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Big Tech and Lobby: Semiconductors in America Coalition (SIAC) Founded With Microsoft, Apple, Intel, AMD, TSMC, Others

Since lobbying is both legal and regulated in the US (an attempt to bring attempts of influencing political power by corporations under legal boundaries, as opposed to being done in the dark), it feels like it was only a matter of time before big tech attempted to join under one banner. As such, the Semiconductors in America Coalition (SIAC) has now been put together, and boasts of 64 members including Microsoft, Apple, TSMC, Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, Arm, and Samsung. It seems that all of these companies - which are often at odds with one another when it comes to competing for consumers' choice and money - have found enough similarities to get organized in an attempt to nudge political power in their favor.

SIAC said in a press release that its mission is to "advance federal policies that promote semiconductor manufacturing and research in the U.S. to strengthen America's economy, national security, and critical infrastructure." The first announcement from the SIAC following its foundation was its intention to support the CHIPS for America Act. The Act (supported by The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) and President Joe Biden) has already been approved by the House and the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 but has not yet been funded. It seems that SIAC's first mission is to get the government to open up its $50 billion-deep pockets.

Apple Awards Corning $45 Million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund

Today, Apple is awarding $45 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to Corning Incorporated, a supplier of precision glass for iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad. The funding will expand Corning's manufacturing capacity in the US and drive research and development into innovative new technologies that support durability and long-lasting product life, building on both Apple and Corning's deep commitment to protecting the environment.

Corning has already received $450 million from Apple's $5 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund over the last four years. Apple's investment helps support more than 1,000 jobs across Corning's US operations in Kentucky and other facilities. The investment has also helped facilitate research and development into state-of-the-art glass processes, which led to the creation of Ceramic Shield, a new material that is tougher than any smartphone glass.

Apple M1 Processor Receives Preliminary Support in Linux Kernel

Apple's M1 custom processor has been widely adopted among the developer community. However, it is exactly this part of the M1 customer base that wants something different. For months, various developers have been helping with the adoption of the M1 processor for the Linux Kernel, which has today received preliminary support for the processor. The latest 5.13-RC1 release of the Linux Kernel is out, and it adds some basic functionality for the M1 processor. For now, it is some basic stuff like a simple bring up, however, much more has to be added. For example, the GPU support is still not done. Not even half-done. The M1 SoC is now able to boot, however, it takes a lot more work to get the full SoC working correctly.

Mr. Linus Torvalds, the Linux kernel developer, and its creator highlights that "This was - as expected - a fairly big merge window, but things seem to have proceeded fairly smoothly. Famous last words." According to one of the main activists for Linux on M1, Mr. Hector Martin, "This is just basic bring-up, but it lays a solid foundation and is probably the most challenging up-streaming step we'll have to do, at least until the GPU stuff is done." So it is still a long way before the M1 processor takes a full Linux kernel for a spin and the software becomes usable.

Samsung's Apple M1-rivaling Exynos SoC Powering Notebooks by H2-2021

Samsung is readying a powerful Arm-based SoC rivaling Apple's groundbreaking M1 silicon, under its Exynos brand. This chip is being designed for thin-and-light notebooks, as well as premium tablets, essentially letting Samsung target Apple's MacBook (M1) and iPad Pro form-factors. Unlike Apple, Samsung won't be burdened with having to rally its ISV partners to develop specifically for its hardware; the company is preparing to launch notebooks in the second half of 2021 that are powered by a Windows 10 on Arm derivative. This would give the notebook access to all of the applications already developed for the OS, including Office and certain Adobe Creativity Suite apps. The M1-rivaling Exynos chip will pack the latest-generation 64-bit Arm CPU cores, as well as an integrated GPU designed by AMD.

Growth in Total Smartphone Production for 2021 Drops to 8.5% YoY Due to India's Second Wave of Coronavirus, Says TrendForce

TrendForce's investigations find that India has become the second largest market for smartphones since 2019. However, the recent worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country has severely impaired India's domestic economy and subsequently dampened various smartphone brands' production volume and sales (sell-in) performances there. TrendForce is therefore revising the forecasted YoY growth in global smartphone production for 2021 from 9.4% down to 8.5%, with a yearly production volume of 1.36 billion units and potential for further decreases going forward.

TrendForce further indicates that the top five smartphone brands (Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo) have either set up assembly plants in India or sought assistance from EMS providers with operations in the country. Hence, the share of made-in-India smartphones has been on the rise over the years, even though the majority of the domestically manufactured devices are still for meeting the demand of the home market. Judging from the current state of Indian smartphone manufacturing, TrendForce expects the second wave to reduce the country's smartphone production volume for 2Q21 and 3Q21 by a total of 12 million units, in turn resulting in a 7.5% YoY decrease in smartphone production in India for the whole year.

Apple Awards an Additional $410 Million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to II-VI

Apple today announced a new $410 million award from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund for II-VI, a leading manufacturer of optical technology. Today's award builds on an initial $390 million awarded from Apple's Advanced Manufacturing Fund in 2017. The expansion of the company's long-standing relationship with II-VI will create additional capacity and accelerate delivery of future components for iPhone, with 700 jobs in Sherman, Texas; Warren, New Jersey; Easton, Pennsylvania; and Champaign, Illinois.

II-VI manufactures vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) that help power Face ID, Memoji, Animoji, and Portrait mode selfies. Apple also works with II-VI to manufacture lasers used in the LiDAR Scanner—technology that helps deliver faster, more realistic augmented reality experiences and improves autofocus in low-light scenes in photos and videos.

Apple M2 Processor is Reportedly in Mass Production

Apple's M1 processors are a big success. When Apple introduced the M1 processors in the MacBook lineup, everyone was impressed by the processor performance and the power efficiency it offered. Just a few days ago, Apple updated its Mac lineup to feature these M1 processors and made it obvious that custom silicon is the way to go in the future. Today, we have information coming from Nikkei Asia, that Apple's next-generation M2 chip has entered mass production and that it could be on the way for as early as July when Apple will reportedly refresh its products. The M2 chip is made inside TSMC's facilities on a 5 nm+ N5P node. While there is no more information coming from the report about the SoC, we can expect it to be a good generational improvement.

AMD Radeon Pro W6900X With Navi 21 Appears in Apple Mac Pro

Recently, Apple has updated its macOS operating system to support the next generation of GPUs for Mac devices, coming from AMD. The upcoming RDNA 2 GPU lineup in Macs will bring all the enhancements AMD made to the architecture, and pack it inside Apple's signature designs. Today, we have received information that Apple could refresh its Mac Pro lineup with AMD's Radeon Pro GPU based on RDNA 2 architecture. On Geekbench 5, there was a test run that was conducted on Apple Mac Pro "7.1" revision, that features not only Intel Cascade Lake-X processor but AMD's unreleased Radeon Pro W6900X graphics card designed for professional users.

While we don't know much about the exact specifications, we know that it features a Navi 21 GPU SKU. Judging by the naming scheme, the Radeon Pro W6900X is representing an Apple-exclusive GPU variant designed only for Mac Pro devices. A Chiphell leak has given us a sneak peek at the alleged card look, which you can see below. When it comes to performance, the Geekbench result measures Metal API performance and the Radeon Pro W6900X has managed to score 171448 points, which is even higher than the Radeon RX 6900 XT GPU, which tops out at 164294 points. Of course, this is representing a professional SKU, so there could be some tuning present as well.

Apple Updates M1 Mac Mini with 10 GbE Upgrade Option

Apple has quietly added a new M1 Mac Mini configuration option to their website with an optional upgrade from the internal 1 Gbps Ethernet to 10 Gbps Ethernet at the time of purchase for 100 USD. The upgrade is only available as a factory option and cannot be added after purchase so those who require 10 GbE will want to purchase the upgrade at the time of purchase. For existing M1 Mac Mini owners it is possible to get 10 GbE with a USB 4 / Thunderbolt 3 dongle such as the OWC Thunderbolt 3 10G which retails for 149 USD. Why Apple has only just now decided to include this 10 GbE upgrade as an option and not with the original launch is unknown.

Apple Announces the 2021 iMac, Powered by M1 Chip, Featuring 4.5K Retina Display

Apple today introduced an all-new iMac featuring a much more compact and remarkably thin design, enabled by the M1 chip. The new iMac offers powerful performance in a design that's just 11.5 millimeters thin, with a striking side profile that practically disappears. Available in an array of vibrant colors to match a user's personal style and brighten any space, iMac features a 24-inch 4.5K Retina display with 11.3 million pixels, 500 nits of brightness, and over a billion colors, delivering a brilliant and vivid viewing experience.

The new iMac also includes a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, studio-quality mics, and a six-speaker sound system—the best camera and audio ever in a Mac. Also, Touch ID comes to iMac for the first time, making it easier than ever to securely log in, make purchases with Apple Pay, or switch user profiles with the touch of a finger. Combining the power and performance of M1 and macOS Big Sur, apps launch with blazing speed, everyday tasks feel incredibly fast and fluid, and demanding workloads like editing 4K video and working with huge images are faster than ever. The new iMac joins the incredible family of Mac models powered by M1, including MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini, marking another step forward in Apple's transition to Apple silicon. iMac is the most personal, powerful, capable, and fun it has ever been, and customers can order it beginning Friday, April 30. iMac will be available in the second half of May.

Apple Announces 3rd Gen iPad Pro with M1 Chip, 5G, Thunderbolt 4, and mini-LED Display

Apple today announced the most powerful and advanced iPad Pro ever, pushing the limits of what's possible on iPad. The addition of the Apple-designed M1 chip delivers a massive leap in performance, making iPad Pro the fastest device of its kind. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro features a new Liquid Retina XDR display that brings extreme dynamic range to iPad Pro, offering a stunning visual experience with more true-to-life details to the most demanding HDR workflows. Cellular models with 5G deliver even faster wireless connectivity when on the go, and to provide users with pro-level throughput for high-speed accessories, iPad Pro now includes support for Thunderbolt. Additionally, an all-new Ultra Wide front camera enables Center Stage, a new feature that automatically keeps users perfectly framed for even more engaging video calls. The new iPad Pro is available to order beginning Friday, April 30, on apple.com, and will be available in the second half of May.

"The revolutionary M1 chip has been a breakthrough for the Mac, and we're incredibly excited to bring it to iPad Pro," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. "With M1's huge jump in performance, a groundbreaking extreme dynamic range experience on the 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display, up to 2 TB of high-speed storage, Thunderbolt expansion, a four-speaker audio system, pro cameras with LiDAR Scanner, blazing-fast 5G connectivity, an amazing video-calling experience with Center Stage—combined with the advanced features of iPadOS and a powerful pro app ecosystem all in a device users can hold in one hand—there's nothing else like iPad Pro."

Engineers Upgrade Soldered Components on Apple M1 Mac Mini

The Apple M1 processor features integrated memory directly on the chip to reduce latency, power, and size. While this design may be good for the overall user experience it does not bode well for upgradability requiring users to pay up for a more expensive model. Some Chinese engineers have recently shown how it is possible to upgrade the soldered memory and storage components given you have the time, skills, and money. The DRAM and NAND chips are soldered to the M1 chip and motherboard but can be removed and replaced with higher capacity chips using a specialty soldering station. The engineers upgraded the base model M1 Mac Mini with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB storage to 16 GB RAM and 1 TB storage. The upgrade didn't require firmware modifications according to the source which is very impressive if true.

TSMC to Enter 4 nm Node Volume Production in Q4 of 2021

TSMC, the world leader in semiconductor manufacturing, has reportedly begun with plans to start volume production of the 4 nm node by the end of this year. According to the sources over at DigiTimes, Taiwan's leading semiconductor manufacturer could be on the verge of starting volume production of an even smaller node. The new 4 nm node is internally referred to as a part of the N5 node generation. The N5 generation covers N5 (regular 5 nm), N5P (5 nm+), and N4 process that is expected to debut soon. And perhaps the most interesting thing is that the 4 nm process will be in high-volume production in Q4, with Apple expected to be one of the major consumers of the N5 node family.

DigiTimes reports that Apple will use the N5P node for the upcoming Apple A15 SoCs for next-generation iPhones, while the more advanced N4 node will find itself as a base of the new Macs equipped with custom Apple Silicon SoCs. To find out more, we have to wait for the official product launches and see just how much improvement new nodes bring.

Revenue of Top 10 IC Design (Fabless) Companies for 2020 Undergoes 26.4% Increase YoY, Says TrendForce

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 1H20 seemed at first poised to devastate the IC design industry. However, as WFH and distance education became the norm, TrendForce finds that the demand for notebook computers and networking products also spiked in response, in turn driving manufacturers to massively ramp up their procurement activities for components. Fabless IC design companies that supply such components therefore benefitted greatly from manufacturers' procurement demand, and the IC design industry underwent tremendous growth in 2020. In particular, the top three IC design companies (Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Nvidia) all posted YoY increases in their revenues, with Nvidia registering the most impressive growth, at a staggering 52.2% increase YoY, the highest among the top 10 companies.

Valve Releases Official Steam Link App For macOS

Steam Link is a program developed by Valve which allows gamers to remotely play games from their main computer on other devices. The program originally launched for Android before expanding to iOS, Linux, Raspberry Pi, tvOS, and now macOS. The Steam Link application relies on Steam Remote Play technology which performs real-time H.264 video streaming over a low-latency protocol to the connected device, resolutions of up to 4K 60 FPS are possible if enough bandwidth is available. The Steam Link app is now available to download through the official Mac App Store and comes in at just 30 MB. Steam Link for Mac requires macOS 10.13 or higher along with a PC to host the games running on the same local network.

Apple Mac Pro 2022 Rumored to Feature Custom 64-Core Processor & Sell For 19,000 USD

Apple relaunched the Mac Pro in 2019 with a return to the original tower form factor and packing 24-core Intel Xeon-W processors paired with AMD Radeon Pro Vega GPUs. Apple is reportedly planning to release a fourth-generation Mac Pro in 2022 with the most powerful Apple silicon yet. The 2022 Mac Pro will be available in three base configurations with 32, 48, and 64 core versions featuring new processors developed by Apple with similar performance and power-efficient core designs as found in the Apple M1.

The entry-level 32 core model will include 24 high-performance cores, 32 GPU cores, 64 GB ram, and will start at 5,499 USD. The mid-range 48 core model will include 36 high-performance cores, 64 GPU cores, 256 GB ram, and will start at 11,999 USD. The highest-end 64 core model will include 48 high-performance cores, 128 GPU cores, 512 GB ram, and will start at 18,999 USD. Storage options will vary from 512 GB to 8 TB of SSD storage as is currently available. These machines are shaping up to be some of the most powerful prosumer computers available if these rumors are true.

Apple is Discontinuing Intel-based iMac Pro

According to the official company website, Apple will no longer manufacture its iMac Pro computers based on Intel processors. Instead, the company will carry these models in its store, only while the supplies last. Apple will be replacing these models with next-generation iMac Pro devices that will be home to the custom Apple Silicon processors, combining Arm CPU cores with custom GPU design. Having a starting price of 4990 USD, the Apple iMac Pro was able to max out at 15000 USD. The most expensive part was exactly the Intel Xeon processor inside it, among the AMD GPU with HBM. Configuration pricing was also driven by storage/RAM options. However, even the most expensive iMac Pro with its 2017 hardware had no chance against the regular 2020 iMac, so the product was set to be discontinued sooner or later.

When the stock of the iMac Pro runs out, Apple will replace this model with its Apple Silicon equipped variant. According to the current rumor mill, Apple is set to hold a keynote on March 16th that will be an announcement for new iMac Pro devices with custom processors. What happens is only up to Apple, so we have to wait and see.

AMD is Preparing RDNA-Based Cryptomining GPU SKUs

Back in February, NVIDIA has announced its GPU SKUs dedicated to the cryptocurrency mining task, without any graphics outputs present on the chips. Today, we are getting information that AMD is rumored to introduce its own lineup of graphics cards dedicated to cryptocurrency mining. In the latest patch for AMD Direct Rendering Manager (DRM), a subsystem of the Linux kernel responsible for interfacing with GPUs, we see the appearance of the Navi 12. This GPU SKU was not used for anything except Apple's Mac devices in a form of Radeon Pro 5600M GPU. However, it seems like the Navi 12 could join forces with Navi 10 GPU SKU and become a part of special "blockchain" GPUs.

Way back in November, popular hardware leaker, KOMACHI, has noted that AMD is preparing three additional Radeon SKUs called Radeon RX 5700XTB, RX 5700B, and RX 5500XTB. The "B" added to the end of each name is denoting the blockchain revision, made specifically for crypto-mining. When it comes to specifications of the upcoming mining-specific AMD GPUs, we know that both use first-generation RDNA architecture and have 2560 Stream Processors (40 Compute Units). Memory configuration for these cards remains unknown, as AMD surely won't be putting HBM2 stacks for mining like it did with Navi 12 GPU. All that remains is to wait and see what AMD announces in the coming months.

TSMC Could Build Six GigaFabs in Arizona

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), one of the largest manufacturers of silicon, is seemingly making plans to build as many as six of its US-based fabs in Arizona. According to the unconfirmed report coming from UDN, TSMC could be building its Arizona-based factories for much larger capacities. Based on TSMC's classifications, the MegaFab-class of factories is the one with 25,000 WSPM output. According to the report, TSMC plans to build six additional facilities in the area where the Arizona fab is, and have a GigaFab-class (even larger type) factory present on US soil. Currently, the company operates six GigaFabs and all of them are based in Taiwan.

The GigaFab class factory is supposed to have over 100,000 WSPM output, and by building one in the US, TSMC could get much closer to big customers like Apple, NVIDIA, and AMD. Reports are saying that TSMC's primary target is 3 nm node production on 12-inch (300 mm) wafers. All six of the supposed facilities are expected to output more than 100,000 wafers at their peak, making it one of the largest projects TSMC has ever done. The Arizona location is supposed to serve as a "mega fab" facility and it is supposed to start manufacturing silicon in 2024. This information is, of course, just a rumor so you should take it with a grain of salt, as this type of information is usually only known by top-level management.

TSMC to Start 3 nm Node Production This Year

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the leading provider of semiconductors, is supposed to start 3 nm node production this year. While Samsung, one of the top three leading semiconductor foundries, has been struggling with the pandemic and delayed its 3 nm node for 2022, TSMC has managed to deliver it this year. According to a report, the Taiwanese semiconductor giant is preparing the 3 nm node for the second half of this year, with the correct date of high-volume product unknown. The expected wafer capacity for the new node is supposed to be around 30,000 wafers per month, with capacity expansion expected to hit around 105,000 wafers per month in 2023. This is similar to 5 nm's current numbers of 105,000 wafers per month output, which was 90,000 just a few months ago in Q4 2020. One of the biggest customers of the upcoming 3 nm node is Apple.

Apple M1 Processor Manages to Mine Ethereum

Ethereum mining has been a crazy ride over the years. In recent times, it has become very popular due to a huge surge in Ethereum prices, following those of the main coin currently present on the market - Bitcoin. However, Ethereum miners use a customized PC stocked with many graphics cards to mine the Ethereum coin. Any other alternative is not viable and graphics cards have a high hash rate of the KECCAK-256 hashing algorithm. But have you ever wondered could you mine Ethereum on your shiny new Apple M1-equipped Mac? Our guess is no, however, there are still some people making experiments with the new Apple M1 processor and testing its capabilities.

Software engineer Yifan Gu, working for Zensors, has found a way to use Apple's M1 GPU to mine Ethereum. Mr. Gu has ported Ethminer utility to Apple's macOS for Apple Silicon and has managed to get GPU mining the coins. While technically it was possible, the results were rather poor. The integrated GPU has managed to get only 2 MH/s of mining power, which is rather low compared to alternatives (desktop GPUs). Being possible doesn't mean it is a good idea. The software will consume all of the GPU power and it will limit your work with the GPU, so it isn't exactly a profitable solution.

Apple Subpoenas Valve for Steam's Data on 346 Games

Apple and Epic Games have had quite a turbulent history of legal issues in the past year. Fortnite, the world's biggest battle royale game, got removed from the Apple store because its developer, Epic Games, had refused to comply to store rules. If a developer is listing a game on the Apple store, all in-game payments must be processed through Apple, with the company taking a 30% tax cut for it. Epic Games didn't like that idea too much, so the company just used an external system that gave players the option to pay for in-game goods using different ways. However, that represented non-compliance to Apple store guidelines, and Apple took the Fortnite game down.


Update February 26th 07:50 UTC: In the court hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson ordered that Apple's subpoena was considered valid. Valve's lawyers urged the judge to not force the company to produce the requested data, however, Apple's lawyers have said that the request is doable and the company is only requesting data on a few hundred games, and it could have been worse by requesting data on over 30000 games instead.

Gartner Says Worldwide Smartphone Sales Declined 5% in Fourth Quarter of 2020

Global sales of smartphones to end users declined 5.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to Gartner, Inc. Smartphone sales declined 12.5% in full year 2020.

"The sales of more 5G smartphones and lower-to-mid-tier smartphones minimized the market decline in the fourth quarter of 2020," said Anshul Gupta, senior research director at Gartner. "Even as consumers remained cautious in their spending and held off on some discretionary purchases, 5G smartphones and pro-camera features encouraged some end users to purchase new smartphones or upgrade their current smartphones in the quarter."

Alleged Apple M1X Processor Specifications Leaked Again

Apple impressed everyone with the launch of their M1 processor last year and it would appear they are preparing to do it again with an upgraded version named the M1X for the 2021 Mac lineup. The Apple M1X will reportedly include an upgraded 12-core CPU consisting of eight Firestorm performance cores and four Icestorm power-efficiency cores compared to the 8-core 4+4 configuration of the M1. The M1X GPU is rumored to include an even greater upgrade with 16 cores and 256 execution units which is exactly double then found on the M1 CPU. The chip will also include an increased TDP of 35 W - 45 W and will double the maximum RAM configuration to 32 GB. This information is not official so take it with a heavy dose of skepticism, the Apple M1X is expected to be announced by Apple in the coming months and will likely power the 2021 MacBook Pro 14, MacBook Pro 16, and 27" iMac.

Epic Games Files EU Antitrust Complaint Against Apple

Epic Games today announced it has filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in the European Union (EU), expanding the company's fight to advance fairer digital platform practices for developers and consumers. The complaint, filed with the European Commission's Directorate-General for Competition, alleges that through a series of carefully designed anti-competitive restrictions, Apple has not just harmed but completely eliminated competition in app distribution and payment processes. Apple uses its control of the iOS ecosystem to benefit itself while blocking competitors and its conduct is an abuse of a dominant position and in breach of EU competition law.

The complaint complements legal processes already underway in both the US and Australia, as well as Epic's recent filing before the UK's Competition Appeal Tribunal. "What's at stake here is the very future of mobile platforms." Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney said today. "Consumers have the right to install apps from sources of their choosing and developers have the right to compete in a fair marketplace. We will not stand idly by and allow Apple to use its platform dominance to control what should be a level digital playing field. It's bad for consumers, who are paying inflated prices due to the complete lack of competition among stores and in-app payment processing. And it's bad for developers, whose very livelihoods often hinge on Apple's complete discretion as to who to allow on the iOS platform, and on which terms."
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