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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.

SiFive To Introduce New RISC-V Processor Architecture and RISC-V PC at Linley Fall Virtual Processor Conference

SiFive, Inc., the leading provider of commercial RISC-V processor IP and silicon solutions, today announced that Dr. Yunsup Lee, CTO of SiFive, and Dr. Krste Asanovic, Chief Architect of SiFive, will present at the technology industry's premier processor conference, the Linley Fall Virtual Processor Conference. The conference will be held on October 20th - 22nd and 27th - 29th, 2020 and will feature high-quality technical content from leading semiconductor companies worldwide.

"Industry demand for AI performance has skyrocketed over the last few years driven by rapid adoption from the data center to the edge. This year's Linley Fall Processor Conference will feature our biggest program yet and will introduce a host of new technology disclosures and product announcements of innovative processor architectures and IP technologies," said Linley Gwennap, principal analyst and conference chairperson. "In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, development of these technologies continues to accelerate and we're excited to be sharing these presentations with a global audience via our live-streamed format."

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang Says NVIDIA-Branded CPUs Could be Coming

It was just yesterday that we have received the news of NVIDIA's latest move - acquiring Arm Ltd. from Softbank Group for $40 billion. However, it seems like there are more reasons for the deal than what meets the eye. In the briefing regarding the acquisition, NVIDIA's CEO was asked a question, by Timothy Prickett Morgan, from TheNextPlatform, about NVIDIA's plans for a possible implementation of Arm's Neoverse core in an NVIDIA-branded CPU design and start selling them to data centers. To that question, Mr. Huang gave a prolonged answer indirectly saying that the company can build the CPU if there is a market for it.

He explains that there is an entire network surrounding the Arm ecosystem and that there may be customers interested in contracting NVIDIA to build them semi-custom or completely custom chip based on Arm ISA on NVIDIA's own interest. Any of these options are available and Mr. Haung says that they are there for the best interest of the ecosystem to enrich it enhance it even further. This means that it is just a matter of time before we see NVIDIA-branded CPU make its way to data-center or some other areas of technology, so we have to wait and see for ourselves.

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:

US Government Could Blacklist Chinese Chipmaker SMIC

The Trump administration has reportedly been considering adding to Chinese chipmaker SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation) to the trade blacklist of Chinese companies, restricting the company of doing any business with the United States and/or with any of its affiliates. The original report comes from Reuters and it states that the move came from Pentagon after considering whatever SMIC should be placed on a blacklist. It is so far unclear if other US agencies support the decision, however, it should be public in the near future. The company has received the news on Saturday and it was "in complete shock" about the decision. Shortly after the news broke, SMIC stock has fallen as much as 15% amid the possible blacklist. If SMIC would like to continue working with American suppliers, it would need to seek a difficult-to-obtain license from the government.

Arm and DARPA Sign Partnership Agreement to Accelerate Technological Innovation

Arm today announced a three-year partnership agreement with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), establishing an access framework to all commercially available Arm technology. With DARPA's Electronics Resurgence Initiative gaining momentum, the new agreement will enable the research community that supports DARPA's programs to quickly and easily take advantage of Arm's leading IP, tools and support, accelerating innovation in a variety of fields.

"The span of DARPA research activity opens up a huge range of opportunities for future technological innovation," said Rene Haas, president, IP Products Group, Arm. "Our expanded DARPA partnership will provide them with access to the broadest range of Arm technology to develop compute solutions supported by the world's largest ecosystem of tools, services and software."

Apple A14X Bionic Rumored To Match Intel Core i9-9880H

The Apple A14X Bionic is an upcoming processor from Apple which is expected to feature in the upcoming iPad Pro models and should be manufactured on TSMC's 5 nm node. Tech YouTuber Luke Miani has recently provided a performance graph for the A14X chip based on "leaked/suspected A14 info + average performance gains from previous X chips". In these graphs, the Apple A14X can be seen matching the Intel Core i9-9880H in Geekbench 5 with a score of 7480. The Intel Intel Core i9-9880H is a 45 W eight-core mobile CPU found in high-end notebooks such as the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro and requires significant cooling to keep thermals under control.

If these performance estimates are correct or even close then Apple will have a serious productivity device and will serve as a strong basis for Apple's transition to custom CPU's for it's MacBook's in 2021. Apple may use a custom version of the A14X with slightly higher clocks in their upcoming ARM MacBooks according to Luke Miani. These results are estimations at best so take them with a pinch of salt until Apple officially unveils the chip.

Raja Koduri Previews "PetaFLOPs Scale" 4-Tile Intel Xe HP GPU

Raja Koduri, Intel's chief architect and senior vice president of Intel's discrete graphics division, has today held a talk at HotChips 32, the latest online conference of 2020, that shows off the latest architectural advancements in the semiconductor industry. So Intel has prepared two talks, one about Ice Lake-SP server CPUs and one about Intel's efforts in the upcoming graphics card launch. So what has Intel been working on the whole time? Raja Koduri took over the talk and has benchmarked the upcoming GPU and recorded how much raw power the GPUs posses, possibly counting in PetaFLOPs.

When Mr. Koduri got to talk, he pulled the 4-tile Xe HP GPU out of his pocket and showed for the first time how the chip looks. And it is one big chip. Featuring 4 tiles, the GPU represents Intel's fastest and biggest variant of Xe HP GPUs. The benchmark Intel ran was made to show off scaling on the Xe architecture and how the increase in the number of tiles results in a scalable increase in performance. Running on a single tile, the GPU managed to develop the performance of 10588 GFLOPs or around 10.588 TeraFLOPs. When there are two tiles, the performance scales almost perfectly at 21161 GFLOPS (21.161 TeraFLOPs) for 1.999X improvement. At four tiles the GPU achieves 3.993 times scaling and scores 41908 GFLOPs resulting in 41.908 TeraFLOPS, all measured in single-precision FP32.
Intel Xe HP GPU Demo Intel Xe HP GPU Demo Intel Xe HP GPU Demo

IBM Reveals Next-Generation IBM POWER10 Processor

IBM today revealed the next generation of its IBM POWER central processing unit (CPU) family: IBM POWER10. Designed to offer a platform to meet the unique needs of enterprise hybrid cloud computing, the IBM POWER10 processor uses a design focused on energy efficiency and performance in a 7 nm form factor with an expected improvement of up to 3x greater processor energy efficiency, workload capacity, and container density than the IBM POWER9 processor.

Designed over five years with hundreds of new and pending patents, the IBM POWER10 processor is an important evolution in IBM's roadmap for POWER. Systems taking advantage of IBM POWER10 are expected to be available in the second half of 2021. Some of the new processor innovations include:
IBM POWER10 Processor IBM POWER10 Processor

Qualcomm Could Deliver Chips to Huawei

In the ave of the news that Trump administration has forbidden TSMC to have Huawei as its customer, Huawei seems to be exploring new options for sourcing the best performing mobile processors. As the company has turned to the Chinese SMIC semiconductor factory, it still needs a backup plan in the case of Chinese semiconductor manufacturing flops. So to combat US sanctions, Huawei will use already made chips form the US company - Qualcomm. By sourcing the processors from Qualcomm, Huawei is losing some benefits of customs design like better system integration, however, it will gain quite powerful mobile processors. As Qualcomm is known for providing the fastest processors for Android smartphones, Huawei has ensured that it remains competitive. Qualcomm is reportedly now negotiating with the US government about delivering the chips to Huawei, and if it is allowed, Qualcomm will gain a big customer.

AMD RDNA 2 "Big Navi" to Feature 12 GB and 16 GB VRAM Configurations

As we are getting close to the launch of RDNA 2 based GPUs, which are supposedly coming in September this year, the number of rumors is starting to increase. Today, a new rumor coming from the Chinese forum Chiphell is coming our way. A user called "wjm47196" known for providing rumors and all kinds of pieces of information has specified that AMD's RDNA 2 based "Big Navi" GPU will come in two configurations - 12 GB and 16 GB VRAM variants. Being that that is Navi 21 chip, which represents the top-end GPU, it is logical that AMD has put a higher amount of VRAM like 12 GB and 16 GB. It is possible that AMD could separate the two variants like NVIDIA has done with GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and Titan RTX, so the 16 GB variant is a bit faster, possibly featuring a higher number of streaming processors.

US Aims to Bring Chip Manufacturing Industry Back to Its Soil

The US is one of the leading countries when it comes to chip design technologies and know-how; however, when it comes to actual manufacturing those designs, it's fallen from grace in recent years. Once the leader in both design and manufacturing, nowadays the US can only claim some 12% of the world's semiconductor production. The rest of it is mainly produced in Asia, where TSMC stands as the industry juggernaut, with other companies stretching across Taiwan, Japan, and most recently (and surging) China - the country has more than doubled its 300 mm manufacturing sites since 2017. This places some strain on the US' dependence from foreign shipments; and the country is looking to bridge that gap in its perceived national interests by investing heavily in silicon manufacturing to be brought back to the country. Recent slippages from Intel when it comes to keeping its manufacturing lead have apparently also instilled preoccupation amongst US policy makers.
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