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November 29, 2018

Taiwan’s $TSMC Could Be About to Dethrone #Intel

Taiwan's TSMC Could Be About to Dethrone Intel

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was created in 1987 to churn out chips for companies that lacked the money to build their own facilities. The approach was famously dismissed at the time by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. founder Jerry Sanders. "Real men have fabs," he quipped at a conference, using industry lingo for factories.

These days, ridicule has given way to envy as TSMC plants have risen to challenge Intel at the pinnacle of the $400 billion industry. 

What Intel investors really worry about is that the largest internet companies will start making their own chips. This week, Amazon.com Inc., the biggest cloud-computing company, announced its first in-house server processor. The Graviton is made by TSMC, and it supports a new version of an Amazon cloud service that's more than 40 percent cheaper than a similar offering powered by Intel chips, the company said.


https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2018-11-28/intel-s-chipmaking-throne-is-challenged-by-a-taiwanese-upstart?__twitter_impression=true

Taiwan's TSMC Could Be About to Dethrone Intel

For more than 30 years, Intel Corp. has dominated chipmaking, producing the most important component in the bulk of the world's computers. That run is now under threat from a company many Americans have never heard of.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was created in 1987 to churn out chips for companies that lacked the money to build their own facilities. The approach was famously dismissed at the time by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. founder Jerry Sanders. "Real men have fabs," he quipped at a conference, using industry lingo for factories.

These days, ridicule has given way to envy as TSMC plants have risen to challenge Intel at the pinnacle of the $400 billion industry. AMD recently chose TSMC to make its most advanced processors, having spun off its own struggling factories years before.

TSMC's threat to Intel reflects a sea change in chipmaking that's seen one company after another hire TSMC to manufacture the chips they design. Hsinchu-based TSMC has scores of customers, including tech giants Apple Inc. and Qualcomm Inc., second-tier players like AMD, and minnows such as Ampere Computing LLC. The explosion of components built this way has given TSMC the technical know-how needed to churn out the smallest, most efficient and powerful chips in the highest volumes.

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

"It's a once-in-a-50-year situation," said Renee James, the former No. 2 at Intel who heads startup Ampere. Her company is less than two years old and yet it's going after Intel's dominant server chip business. That Ampere thinks it can compete is a testament to stumbles by Intel, and TSMC's ability to benefit from those mistakes.

It's been a decade since Intel faced major competition and its 90 percent revenue share in computer processing will again deliver record results this year. But some on Wall Street are concerned, and rivals are emboldened, because TSMC has a real chance to replace Intel as the best chipmaker in the business. Last year, the Taiwanese company amassed a bigger market value than its U.S. rival for the first time.

What Intel investors really worry about is that the largest internet companies will start making their own chips. This week, Amazon.com Inc., the biggest cloud-computing company, announced its first in-house server processor. The Graviton is made by TSMC, and it supports a new version of an Amazon cloud service that's more than 40 percent cheaper than a similar offering powered by Intel chips, the company said.

Without TSMC's capabilities, Amazon wouldn't have the option to go it alone, according to Matt Garman, a vice president of Amazon Web Services. "More competition in this space is great," he said.

Production bragging rights in semiconductors are judged by the width of the space between lines on the tiny circuits that give chips their function. Shrinking that gap -- measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter -- gives designers the ability to make chips that count faster, use less power, store more data or simply cost less. In the highest-end processors, where Intel makes most of its money, space is at a premium. A Xeon server processor crams billions of transistors into an area the size of a postage stamp.

Intel was the first to use 14-nanometer technology at scale in 2013, according to Goldman Sachs. It won't have 10-nanometer ready for prime time until the end of 2019 -- by far the longest wait in its history. TSMC has gone from 20-nanometer to 7-nanometer production in the same time.

Intel's holdup revolves around yield, the number of good chips that emerge from each production run. In plants that cost about $7 billion and run 24 hours a day churning out millions of chips each month, the slightest hiccup can be disastrous financially. Intel hasn't ironed out enough of these manufacturing wrinkles yet, and the company won't shift to 10-nanometer production until it's sure everything works properly.

Photographer: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images

Sanders' current successor at AMD, Chief Executive Officer Lisa Su, doesn't have to worry about this because the company sold its factories and lets TSMC handle the complex production.

"That's one of the best decisions we've made," said Su. "It allows us to manage risk and focus on the things that make the product great."

With TSMC's help, Su is pursuing a goal that Sanders never attained: A credible and lasting challenge to Intel's hold on computing. AMD is now telling investors and customers that its new chip designs will surpass those from Intel. TSMC makes this competition possible, even though AMD has about a tenth of Intel's workforce and R&D budget.

TSMC didn't catch Intel all by itself, though. The company's real break came a decade ago when the smartphone began filling consumers' pockets. Intel dabbled in mobile chips, but the U.S. company never committed its best production and design to the area, preferring to prioritize its existing cash cow PC and server chip businesses.

When smartphone sales took off, phone makers used other processors from companies like Qualcomm. Or they designed their own using ARM technology, like Apple. And TSMC factories churned these components out.

The smartphone business is now almost six times as big as the PC industry by volume. That's given TSMC the advantage of high-volume manufacturing experience that previously belonged to Intel.

With billions of transistors on chips, a problem with a small number of those tiny switches can render the whole component useless. Production runs can take up to six months and involve hundreds of steps requiring maniacal attention to detail. Each time there's a mistake, the factory operator has a chance to make tweaks and try a new approach. If the change works, that information is retained to try on the next challenge. The more production runs, the better. And TSMC has the most nowadays.

"TSMC just continues to deliver latest chips on schedule without any mistakes," said Mark Li, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. He thinks Intel's leadership in PC and server chips, plus its pricing power, are at risk because of its smartphone slip and TSMC's hard-earned consistency.

Still, this is far from the first challenge Intel has faced. The company is working on its production problems, and in the meantime will deliver new chips built with existing production technology that it says will keep the opposition at bay.

Navin Shenoy, head of Intel's server division, argues nanometer-based production measures have never been the only factor of success (although the company liked to talk about this more in the past). Intel's near-term solution is to design better chips using the old production technology.

"I'm confident that we're going to deliver what our customers care about, which is system performance," he said.

Historically, the company has squashed rivals using a research budget that dwarfed anything else in the industry. But TSMC's approach is even undermining this advantage.

While Intel still outguns TSMC in capital spending on new plants and equipment, the tables are turned when you combine the research budgets of TSMC customers like Qualcomm, Apple, Nvidia Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co.

According to Goldman Sachs, the combined budgets of TSMC's customers are not only larger than Intel but the gap is increasing. By 2020, they will spend almost $20 billion, according to its estimate, at least $4 billion more than Intel.

"They're a self-fulfilling prophesy now," said Debora Shoquist, executive vice president of operations at Nvidia. "They are the best and the best go to the best."

(Updates with Amazon chip details in seventh paragraph.)


May 05, 2017

#Techstocks - $XLK Trading against the upper trendline - After 5X rise from 2009, maybe it's time to say goodbye?

Attached is the long term chart of the Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) US$ 54.77.

 

As can be seen XLK is trading against the upper long term trendline, an upward channel going back to 2010. Every time XLK traded at the upper line at least a correction started.

 

We also attached the long term Point & Figure chart, which shows the huge advance since last summer.

 

There are investors believing that trees can grow higher than airplanes can fly at high altitudes. We don't. This index is at a vertiginous high and most worrisome.

 

The lights have turned from green to yellow

(amber) and as per traffic lights, the next

colour is red! Reasonable investors must

say goodbye to technology stocks

 

August 03, 2016

#MoonExpress gets US gov approval for 1st commercial lunar landing @CNBC

Soon the moon will be the "eighth continent," as private companies such as Moon Express mine its surface for gold, platinum and other resources.

Read the whole story here:

A billionaire's race to harvest the moon's treasures: http://www.cnbc.com/id/103837869

June 30, 2016

#Startups in #Israel continue to raise the bar and set standards for tech ecosystems around the world

Startups in Israel raise US$547 million in June


Winter fails to appear in Israel; 36 startups raise $547m in June

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn .
Photo credit: Moyan Brenn .
Startups in Israel continue to raise the bar and set standards for tech ecosystems around the world. A total of 36 startups from the country raised a combined US$547 million from investors, according to data compiled by Israeli techies Nir Ben and Hillel Fuld. That's despite all the talk of an impending credit crunch and weakening VC appetite.
To give you some context, Israeli startups pocketed an average of US$300 million every month in 2015. June's figures mean they're on course to smash that record – and perhaps double the average – by the end of the year.
Here are all the funding announcements in June:

1. Walkme

Walkme helps guide people through confusing and complicated online services. It raised US$50 million at a US$400 million valuation in a series E round led by Insight Venture Partners.

2. Meta

Meta is an augmented reality startup which develops both hardware and software. It nabbed US$50 million in series B funding to expand its range of products and scale into markets like China. The round was led by Horizons Ventures.

3. Interlude

Interlude is a nifty new media and technology company that's trying to develop different kinds of videos which respond to a person's emotions and interests. It raised approximately US$50 million (exact terms were undisclosed) from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

4. Trax

Trax is headquartered in Singapore but has Israeli founders and maintains a large research and development office in Tel Aviv. The startup builds computer vision technology products for the retail and "fast-moving consumer goods" sectors, helping brands get more control over how their products are arranged on shelves. It raised US$40 million in series C at a valuation of US$220 million.

5. Weka

Weka is trying to radically simplify the way storage is deployed in datacenters. It works mainly with enterprise and cloud companies. The startup got US$22.5 million in series B led by Walden Riverwood Ventures.

6. SundaySky

SundaySky generates personalized videos based on user profiles every time they visit a website. It's trying to help businesses engage with their customers better. The startup raised US$30 million series D led by Viola Private Equity.

7. Airobotics

Airobotics is an autonomous drone startup that's trying to take humans out of the equation when it comes to piloting drones. It raised US$28.5 million in a "combined" series A and B.

8. Zimperium

Zimperium is a cybersecurity startup focusing on mobile and in-app protection. It pocketed US$25 million led by Warburg Pincus.

May 02, 2016

An #iPad Misplaced at the Airport Takes Its Own Vacation

This is fantastic! From The New York Times:


Using the Find My iPhone tracking feature, an owner follows the route of his device and goes online to post regular updates on its location.

An iPad Misplaced at the Airport Takes Its Own Vacation  
 
Last month, Shelby Bonnie’s iPad vanished from his carry-on bag somewhere at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after a red-eye flight from San Francisco. He figured he would never see it again.
But sometimes our devices aren’t ready to say goodbye.

...his iPad began a strange odyssey of its own, turning Mr. Bonnie into a digital gumshoe and the narrator of a personal thriller that played out on Facebook, to the delight of his online friends.
“I said, ‘I’m definitely going to lose my iPad, but I’m going to have some fun,’” Mr. Bonnie said in a phone interview.

ead the whole article online here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/technology/an-ipad-misplaced-at-the-airport-takes-its-own-vacation.html?mwrsm=Email

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