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TSMC Completes Its Latest 3 nm Factory, Mass Production in 2022

They say that it is hard to keep up with Moore's Law, however, for the folks over at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), that doesn't seem to represent any kind of a problem. Today, to confirm that TSMC is one of the last warriors for the life of Moore's Law, we have information that the company has completed building its manufacturing facility for the next-generation 3 nm semiconductor node. Located in Southern Taiwan Science Park near Tainan, TSMC is expecting to start high-volume manufacturing of the 3 nm node in that Fab in the second half of 2022. As always, one of the first customers expected is Apple.

Estimated to cost an amazing 19.5 billion US Dollars, the Fab is expected to have an output of 55,000 300 mm (12-inch) wafers per month. Given that the regular facilities of TSMC exceed the capacity of over 100K wafers per month, this new facility is expected to increase the capacity over time and possibly reach the 100K level. The new 3 nm node is going to use the FinFET technology and will deliver a 15% performance gain over the previous 5 nm node, with 30% decreased power use and up to 70% density increase. Of course, all of those factors will depend on a specific design.

Intel to Keep Its Number One Semiconductor Supplier Ranking in 2020: IC Insights

IC Insights' November Update to the 2020 McClean Report, released later this month, includes a discussion of the forecasted top-25 semiconductor suppliers in 2020. This research bulletin covers the expected top-15 2020 semiconductor suppliers (Figure 1).

The November Update also includes a detailed five-year forecast through 2024 of the IC market by product type (including dollar volume, unit shipments, and average selling price) and a forecast of the major semiconductor industry capital spenders for 2020. A five-year outlook for total semiconductor industry capital spending is also provided.

Alleged Apple M1X Processor Specifications Surface

Apple's silicon design team has recently launched its "fastest" CPU core ever, found inside the company's M1 processor designed for laptops and mini-PCs. Featuring an eight-core processor, where four cores are represented by low power small configurations, and four big, high-performance design cores, the M1 processor proved to be extremely fast. However, the Apple Silicon processor doesn't seem to cover anything higher than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. And that is about to change. When it comes to higher-end models like the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which provides more cooling area, it is logical that the processor for those designs is a higher performance design.

Enter the world of the Apple M1X processor. Designed for high-end laptops and the most demanding workloads, the new processor aims to create a new performance level. Featuring a 12-core CPU with eight big and four small cores, the M1X processor is going to deliver much better performance than M1. The graphics and memory configuration are currently unknown, so we have to wait and see how it will look like. The M1X is set to arrive sometime in Q1 of 2021, according to the source of the leak, so be patient and remember to take this information with a grain of salt.

OWC Announces Mac Compatibility for New Thunderbolt Hub

OWC, the premier zero-emissions Mac and PC technology company, and a respected provider of Memory, External Drives, SSDs, Mac & PC docking solutions, and performance upgrade kits, announced Mac compatibility and certification of its new OWC Thunderbolt Hub. Previously certified for Thunderbolt 4 PCs, the OWC Thunderbolt Hub is now available for new M1 Macs and all Thunderbolt 3 equipped Macs once upgraded to the new Apple MacOS 11 "Big Sur". The OWC Thunderbolt Hub will give both Mac and PC users the additional Thunderbolt ports they've always wanted.

The OWC Thunderbolt Hub offers the new Thunderbolt hubbing technology. You can now have four Thunderbolt ports, plus one USB port on your new Apple M1 Mac, Apple "Intel" Mac with Thunderbolt 3, or any Thunderbolt 4 PC with this compact hub. You can connect and charge any device with a USB-C or USB-A connector. Support up to two 4K displays or a single 5K/6K/8K display. Add high-performance storage, including NVMe solutions, and generally make your workflow work for you by adding A/V mixers, phone or tablet, even desktop accessories like a keyboard or mouse—all through a single Thunderbolt port. Accessories with past, present, or future USB or Thunderbolt interfaces connect to the OWC Thunderbolt Hub.

Apple Reduces App Store Commission to 15% for Most Developers

Apple has recently announced the App Store Small Business Program which offers a reduced commission rate of 15% down from 30% on paid apps and in-app purchases for developers who make less than $1 million USD annually through the store. Starting January 1st, 2021, developers making less than $1 million annually will automatically receive the 15% commission rate. When a developer makes over $1 million they will start paying the full 30% commission rate on all revenue. This move from Apple is squarely targeted at appeasing regulators and the wider developer community who have criticized the company for their large commissions.

Apple M1 Beats Intel "Willow Cove" in Cinebench R23 Single Core Test?

Maxon ported the its latest Cinebench R23 benchmark to the macOS "Big Sur" Apple M1 platform, and the performance results are groundbreaking. An Apple M1-powered MacBook Pro allegedly scored 1498 points in the single-core Cinebench R23 test, beating the 1382 points of the Core i7-1165G7 reference score as tested by Maxon. These scores were posted to Twitter by an M1 MacBook Pro owner who goes by "@mnloona48_" The M1 chip was clocked at 3.10 GHz for the test. The i7-1165G7 uses Intel's latest "Willow Cove" CPU cores. In the same test, the M1 scores 7508 points in the multi-core test. If these numbers hold up, we can begin to see why Apple chose to dump Intel's x86 machine architecture in favor of its own Arm-powered custom silicon, as the performance on offer holds up against the highest IPC mobile processors in the market.

OWC Announces Product Compatibilities with New Apple M1 Macs

OWC, the premier zero-emissions Mac and PC technology company, and a respected provider of Memory, External Drives, SSDs, Mac & PC docking solutions, and performance upgrade kits announced today that its current line of Thunderbolt (USB-C) external storage and docks are compatible with Apple's new M1 Macs shipping next week. OWC has the Thunderbolt storage solutions you need to move large amounts of data in seconds or add multiple ports to your laptop with award-winning docks.

Whether you're building your own drive with the OWC Envoy Express, need the rugged protection of the Envoy Pro EX SSD or the peace of mind of having all your data backed up to a ThunderBay RAID, OWC storage solutions harness the speed of Thunderbolt with capacities up to 128 TB. Need more ports? OWC provides the solutions you need to get the job done. On the go and need something that slips into your pocket? The OWC Thunderbolt 3 mini Dock lets you connect up to two 4K displays, two USB-A devices, and Ethernet. Want to build a workstation for your new MacBook Pro? With a single cable, the Thunderbolt 14-port dock lets you connect displays, drives, audio, mics, and headphones - all while charging your laptop.

Samsung Could Become Apple's Newest Chip Supplier

Apple has recently announced its transition to Apple Silicon, meaning that every processor inside its products will be custom designed by the company. However, that seems to be becoming a bit of a problem. The sole supplier of chips for Apple has been Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which Apple collaborated with for the past few years. The sheer capacity of TSMC is enough to satisfy the demand from several companies and thus it allows some of them to book its capacity. With Apple demanding more and more capacity than ever before, it is becoming quite hard to keep up with it. That is why Apple is, according to some analysts for Business Korea, looking for a foundry beyond TSMC's to manufacture its chips.

According to the source, Apple is looking at the direction of Samsung Electronics and its silicon manufacturing facilities. Samsung has recently started the production of its 5 nm silicon manufacturing node. We have reported that the first SoCs are set to arrive soon. However, it may be possible that Apple's M1 lineup of SoCs will be a part of that first wave. Apple is reportedly going to tap both TSMC and Samsung to qualify enough supply for the huge demand of the products based on the latest 5 nm technology.

Apple's M1-Based MacBook Air Benchmarked

When Apple announced that they are going to switch their Mac lineup from Intel-based x86 processors to the custom "Apple Silicon," everyone was wondering how the new processors will look and perform. To everyone's luck, Apple has just a few days ago announced its first Apple Silicon custom processor for MacBook. The M1, as the company calls it, is their first processor designed for higher-power and performance tasks The M1 features eight CPU cores (four high-performance and four-high efficiency) paired with eight cores dedicated to the graphics. On the die, there is also a 16-core neural engine made to accelerate machine learning tasks found in the new applications.

Today, we are getting the first GeekBench 5 CPU benchmarks that showcase just how far Apple has come with its custom design. What we have is the M1 processor found in MacBook Air. This Mac model features a passive cooling system, cooling a CPU with a base frequency of 3.2 GHz. The system scored 1719 points in the single-core result, and 6967 points in the multi-core result. The single-threaded results measure itself with some of the highest-end offerings from Intel and AMD, while the multi-threaded results are very good given the mix and match of small and big cores.

Apple Announces New Line of MacBooks and Mac Minis Powered by M1

On a momentous day for the Mac, Apple today introduced a new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini powered by the revolutionary M1, the first in a family of chips designed by Apple specifically for the Mac. By far the most powerful chip Apple has ever made, M1 transforms the Mac experience. With its industry-leading performance per watt, together with macOS Big Sur, M1 delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU, up to 6x faster GPU, up to 15x faster machine learning (ML) capabilities, and battery life up to 2x longer than before. And with M1 and Big Sur, users get access to the biggest collection of apps ever for Mac. With amazing performance and remarkable new features, the new lineup of M1-powered Macs are an incredible value, and all are available to order today.

"The introduction of three new Macs featuring Apple's breakthrough M1 chip represents a bold change that was years in the making, and marks a truly historic day for the Mac and for Apple," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "M1 is by far the most powerful chip we've ever created, and combined with Big Sur, delivers mind-blowing performance, extraordinary battery life, and access to more software and apps than ever before. We can't wait for our customers to experience this new generation of Mac, and we have no doubt it will help them continue to change the world."

Apple Announces the M1 Processor Powering Next-Gen Macs

Apple today announced M1, the most powerful chip it has ever created and the first chip designed specifically for the Mac. M1 is optimized for Mac systems in which small size and power efficiency are critically important. As a system on a chip (SoC), M1 combines numerous powerful technologies into a single chip, and features a unified memory architecture for dramatically improved performance and efficiency. M1 is the first personal computer chip built using cutting-edge 5-nanometer process technology and is packed with an astounding 16 billion transistors, the most Apple has ever put into a chip.

It features the world's fastest CPU core in low-power silicon, the world's best CPU performance per watt, the world's fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer, and breakthrough machine learning performance with the Apple Neural Engine. As a result, M1 delivers up to 3.5x faster CPU performance, up to 6x faster GPU performance, and up to 15x faster machine learning, all while enabling battery life up to 2x longer than previous-generation Macs. With its profound increase in performance and efficiency, M1 delivers the biggest leap ever for the Mac.

Apple Could Unveil Arm-powered MacBooks on November 10

Apple late Monday sent out a public invite to an online launch event dated November 10, without revealing what it is. With new generation iPhones and Watches and iPads already announced it's likely that the November 10 event could deal with Macs, specifically, the company's very first MacBooks powered by a non-Intel processor since the company embraced x86 some decade-and-a-half ago.

Apple, having gained in-house expertise in designing powerful Arm-based SoCs, is likely to debut a new Arm-based processor with sufficient muscle to drive MacBooks, in what will be a "client-first" strategy of replacing x86 with Arm for Apple. This will likely see the most client-segment products, such as MacBooks and Mac Mini, get the processor, followed by MacBook Pros, iMacs, and lastly workstation-segment products such as the Mac Pro and iMac Pro. The November 10 event will likely only cover the very first Arm-powered MacBooks. Apple has been selling Arm-powered Mac Minis to ISVs along with a special version of macOS "Big Sur," so they could port their Mac software to the new platform. Arm-powered Macs could also see some form of unification between the iOS and macOS software ecosystems.

Apple Reports Fourth Quarter Results

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2020 fourth quarter ended September 26, 2020. The Company posted record September quarter revenue of $64.7 billion and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $0.73. International sales accounted for 59 percent of the quarter's revenue.

"Apple capped off a fiscal year defined by innovation in the face of adversity with a September quarter record, led by all-time records for Mac and Services," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "Despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, Apple is in the midst of our most prolific product introduction period ever, and the early response to all our new products, led by our first 5G-enabled iPhone lineup, has been tremendously positive. From remote learning to the home office, Apple products have been a window to the world for users as the pandemic continues, and our teams have met the needs of this moment with creativity, passion, and the kinds of big ideas that only Apple can deliver."

Apple A14 SoC Put Under the Microscope; Die Size, and Transistor Density Calculated

Apple has established itself as a master of silicon integrated circuit design and has proven over the years that its processors deliver the best results, generation after generation. If we take a look at the performance numbers of the latest A14 Bionic, you can conclude that its performance is now rivaling some of the x86_64 chips. So you would wonder, what is inside this SoC that makes it so fast? That is exactly what ICmasters, a semiconductor reverse engineering and IP services company, has questioned and decided to find out. For starters, we know that Apple manufactures the new SoCs on TSMC's N5 5 nm node. The Taiwanese company promises to pack 171.3 million transistors per square millimeter, so how does it compare to an actual product?

ICmasters have used electron microscopy to see what the chip is made out of and to measure the transistor density. According to this source, Apple has a chip with a die size of 88 mm², which packs 11.8 billion N5 transistors. The density metric, however, doesn't correspond to that of TSMC. Instead of 171.3 million transistors per mm², the ICmasters measured 134.09 million transistors per mm². This is quite a difference, however, it is worth noting that each design will have it different due to different logic and cache layout.
Apple A14 SoC Die Apple A14 SoC

Microsoft xCloud May Bypass Apple App Store with Web App

Microsoft is reportedly planning to release a "direct browser-based solution" to bring their Xbox Game Pass xCloud streaming service to iOS and iPadOS devices targeting a 2021 launch according to sources familiar with the matter. Microsoft has faced numerous issues with bringing the service to Apple devices due to App Store policies requiring each game to be uploaded as a separate application for review. Microsoft has previously stated that this solution is unacceptable and they would be investigating other options, they seem to have concluded that a web app would be the best route forwards. This approach is very similar to Amazon's Luna game streaming service which will also utilize a web app for access on Apple devices.

Apple Preparing to Launch First ARM-Powered MacBook Next Month

Apple announced plans to transition their Mac lineup to in-house ARM-based processors earlier this year. This decision came as a result of Apple's dependence on Intel for new processors each year and their recent underwhelming improvements. The upcoming 12 core chip is expected to be manufactured on TSMC's 5 nm node which should deliver significant power savings and performance. Apple has been working to optimize macOS and first party applications for the new processors along with sending out developer transition kits to hopefully ensure major software is supported at launch. The processor is rumored to debut in an upcoming 13-inch MacBook Pro or a new MacBook Air and should launch at a dedicated event in November according to a recent report by Bloomberg.

TSMC 5 nm Node Supply Fully Booked, Apple the Biggest Customer

TSMC has hit a jackpot with its newer nodes like 7 nm and now 5 nm, as the company is working with quite good yields. To boast, TSMC has seen all of its capacity of 7 nm being fully booked by customers like AMD, Apple, and NVIDIA. However, it seems like the company's next-generation 5 nm node is also getting high demand. According to the latest report from DigiTimes, TSMC's N5 5 nm node is fully booked to the end of 2020. And the biggest reason for that is the biggest company in the world - Apple. Since Apple plans to launch the next-generation iPhone, iPad, and Arm-based MacBook, the company has reportedly booked most of the 5 nm capacity for 2020, meaning that there are lots of chips that Apple will consume. TSMC can't be dependent only on one company like Apple, so the smaller portion of capacity went to other customers as well.

Razer Announces Kishi Universal Gaming Controller for iPhone

Razer, the leading global lifestyle brand for gamers, today announced the immediate availability of the Razer Kishi Universal Gaming Controller for iPhone, an iOS version of the mobile accessory that won two Best of CES awards in January. Featuring clickable analog thumbsticks, an array of face and multi-function buttons, and an 8-way D-pad, the Kishi for iPhone makes available Razer's award-winning controller hardware to Apple users for the very first time.

"As crossplay becomes further entrenched in the gaming world, the Razer Kishi offers a level playing field for mobile gamers," said Head of Marketing and Sales, Growth Peripherals for Razer, John Moore. "The Razer Kishi for iPhone extends that equity to Apple Arcade's extraordinary collection of titles, ensuring that no matter where you game, victory is always within your grasp."
Razer Kishi iPhone

Apple is Quickly Expanding its Data Centers

Thanks to the latest reportings from DigiTimes, we have obtained information that Apple has been working on expanding its data centers. According to Taiwan's server upstream supply chain, Apple has increased orders for its data centers, which have been growing starting from the second quarter of 2020. For the full year 2020, the orders are expected to be doubled, and the growth in purchasing is going to continue well into 2021. This purchasing decision from Apple comes after strong demand for its services like iCloud, Apple Music, Apple TV, App Store, etc., all of which have millions of users. Being that Apple is expanding its data centers, that must represent a sign that Apple's user base is continuing to grow strongly.

Apple's Custom GPU is Reportedly Faster than Intel iGPU

When Apple announced their transition form Intel processors to Apple Silicon, we were left wondering how the silicon will perform and what characteristics will it bring with it. According to the latest report from The China Times, the Apple custom GPU found inside the new Apple Silicon will bring better performance and energy efficiency compared to Intel iGPU it replaces. The 5 nm GPU manufactured on TSMC's N5 semiconductor manufacturing node is supposedly codenamed "Lifuka" and it brings Apple's best to the table. Planned to power a 12-inch MacBook, the GPU will be paired with a custom CPU based on Arm ISA as well. The same chips powering iPhone and iPad devices will go into MacBook devices, with the TDP increased as MacBook will probably have much higher cooling capacity. The first Apple Silicon MacBook will come in H2 of 2021.
Here is the copy of a full report from The China Times below:

Apple is Preparing its Own Search Engine

In the past few years, Google has been paying Apple billions of dollars just for the company to keep Google as the default search engine in every aspect of the company's products. Starting from iOS up to macOS, they included Google as the default search engine. However, the deal between two companies might be coming to an end. In July this year, a UK Competition and Markets Authority took a shot at a deal claiming that the companies imposed a barrier on any market competition in the search engine space. Constant pressure from regulators and the fact that Apple doesn't want to be reliant on any company is possibly giving Apple ideas to launch its own search engine.

Recent changes in the spotlight search on iOS 14 and iPad OS 14 beta is making the software bypass Google search engine completely. As shown below (search and direct results), the company implemented a feature that makes the spotlight search go directly to search results instead of going to Google. The Applebot web crawler has seen some changes so it now renders pages in a similar way Google does and not just filter HTML. The web crawler also is updated to rank web pages just like it is made for a search engine. All of this is supposed to give Apple enough material so it can build something similar to a search engine. It is believed that the search engine wouldn't look like any classical one, but rather be embedded in Apple products and serve as a personalized search hub.

Epic Games Gets Partial Relief in Legal Battle with Apple

Epic Games and Apple are engaged in an ugly legal battle over Epic's decision to add an in-app payment system for "Fortnite," in violation of Apple's terms. All in-game micro-transactions are expected to be routed through the App Store. Apple essentially de-platformed Epic Games, and "Fortnite," which would have far-reaching implications including restrictions on third-party games using the Unreal Engine. On Monday, Epic Games got a partial and temporary relief against Apple's action, in the form of a temporary restraining order which prevents Apple from terminating the developer accounts of Epic Games, and restricting the use of Unreal Engine by game developers on Apple platforms.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers hearing the matter, however ruled that Apple isn't required to restore "Fortnite," which it banned after Epic Games added its in-game payments system that stepped on Apple's toes. Epic Games in its prayer to the Court argued that Apple's actions brought "irreparable harm" to the company. The Court disagreed. "The Court finds that with respect to Epic Games' motion as to its games, including Fortnite, Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm. The current predicament appears of its own making." She argued that Epic Games "strategically chose to breach its agreements with Apple."

Epic vs Apple: Microsoft Files in Support of Epic Games

In the ongoing turf war between Epic Games and Apple, the game and engine development company has now signed a powerful ally to its side: Microsoft. In an announcement via Twitter, XBOX vice president Phil Spencer announced that Microsoft had filed a statement in support of Epic's lawsuit against Apple - specifically, regarding the maintenance of Unreal Engine resources, tools, and developer credentials in the Apple store. This comes weeks after the battle royale between Apple and Epic begun, and after Epic started a social media and industry-wide call for support among consumers and corporations alike.

While the merits on Epic's initial move and subsequent lawsuit against Apple may be up for debate, and it's likely that any court of law will say that Epic clearly intended to breach contract terms they had already accepted when distributing Fortnite through the Apple Store, this second one has a much higher amount of O2 to breathe. Apple terminating the Unreal Engine affiliation with its store and development capabilities can potentially send a ripple effect throughout the entire games industry, whether in already-shipped games, currently in development ones, or future development intentions. That Microsoft themselves backed Epic on this particular issue goes to show just how wide a net this conflict is escalating towards.

TSMC Ships its 1 Billionth 7nm Chip

In a bid to show off its volume production prowess and technological edge (but mostly to rub it in to rival fabs), TSMC on Thursday announced that it shipped its 1 billionth chip fabricated on its 7 nm process. If these dies were combined into one big rectangular wafer, they would cover 13 New York City blocks. TSMC's 7 nm process debuted with its N7 node, which went into volume production in April 2018, over two years ago. The fab has since mass-produced 7 nm chips for the likes of Qualcomm, Apple, and AMD, among dozens of other clients. The company now looks to monetize refinements of N7, namely the N7e and N7P (DUV refinements), while executing its crucial EUV-based N7+ node, leading up to future nodelets such as N6. Much of TSMC's growth will be propelled by 5G modems, application processors, and its pivotal role in the growth of companies such as AMD.

Apple Hits $2 Trillion Valuation Mark, Just 2 Years After it Hit $1 Trillion

Apple is now valued at two trillion dollars! The tech giant became the world's most valuable company, clocking unfathomable growth in value. "It took Apple 42 years to reach $1 trillion in value. It took it just two more years to get to $2 trillion," writes the New York Times. Almost all of Apple's second trillion dollars in valuation came in just the past 28 weeks, as the world reeled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of Apple's rise is attributable to measures by the U.S. Federal Reserve this March, allaying investor fears as capital markets crashed around the world, as governments clamped down on normal economic activity. Tech stocks have particularly benefited from the measures, as investors find them to be the next new "flight to safety" (a safe investment option in the face of calamity, akin to gold bullion). At $2 trillion, Apple is valued higher than the annual nominal gross domestic product of all but 7 countries (IMF measurement).
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