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Realtek Also Experiences Chip Shortage, Could Reflect Badly on PC Market

The global chip shortage is currently getting worse each day, starting from the tight supply of graphics cards and processors for consumers, spanning to even your internet router. Every piece of electronics now seems to be getting more expensive, as the semiconductor processors found inside them are very hard to source. The cause of that is huge demand coming from consumers, who require the latest generation of processors manufactured in overbooked semiconductor facilities like the ones from TSMC, UMC, Intel, Samsung, SMIC, etc. If manufacturers can't supply enough chips to satisfy the demand for companies that incorporate these chips in products' needs, the issue appears.

This time, we have another big player in need of more wafer capacity. Realtek, the maker of various ICs for multimedia and peripherals, is reportedly experiencing a chip shortage as well. According to the report coming from DigiTimes, the Taiwanese Realtek is fighting to keep up with the demand. The report raises concerns from laptop manufacturers like Dell, HP, and others who use Realtek's chips for various purposes in devices, like audio and LAN chips. Reportedly used in 70% of global laptop designs, Realtek's audio and LAN solutions are very much in demand. If the company cannot supply enough of those chips, manufacturers would be unable to ship products. According to the report, the delivery time of Realtek's chips has been extended to 32 weeks, which could cause massive delays with product shipments and cause some harm to the supply chain. It remains to be seen how the market responds to the extended delivery time, so we will watch it with caution.

Global Semiconductor Sales Up 14.7% Year-to-Year in February, Says SIA

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) today announced global semiconductor industry sales were $39.6 billion for the month of February 2021, an increase of 14.7% over the February 2020 total of $34.5 billion, but 1.0% less than the January 2021 total of $40.0 billion. Monthly sales are compiled by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization and represent a three-month moving average. SIA represents 98% of the U.S. semiconductor industry by revenue and nearly two-thirds of non-U.S. chip firms.

"Global semiconductor sales during the first two months of the year have outpaced sales from early in 2020, when the pandemic began to spread in parts of the world," said John Neuffer, SIA president and CEO. "Sales into the China market saw the largest year-to-year growth, largely because sales there were down substantially early last year."

TSMC Reportedly Auctioned off "Excess Capacity" at a 15-20% Price Premium

We've all been reading multiple stories covering the current overly high demand compared to manufacturing capability for semiconductors. Some of us have actually felt this lack in supply not only in our pockets (for those who purchased above-MSRP graphics cards, CPUs or consoles). And apparently, TSMC has just made quite a deal more money out of this "extraordinary demand" than it usually does, as it's being reported the company has auctioned off "excess capacity" to an unknown third-party for 15-20% higher prices than they usually practice.

Now before we start lynching TSMC here, that can mean many things. There is a backlog of orders still to be filled for most manufacturers, that much the reports doing the rounds claim; however, the nature of semiconductor manufacturing occurs throughout many different nodes and technologies. It's more than likely that this doesn't mean that TSMC saved some wafers that could have been used for AMD's RX, Zen, or custom APUs for next-gen consoles on the side and decided to give them to another buyer. This likely means that TSMC had one or more nodes or manufacturing technologies that hadn't been pre-booked yet, and that some players might've looked at that as a solution to their semiconductor woes. And TSMC, having more than one interested party, auctioned the excess capacity. The rumor places the most likely candidates for the purchase as car manufacturers, who have also been hard by the lack of semiconductors in the market, and that's one business where it may make sense to order manufacturing on nodes other than the most cutting-edge; cars just don't need the latest, most powerful and greatest chips to run their software. But all in all, the result is this: a good day for TSMC.

Report: TSMC and UMC are Trucking in Water Amid Shortages

Manufacturing silicon is no easy task. You need to have all the right supplies available all the time. One of the most used ingredients in silicon manufacturing is water. Almost every process needs it and it needs to be constantly available to the manufacturer. According to the report coming from Reuters, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) are experiencing water shortages. The Taiwan island is in trouble, as the typhoon season has been rather mild and water supplies are at the historic lows. Water restrictions are in place all across the island and the reservoirs in the center and southern regions are at only 20% capacity.

The lack of water is a big problem for TSMC and UMC, as both companies rely on the constant income of it. With water restrictions in place, TSMC has to keep its facilities running and needs to solve the problem. That is why Taiwan's biggest silicon manufacturer is now making small orders of waters, delivered by a truckload. TSMC expects to compensate for the lack of water coming from its regular sources with truckloads of it. While we do not know the numbers of it, we can expect the water use to be very high if we take into account the number of wafers TSMC produces at its facilities.

Ex-Intel Employee Reportedly Stole Confidential Xeon Files, Company Files a Lawsuit

Intel has reportedly caught an ex-employee stealing confidential company files for the Xeon processor lineup. Dr. Varun Gupta, who left Intel last year to join Microsoft as Principal for Strategic Planning in Cloud and AI, has reportedly walked away with over 3900 files of confidential information. The stolen files, contain information about Intel's Xeon processors, pricing data, corporate strategies, and Intel's manufacturing capabilities of the chips. Dr. Gupta is being sued by Intel for 75,000 USD and liability to not use confidential Intel information again. The security forensics team at Intel has discovered that Dr. Gupta downloaded almost 4000 files on multiple USB drives, however, Dr. Gupta is denying these claims. We are waiting to hear more information about the situation as it evolves.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30-Series GPU Availability to Reportedly Worsen in Q1

The availability of NVIDIA's GeForce RTX 3000 series "Ampere" graphics cards has been a problem ever since it launched. High demand paired with insufficient supply has caused quite some disturbance in the supply chain and has caused the MSRP of the GPUs to increase. Firstly, we were promised that the situation would resolve around May when NVIDIA is expecting to match the supply with the demand. However, according to the recent report, that might not be the case. Alternate, a European retailer operating in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, has spoken to NVIDIA about the supply of the GeForce RTX 3000 series Ampere graphics cards.

According to the retailer, the situation with the card is such that the availability is scarce. When it comes to the GeForce RTX 3090, there are very few deliveries, but only a few open orders. The RTX 3080 sees very few cards coming with many open orders. The RTX 3070 has few cards incoming, but few open orders. And last but not least, the RTX 3060 Ti has very few cards coming, and a moderately high amount of open orders. If you are aiming to buy a card, your best chances would be with RTX 3090 and RTX 3070, as they do not have such high demand. On the other hand, RTX 3080 and RTX 3060 Ti cards are almost impossible to source as they all have a big waiting list. Alternate says that they work on a "first in first out" principle of delivering cards to consumers, so if you are not on the list you are likely going to wait for even longer.

AMD Reportedly in Plans to Outsource Partial Chip Production to Samsung

It's been doing the rounds in the rumor mill that AMD is looking to expand its semiconductor manufacturing partners beyond TSMC (for the 7 nm process and eventually 5 nm) and Global Foundries (12 nm process used in its I/O dies). The intention undoubtedly comes from the strain that's being placed on TSMC's production lines, as most foundry-less businesses outsource their wafer production to the Taiwanese companies' factories and manufacturing processes, which are currently the industry's best. However, as we've seen, TSMC is having a hard time scaling its production facilities to the unprecedented demand it's seeing from its consumers. The company also has recently announced it may prioritize new manufacturing capabilities for the automotive industry, which is also facing shortages in chips - and that certainly doesn't instill confidence in capacity increases for its non-automotive clients.

That's what originated form the rumor mill. Speculating, this could mean that AMD would be looking to outsource products with generally lower ASP to Samsung's foundries, instead of trying to cram even more silicon manufacturing onto TSMC's 7 nm process (where it already fabricates its Zen 3, RDNA 2, EPYC, and custom silicon solutions for latest-gen consoles). AMD might thus be planning on leveraging Samsung's 8 nm or even smaller fabrication processes as alternatives for, for example, lower-than-high-end graphics solutions and other product lines (such as APUs and FPGA production, should its acquisition of Xilinx come through).

Apple Reports First Quarter Results

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2021 first quarter ended December 26, 2020. The Company posted all-time record revenue of $111.4 billion, up 21 percent year over year, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $1.68, up 35 percent. International sales accounted for 64 percent of the quarter's revenue.

"This quarter for Apple wouldn't have been possible without the tireless and innovative work of every Apple team member worldwide," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "We're gratified by the enthusiastic customer response to the unmatched line of cutting-edge products that we delivered across a historic holiday season. We are also focused on how we can help the communities we're a part of build back strongly and equitably, through efforts like our Racial Equity and Justice Initiative as well as our multi-year commitment to invest $350 billion throughout the United States."

TSMC Publishes December 2020 Revenue Report

TSMC (TWSE: 2330, NYSE: TSM) today announced its net revenues for December 2020: On a consolidated basis, revenues for December 2020 were approximately NT$117.37 billion, a decrease of 6.0 percent from November 2020 and an increase of 13.6 percent from December 2019. Revenues for January through December 2020 totaled NT$1,339.26 billion, an increase of 25.2 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

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.

AMD Reports Third Quarter 2020 Financial Results

AMD (NASDAQ: AMD) today announced record revenue for the third quarter of 2020 of $2.80 billion, operating income of $449 million, net income of $390 million and diluted earnings per share of $0.32. On a non-GAAP* basis, operating income was $525 million, net income was $501 million and diluted earnings per share was $0.41.

"Our business accelerated in the third quarter as strong demand for our PC, gaming and data center products drove record quarterly revenue," said Dr. Lisa Su, AMD president and CEO. "We reported our fourth straight quarter with greater than 25 percent year-over-year revenue growth, highlighting our significant customer momentum. We are well positioned to continue delivering best-in-class growth as we further extend our leadership product portfolio with the launches of our next generation Ryzen, Radeon and EPYC processors."

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).

Intel 10 nm Ice Lake-SP Server Processors Reportedly Delayed

Intel 10 nm products have seen massive delays over the years, and Intel has built many IPs on the new node, however, not many of them have seen the light of the day due to problems the company has experienced with the manufacturing of the new node. That has caused delays in product shipments in the past, meaning that the time for 10 nm is just ahead. According to the latest DigiTimes Taiwan report, we have information that Intel is going to delay its Ice Lake-SP server processors manufactured on a 10 nm node. And it is going to be a whole quarter late according to the report. Instead of launching in Q4 this year, we can expect to see new processors in Q1 of 2021. It is yet unknown whatever the launch will happen at the beginning of Q1 or its end, however, we will report on it as we hear more information.

Update: DigiTimes has also released another report regarding server shipments. It is reported that server vendors are decelerating the shipments as they are making fewer orders in Q4 to wait for the new Intel CPUs. Judging by this move, the demand for these new processors is going to be rather high and the supply chain is preparing slowly for it.

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:

Acer Reports Q2 2020 Results: Operating Income NT$2.13 Billion with Record High Margin

Acer Inc. (TWSE: 2353) announced its financial results for the second quarter of 2020: consolidated revenues were NT$65.58 billion; gross profits were NT$7.14 billion with 10.9% margin; operating income was NT$2.13 billion, marking a record high[1] margin of 3.2%; earnings before tax was NT$1.65 billion; and net income was NT$1.20 billion with earnings per share (EPS) of NT$0.40. In the six months ended June 30, 2020, Acer's net income reached NT$1.75 billion, up 57.2% year-on-year (YoY) with EPS of NT$0.58.

In Q2, Acer saw strong business momentum due to work-from-home and distance learning needs in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) and Pan America regions, while Pan Asia Pacific continued its recovery from the pandemic lockdown. At the same time, Acer's multiple business engines continued their strong momentum; notable performances in Q2 net income include Acer Cyber Security with 24% growth YoY, Weblink International with 25% growth YoY, and Acer Synergy Tech with 88% growth YoY.

AMD Radeon Adrenalin Now Lets Users Report Crashes In-Driver

AMD's latest Radeon Software Adrenalin release, version 20.5.1, has introduced a pretty nifty feature: user-based crash reports. The driver suite from AMD now has a "Bug Report Tool" under the "System" tab that's fully dedicated to users reporting on crashes and issues with their graphics rendition, as well as Ryzen Master, Chipset Drivers, and AMD Link. The users' system is automatically populated by the driver suite, and users need only select the specific applications through which their bugs appear before submitting the form.

Some would say this is a feature that has been long coming, and that AMD should have implemented this ages ago - especially when its most recent driver woes increased in severity post-Navi release. An integrated bug report tool is sure to bring AMD more timely reports on existing issues, with a relatively standardized information and debug set that allows the company to work much closer with users while in search for a solution. A worldwide net of QA assistants, if you will.
New AMD Seetings menu subsystem New AMD bug reporting screen

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.

AMD Reports First Quarter 2020 Financial Results

AMD today announced revenue for the first quarter of 2020 of $1.79 billion, operating income of $177 million, net income of $162 million and diluted earnings per share of $0.14. On a non-GAAP* basis, operating income was $236 million, net income was $222 million and diluted earnings per share was $0.18.

"We executed well in the first quarter, navigating the challenging environment to deliver 40 percent year-over-year revenue growth and significant gross margin expansion driven by our Ryzen and EPYC processors," said Dr. Lisa Su, AMD president and CEO. "While we expect some uncertainty in the near-term demand environment, our financial foundation is solid and our strong product portfolio positions us well across a diverse set of resilient end markets. We remain focused on strong business execution while ensuring the safety of our employees and supporting our customers, partners and communities. Our strategy and long-term growth plans are unchanged."

Intel Reports First-Quarter 2020 Financial Results

Intel Corporation today reported first-quarter 2020 financial results. "Our first-quarter performance is a testament to our team's focus on safeguarding employees, supporting our supply chain partners and delivering for our customers during this unprecedented challenge," said Bob Swan, Intel CEO."The role technology plays in the world is more essential now than it has ever been, and our opportunity to enrich lives and enable our customers' success has never been more vital. Guided by our cultural values, competitive advantages and financial strength, I am confident we will emerge from this situation an even stronger company."

In the first quarter, Intel achieved 34 percent data-centric revenue growth and 14 percent PC-centric revenue growth YoY. The company maintained essential factory operations with greater than 90 percent on-time delivery while supporting employees, customers and communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes a new Intel Pandemic Response Technology Initiative to combat the virus where we can uniquely make a difference with Intel technology, expertise, and resources.

Grand Theft Auto 6 to have Huge Map at Launch

According to the latest report from our colleges over at TweakTown, Rockstar is working hard on its next-generation Grand Theft Auto game, precisely the 6th installment of it. Reportedly, Rockstar has been working on GTA 6 since 2014 and has invested a lot of resources into it. Being that GTA V launched in September of 2013, it seems like Rockstar has quickly started to work on the "next big thing". And big it will be (words of Master Yoda). On the contrary to previous reports that Rockstar will build a world for the next-generation game on a moderately-sized map, the latest information we have suggests that GTA 6 will be based on a "gigantic beast-sized map" as its base. This is exciting news for everyone excited to explore the open-world of GTA while completing missions and having fun.
Grand Theft Auto 6

AMD Reportedly Launching B550 Motherboards Come June 16th

AMD is reportedly looking to launch their B550 mainstream motherboards this coming June 16th, with an announcement being pegged for May 21st. WCCFTech, quoting industry sources, says these motherboards will now finally be released to the public, nearly a year after the launch of AMD's Ryzen 3000 series and accompanying X570-based motherboards. This will mark the first time PCIe 4.0 will be available in a mainstream-geared platform and chipset; until now, users looking for more cost-effective builds to support their Ryzen CPUs had to make do without PCIe 4.0 support with a motherboard from previous generations, since the feature was only available on the (more expensive) X570 motherboards.

The B550 chipset should thus become the new choice for users looking to build new systems on a budget; and part of the reason for AMD delaying the launch of this chipset as much as it has could certainly be an effort to increase revenues due to the X570's higher ASP. It's expected that B550 motherboards will be had for higher pricing than AMD's previous mainstream B450 motherboards, though, due to increased costs with improved I/O and the additional requirements for PCIe 4.0 wiring. Considering AMD's X570-based motherboards can be had from the $150 barrier upwards, it's likely (via an educated guess only) that B550 will occupy the $90-$150 range.

TrendForce: The Effect of the Covid-19 Corona Virus Measured on Tech Industry

The following analysis shows TrendForce's investigations of key component and other downstream technology industries, under the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, with the latest data as of February 14, 2020.

Semiconductors
Compared to the OSAT industry, the foundry industry has a much higher degree of fab automation and thus is less impacted by the outbreak. But because most workers at semiconductor manufacturing sites in China come from out of town, labor shortages and traffic restrictions will lower work resumption rates at foundries more than expected. In the short term, fab utilization rates may not make a full recovery. As a result, given that the outbreak has not yet been effectively contained, TrendForce is projecting a possible decline in shipment for the Chinese foundry industry in 1Q20, in turn affecting downstream Chinese OSAT companies. The industry's overall performance recovery remains to be seen.
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