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China's SMIC Announces N+1 Node Tape-Out for 7 nm Silicon

SMIC is taking immense strides in bridging the gap between China's in-house silicon manufacturing capability compared to the usual Taiwanese or US-based options. Despite its ties to the Chinese government, which led for a US blacklisting of the company amidst the current China-US trade-war, SMIC has definitely achieved a benchmark with its 7 nm tape-out. This was achieved after a number of funding rounds, some of them with the power of the Chinese state behind them. While the blacklisting definitely hurt the company, they still have access to ASML's semiconductor manufacturing equipment, so while the rope may be tight, it likely isn't suffocating.

The node's first production tape-out is for an ASIC (Application-Specific Integrated Circuit) design for Innosilicon, which specializes in cryptocurrency mining, purpose-built chips. SMIC states that the new N+1 process can offer up to 20% boosted performance at the same clocks and core complexity compared to their 12 nm designs, which is subpar compared to other player's "7 nm class nodes", such as GloFo's 12 LP+, Samsung's 8LPP and TSMC's N7 non-EUV nodes (TSMC, for instance, offered a 20% performance boost between the 10 nm and 7 nm nodes). SMIC's manufacturing looks better in other metrics, though: power requirements can be reduced by 57% at the same TDP and complexity, and the transistor density can be increased by up to 2.7 times, (the "up to" depends on specific semiconductor structures). This is SMIC is only targeting - for now - low-power and low-cost devices with the N+1 nodes.

China Forecast to Represent 22% of the Foundry Market in 2020, says IC Insights

IC Insights recently released its September Update to the 2020 McClean Report that presented the second of a two-part analysis on the global IC foundry industry and included a look at the pure-play foundry market by region.

China was responsible for essentially all of the total pure-play foundry market increase in 2018. In 2019, the U.S./China trade war slowed China's economic growth but its foundry marketshare still increased by two percentage points to 21%. Moreover, despite the Covid-19 shutdown of China's economy earlier this year, China's share of the pure-play foundry market is forecast to be 22% in 2020, 17 percentage points greater than it registered in 2010 (Figure 1).

Chinese Game Streaming Market Consolidates with Merger of Huya & DouYu

Tencent is set to win big after it was announced that Chinese game streaming companies Huya and DouYu would be merging, Tencent owns significant stakes in each company and will hold 68% of voting shares after the merger is complete. This merger will significantly reduce marketing costs and see a combined monthly active user base of over 300 million accounting for an over 50% market share making it the largest game streaming venture in the Chinese market. Tencent will also integrate its Penguin e-Sports game streaming platform into the new Huya service to further consolidate its offerings. The merger will help Tencent to gain control over the entire gaming ecosystem in China allowing the firm to generate large eSports revenue and reach a larger audience for game distribution.

China Focuses on 3rd Generation Semiconductors in Aim for Self-Sufficiency

The People Republic of China has always released 5-year plans that have a goal of achieving something. And in the latest, 14th 5-year plan China has an eye on the semiconductor industry. Specifically, China wants to develop independence and self-sufficiency when it comes to semiconductors. With tensions between the US and China raising, it is a smart move to have domestic technology to rely on. The new plan starts next year, 2021, and ends in the year 2025. In that period, China will devote financial resources and human workforce that will hopefully enable its goal. The primary aim for this 14th plan seems to be 3rd generation semiconductor technology. What is meant by that is a technology like gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC). These technologies would be a nice addition to China's portfolio of semiconductors, so we should wait and see what comes out of it.

NVIDIA to Acquire Arm for $40 Billion, Creating World's Premier Computing Company for the Age of AI

NVIDIA and SoftBank Group Corp. (SBG) today announced a definitive agreement under which NVIDIA will acquire Arm Limited from SBG and the SoftBank Vision Fund (together, "SoftBank") in a transaction valued at $40 billion. The transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to NVIDIA's non-GAAP gross margin and non-GAAP earnings per share.

The combination brings together NVIDIA's leading AI computing platform with Arm's vast ecosystem to create the premier computing company for the age of artificial intelligence, accelerating innovation while expanding into large, high-growth markets. SoftBank will remain committed to Arm's long-term success through its ownership stake in NVIDIA, expected to be under 10 percent.

Samsung and SK Hynix to Impose Sanctions Against Huawei

Ever since the Trump administration imposed sanctions against Huawei to stop it from purchasing parts from third-party vendors to bypass the ban announced back in May, some vendors continued to supply the company. So it seems like some Korean manufacturers will be joining the doings of the US government, and apply restrictions to Huawei. According to the reports of South Korean media outlets, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix will be joining the efforts of the US government and the Trump administration to impose sanctions against Chinese technology giant - Huawei.

It is reported that on September 15th, both Samsung and SK Hynix will stop any shipments to Huawei, where Samsung already stopped efforts for creating any new shipments. SK Hynix is said to continue shipping DRAM and NAND Flash products until September 14th, a day before the new sanctions are applied. Until the 14th, Huawei will receive some additional chips from SK Hynix. And it is exactly SK Hynix who is said to be a big loser here. It is estimated that 41.2% of SK Hynix's H1 2020 revenue came from China, most of which was memory purchased for Huawei phones and tablets. If the company loses Huawei as a customer, it would mean that the revenue numbers will be notably lower.

COVID-19 Drives Rise in Global Fab Equipment Spending, SEMI Reports

Soaring pandemic-inspired demand for chips that power everything from communications and IT infrastructures to personal computing, gaming and healthcare electronics will drive an 8% increase in global fab equipment spending in 2020 and a 13% increase in 2021, SEMI announced today in its World Fab Forecast report. Rising demand for semiconductors for datacenter infrastructures and server storage along with the buildup of safety stock as U.S.-China trade tensions intensify are also contributing to this year's growth.

The bullish trend for overall fab equipment investments comes as the semiconductor industry recovers from a 9% decline in fab spending in 2019 and navigates a roller-coaster 2020 with actual and projected spending drops in the first and third quarters mixed with second- and fourth-quarter increases. See figure below:

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:

China is Working on Its Own GitHub Equivalent: Gitee

GitHub serves as a repository for collaborative work in software development, with numerous open-source projects available and worked on by numerous coders, would-be coders, and others. It has been a paragon for a more open internet, with more open standards, and allowing for actual community-based troubleshoot and development. And it does so for anyone around the world.

However, China's efforts to decouple from its dependencies on the Western world for anything technologically-related has been a reason for the country to invest not only on infrastructure and silicon manufacturing, but also in programming and all of the related branches of the technology tree. Recent events initiated by Microsoft (which now owns GitHub) via severing connections to its GitHub repositories for various US-sanctioned countries such as Iran, Syria and Crimea clearly showed what dependencies on foreign-guaranteed resources can do to technological development. China wants to have an answer to that.

Intel Accused of Infringing FinFET Patents of the Microelectronics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Today we are finding out that Intel has allegedly infringed FinFET patents of Microelectronics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. On July 28th, the patent review committee has heard an application that accuses Intel of violating a patent 201110240931.5 commonly referred to as FinFET patent. The patent dates back to 2011, and it comes from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, mainly Microelectronics Institute. The Chinese patent holders are asking for as much as 200 million yuan, which roughly translates to 28,664,380 US dollars. Given that this patent infringement is a major one for Intel, it is sure that a company will be pursued extensively in court. All of the Intel's semiconductors use FinFET technology, and if this is true, the violation is rather big. For more in detail reading, please refer to the source which goes through the history of Intel and Microelectronics Institute patent violation filing.
Intel 3rd generation FInFETs

Arm China Goes Rogue, Ex-CEO Blocking the Business

Arm Ltd., owned by Softbank, has a division specially tailored for China, called Arm China. That division used to operate in Shenzen and it cooperated with Chinese customers. Today in a surprising turn of events, we have information that UK-based Arm Ltd. accuses Arm China ex-CEO of blocking its business, as the Chinese division goes rogue. The Arm China division used to have Mr. Allen Wu as its CEO, who was fired back in June. However, Mr. Wu has refused to cooperate and refused to step down from his position, remaining in control of the business without the consent of UK-based headquarters.

The situation has escalated to a point where Mr. Wu is "propagating false information and creating a culture of fear and confusion among Arm China employees," says Arm in a statement for Bloomberg. "Allen's focus on his own self-preservation has also put China semiconductor innovation at risk as he has attempted to block the critical communication and support our China partners require from Arm for ongoing and future chip designs." It is also said that Mr. Wu has refused to hold an event meant to connect Chinese chipmakers to Arm Ltd. He has hired personal security so no Arm Ltd. representatives can get to him. It is a waiting game to see how well Arm Ltd. can manage this situation, so we have to wait and see.

DigiTimes Research: China 14th 5-year Plan to see IC Foundry Capacity Expand 40%

China's upcoming 14th five-year plan (2021-2025) will continue to highlight technology and capacity upgrades as the core of its semiconductor self-sufficiency strategy, with foundry capacity projected to expand 40% from the preceding plan and fabrication process expected to advance to 7 nm, according to Digitimes Research.

Bolstered by national policies in the 13th five-year plan, China's IC manufacturing industry is expected to see combined revenues double to CNY240 billion (US$34.28 million) in 2020 from 2016, and may also move 12 nm to production by the end of the year after having volume produced 14 nm process.

TSMC Allocation the Next Battleground for Intel, AMD, and Possibly NVIDIA

With its own 7 nm-class silicon fabrication node nowhere in sight for its processors, at least not until 2022-23, Intel is seeking out third-party semiconductor foundries to support its ambitious discrete GPU and scalar compute processor lineup under the Xe brand. A Taiwanese newspaper article interpreted by Chiakokhua provides a fascinating insight to the the new precious resource in the high-technology industry - allocation.

TSMC is one of these foundries, and will give Intel access to a refined 7 nm-class node, either the N7P or N7+, for some of its Xe scalar compute processors. The company could also seek out nodelets such as the N6. Trouble is, Intel will be locking horns with the likes of AMD for precious foundry allocation. NVIDIA too has secured a certain allocation of TSMC 7 nm for some of its upcoming "Ampere" GPUs. Sources tell China Times that TSMC will commence mass-production of Intel silicon as early as 2021, on either N7P, N7+, or N6. Business from Intel is timely for TSMC as it is losing orders from HiSilicon (Huawei) in wake of the prevailing geopolitical climate.

Samsung Rumored to Make Investment in GlobalFoundries

Today we are in for an interesting rumor. According to industry sources of Coreteks, Samsung is rumored to be preparing investment in GlobalFoundries manufacturing facilities. In the latest ave of Asian foundries getting away from China and getting close to EU and US soils, Samsung is the latest one to join the list. First, let's explain the situation. The Trump administration has been pushing TSMC to drop all orders from Huawei, and TSMC did it. That way, Huawei Technologies has lost a major chip supplier which enabled the company a competitive edge. Now, the company must turn to Chinese manufacturers and it can't use any US-made product.

Given that GlobalFoundries is a company headquartered in the US (Santa Clara, California), the company is an American corporation, which has fabs in the US, as well as in Europe. It is truly a global foundry system. Samsung, a Korean semiconductor manufacturer, has been rumored to invest in GlobalFoundries Dresden fab, located in Germany. The company will help GlobalFoundries expand its power supply capacity from 63 MegaWatts to 100 MegaWatts. The proposed expansion of GlobalFoundries Dresden fab would be funded exclusively by Samsung. So why is Samsung doing this? The answer to this question is pretty simple - to get closer to western markets. Even if GlobalFoundries has foundries all over the world, it is a US company at its core. So Samsung hopes that from this investment, it can get closer to US soil and gain some new customers in the future. After all, Samsung plans to become the world's biggest semiconductor manufacturer by 2030, the position currently held by its rival TSMC. Below you can check out the expansion plan illustrated by Coreteks:

SMIC Makes a Debut on China STAR Market

Chinese silicon manufacturer Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) has officially made a debut on the Chinese science and technology innovation board (STAR) as of today. After submitting a proposal 16 days ago, SMIC already managed to start trading its shares on the STAR board of China's Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE). Why this is important you might wonder? Well now SMIC can collect more funds and invest that into node development, so the Chinese semiconductor industry is about to boom. Being the biggest semiconductor manufacturer in China, SMIC takes the lead and every development from the company is big for the Chinese semiconductor industry.

SMIC is currently trading on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (HKEX) where it used to trade exclusively. With SSE now included, it is easier for the company to trade. SMIC also submitted a proposal last year in May to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) so it can get the attention of Western investors. If the company manages to successfully raise all the funds for node development, then the Chinese semiconductor industry is about to flourish.

AOC Announces China Exclusive U28P2U Monitor: 28", 4K, IPS

AOC has recently listed a new monitor on its Chinese website, the U28P2U/BS is a 28 inch 4K IPS monitor featuring a 4 ms G2G response time, and a 60Hz refresh rate. The screen seems to be more orientated to the office/creator community with a typical brightness of 300 cd/m², 1000:1 contrast ratio, 1.07 billion color bit depth, and 178° viewing angle. Color accuracy on the monitor includes 119% sRGB color space coverage, 107% NTSC coverage, and 97% DCI-P3 coverage along with an average factory calibration of ΔE<2.

In terms of I/O the monitor includes x2 HDMI2.0, DisplayPort, x4 USB3.2 Gen1 Type-A (1x with fast charging), 1x USB upstream, and x1 3.5 mm audio output. The included stand features tilt (-5°- 35°), pivot (0° - 90°), swivel (+/- 175°), and height adjustment of 130 mm, VESA mounting is also possible with the 100×100 mount. Pricing and availability are currently unknown.

Semiconductor Fabs to Log Record Spending of Nearly $68 Billion in 2021, SEMI Reports

2021 is poised to mark a banner year for global fab equipment spending with 24 percent growth to a record US$67.7 billion, 10 percent higher than the previously forecast US$65.7 billion, and all product segments promising solid growth rates, according to the second-quarter 2020 update of the SEMI World Fab Forecast report. Memory fabs will lead worldwide semiconductor segments with US$30 billion in equipment spending, while leading-edge logic and foundry is expected to rank second with US$29 billion in investments.

The 3D NAND memory subsegment will help power the spending spree with a 30 percent jump in investments this year before tacking on 17 percent growth in 2021. DRAM fab investments will surge 50 percent next year after declining 11 percent in 2020, and fab spending on logic and foundry, mainly leading edge, will trace a similar but more muted trajectory, rising 16 percent 2021 after an 11 percent drop this year.

China's SMIC Looking for $2.8 billion Funding Round via Shanghai

As the US stranglehold on Huawei keeps on tightening its grip, China's government is keen on both investing more heavily into in-country semiconductor manufacturing that can become a viable alternative to Huawei as a source a silicon, as well as decrease the country's dependence on Western or Western-tied companies. The country has already developed promising alternatives to foreign DRAM solutions via Xi'an UniIC Semiconductors and Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC). Now, following a previously-successful funding round held in Hong Kong (worth some $2.2 billion injected last month), China's largest contract chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) is looking for an additional $2.8 billion funding round via Shanghai.

SMIC is currently years behind TSMC, the current benchmark when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing. For now, SMIC is only able to provide 14 nm product designs - and even in that node, silicon is being quoted as having as much as a 70% defect-rate on any given wafer produced by the company (they've already started 14 nm production of Huawei's low-cost Kirin 710 chipset). At any rate, sources point towards a 6,000 monthly wafer production capacity within SMIC, a very, very low number that fails to meet any current demand (TSMC, for scale, are quoted as producing as many as 110,000 7 nm wafers per month). It's definitely an uphill battle, but SMIC counts with the might of the Chinese government through its sails - so while the waters might not be smooth, investment rounds such as these two (which amount to some $5 billion capital injection in two months) will be sure to help grease the engines for china's semiconductor expansion as much as possible.

UniIC Delivers China's First 100% Homebrew DDR4 Memory Modules

Xi'an UniIC Semiconductors, which goes by the trade name UniIC (probably pronounced "unique"), has delivered the first DDR4 memory module made 100% in China (which includes all its DRAM chips, PCB, drivers, and other components). The module may be nothing much to look at, with just a bare green PCB and DRAM chips, lacking in any heatspreaders; but this product can be considered a baby step toward a large and diverse product lineup. The debutante memory modules are unbuffered DDR4-2400 and DDR4-2667 memory modules that come in 8 GB densities.

The DDR4-2400 module is timed at CL17 17-17-39, and the DDR4-2667 at CL18, with both pulling 1.2 V - again nothing to write home about, but given the breakneck speeds at which Chinese companies flush with state investment are developing and diversifying their PC hardware lines, UniIC's product portfolio could look very different in the coming two years. UniIC is a cog in China's 3-5-2 policy of localizing PC hardware manufacturing, and eliminating dependence of foreign hardware.

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Ceases Operations in its Chengdu Fab

GLOBALFOUNDRIES ceased all operations in its joint-venture fab in Chengdu, China. The fab opened its doors in 2018, and was supposed to mass-produce 300 mm wafers on the 22FDX technology in a 65,000 square meter facility. The company's Chinese partner, the Chengdu Municipality, had at the time boasted of investments into the fab peaking at $10 billion. The two had also announced $2 billion in initial design wins.

GloFo's announcement to cease operations and possibly withdraw from Chengdu comes hot on the heals of a separate announcement bolstering its mainland US based facilities up to US-DoD specs for secure manufacturing, a sign that the company will scale up investment into US-based facilities. GloFo's foreshadowed withdrawal from manufacturing in China is part of the ongoing "tech war" between the US and China, with the US getting American (and West-aligned) tech companies to pull manufacturing out of China, the biggest casualties of which is Huawei.

Huawei Ready to Enter PC Industry with Custom OS and Processor

Since the debut of its plans to create a custom Operating System and make itself independent from everyone, Huawei has been working hard to bring that idea to life. Creating custom software and custom hardware solutions, Huawei's engineers have been rather busy. And now, Huawei aims to be the new player in the Chinese PC industry, replacing the already available solutions that have foreign technology with potential backdoors that could represent a threat to Chinese information security. So to prepare for that, Huawei is creating a custom OS called HarmonyOS that will accompany custom hardware solutions.

The HarmonyOS was announced last year at Huawei Developer Conference 2019 (HDC 2019) as a project Huawei is working on. However, it seems like that project will become some of the more important things the company is working on. A well-known person for tipping about the latest industry news on Weibo said that Huawei is preparing to launch custom PCs very soon for domestic (Chinese) audience. Huawei is supposedly working with major cities and regions in China to supply its infrastructure with new solutions. And what those solutions will be? Well, Huawei plans to combine the HarmonyOS with its already launched Kunpeng Desktop Board.
Huawei Kunpeng Desktop Board Huawei Kunpeng Desktop Board

China's Yangtze Memory Technologies' 64L Xtacking NAND Competitive Against Mainstream Manufacturers' Solutions

China's plans for world domination include the country slowly retracting itself from its dependency on western companies' technologies, via heavy acceleration of plans for and production of a myriad of semiconductor technologies. One of the more important technologies amongst those due to its relative ease of manufacture and overall market value is, of course, NAND technology. And the days of China being undoubtedly behind other manufacturers' technologies seems to be coming to an end, with the countries' Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC) 64-layer Xtacking TLC NAND design already achieving pretty impressive results compared to its mainstream counterparts.

Xtacking technology is expected to disrupt the $52 billion NAND memory market and its big players such as Micron, Samsung, SK Hynix, Kioxia, Western Digital, and Intel. The technology separates periphery circuits and memory cell operations towards a separate wafer, which allows for increased performance and throughput compared to other designs. Senior technical fellow Jeongdong Choe at Ottawa, Canada-based TechInsights (a company specializing in reverse-engineering semiconductor technology) has told EE Times YMTC's 64-layer, 256 Gb die bit density is 4.41 Gb/mm, which is higher than the Samsung equivalent 256 Gb die at 3.42 Gb/mm.
Cross-section SEM image along BL direction showing YMTC Xtacking architecture Objective Analysis’ annual report, China’s Memory Ambitions 2019

U.S. Further Tightens Tech Export Regulations for China

The United States Government on Monday announced a new set of rules for U.S. companies exporting technology to Chinese firms directly or indirectly associated with the Chinese military, according to a Reuters report. The vagueness of what constitutes a Chinese entity that could supply derived technology over to the military could create confusion and uncertainty.

The new trade regime would see U.S. companies requiring to obtain a license to export technology to China. The U.S. also did away with exceptions to older rules that allowed U.S. firms to export to civilian Chinese companies without a license. "It is important to consider the ramifications of doing business with countries that have histories of diverting goods purchased from U.S. companies for military applications," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. The new rules will also require U.S. companies to file declarations of goods exported to China, Russia, and Venezuela, regardless of value.

Huawei Moves 14 nm Silicon Orders from TSMC to SMIC

Huawei's subsidiary, HiSilicon, which designs the processors used in Huawei's smartphones and telecommunications equipment, has reportedly moved its silicon orders from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), according to DigiTimes. Why Huawei decided to do is move all of the 14 nm orders from Taiwanese foundry to China's largest silicon manufacturing fab, is to give itself peace of mind if the plan of the US Government goes through to stop TSMC from supplying Huawei. At least for the mid-tier chips built using 14 nm node, Huawei would gain some peace as a Chinese fab is a safer choice given the current political situation.

When it comes to the high-end SoCs built on 7 nm, and 5 nm in the future, it is is still uncertain how will Huawei behave in this situation, meaning that if US cuts off TSMC's supply to Huawei, they will be forced to use SMIC's 7 nm-class N+1 node instead of anything from TSMC. Another option would be Samsung, but it is a question will Huawei put itself in risk to be dependant on another foreign company. The lack of 14 nm orders from Huawei will not be reflecting much on TSMC, because whenever someone decides to cut orders, another company takes up the manufacturing capactiy. For example, when Huawei cut its 5 nm orders, Apple absorbed by ordering more capacity. When Huawei also cut 7 nm orders, AMD and other big customers decided to order more, making the situation feel like there is a real fight for TSMC's capacity.
Silicon Wafer

Razer Launches China Exclusive Pokémon Pikachu True Wireless Earphones

If your looking for a new pair of wireless earbuds and don't care about the sound quality, battery life, or features but require the most stylish headphones available the Razer Pokémon Pikachu True Wireless earphones may be for you. The Razer Pokémon Pikachu True Wireless earphones are a special edition version of their Hammerhead True Wireless Earbuds. The charging case has become a Poke ball with front button LED indicator light.

As with the Razer's Hammerhead True Wireless Earbuds the Pokémon Pikachu True Wireless earphones have 13 mm drivers, IPX4 water resistance and Bluetooth 5.0. For gaming the earbuds come with an low latency mode which reduces latency to 60 ms, along with customized voice prompts voiced by Pikachu. The earbuds will be available to purchase for $140 via Tmall when they launch in China on April 16th.
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