Only Qualcomm has increased its tape-out momentum to semiconductor foundries in the first half of the year, while MediaTek continues to adhere to a conservative strategy as of now.

(Photo credit: SMIC)


[News] TSMC’s N3 and N4P Processes to Power Apple, Qualcomm, and MediaTek Chips

According to a report by Taiwan’s Commercial Times, global smartphone brands are set to introduce a series of flagship-level new products. Following the introduction of Apple’s A17 chip using TSMC’s 3-nanometer process, Qualcomm’s next-generation processor Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and MediaTek’s Dimensity 9300 are expected to be unveiled in October. These chips will be manufactured using TSMC’s N4P process, with plans to further transition to the N3E process next year.

Industry source have indicated that TSMC’s 3-nanometer yield is gradually improving, coupled with the return of N4P orders, providing a counterbalance against the impact of sluggish end market demand.

Commercial Times’ report highlights that TSMC previously expressed strong demand for its N3 process, projecting substantial growth in the second half of the year. The N3 process will support high-performance computing (HPC) and smartphone platforms, with an anticipated contribution of 4-6% to the company’s revenue in 2023. Additionally, N3E has already been verified and received its first batch of customer product design approvals, with mass production expected to commence in the fourth quarter. TSMC aims to achieve a monthly production capacity of 100,000 wafers in its 3-nanometer process by the end of the year to cater to Apple’s demands.

According to Bloomberg’s recent exposure of Apple’s projected M3 processor product roadmap set for release this fall, the basic M3 processor consists of 4 high-performance and 4 energy-efficient cores, paired with 10 GPU cores. M3 Pro comes in two versions: a basic version equipped with 12 cores (6 high-performance and 6 energy-efficient) and 18 GPU cores, and a higher-tier version with 14 CPU cores and 20 GPU cores.

M3 Max also offers two versions, featuring a fully-equipped 16-core CPU. The main difference between the basic and higher-tier versions lies in the GPU cores—32 for the former and a whopping 40 for the latter. The most powerful variant, M3 Ultra, essentially doubles the configuration of M3 Max, boasting 32 CPU cores paired with either 64 or 80 GPU cores. Industry experts widely regard TSMC as the primary beneficiary of these developments.

(Photo credit: TSMC)

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