Artificial intelligence is opening the best opportunities for semiconductor companies in decades. How can they capture this value? Software has been the star of high tech over the past few decades, and it's easy to understand why. With PCs and mobile phones, the game-changing innovations that defined this era, the architecture and software layers of the technology stack enabled several important advances. In this environment, semiconductor companies were in a difficult position. Although their innovations in chip design and fabrication enabled next-generation devices, they received only a small share of the value coming from the technology stack--about 20 to 30 percent with PCs and 10 to 20 percent with mobile. But the story for semiconductor companies could be different with the growth of artificial intelligence (AI)--typically defined as the ability of a machine to perform cognitive functions associated with human minds, such as perceiving, reasoning, and learning.
As the US semiconductor industry seeks out more support from the federal government, some recent "shifts in thinking" could help the industry reach long-sought goals, AMD CEO Lisa Su said Tuesday. The remarks followed news that the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) is seeking around $37 billion in federal funding for various efforts to support the industry, particularly for domestic manufacturing. Commentary: Please join our sister sites in fundraising to help address racism. "We have spent time on this topic of US domestic manufacturing," Su said, speaking as a member of the SIA. "I think it's part of a broader conversation... really around US leadership in technology." "The US is a leader in technology, in high-performance computing, and our goal is to continue that particular leadership," Su said in a webchat hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Consumer Technology Association.
One of the most important, and most timely, is directly related to the tech industry and the products and services it enables. The problem is, it's hidden behind the scenes where most consumers would never bother to look: semiconductor chip manufacturing. While most everyone knows that chips from U.S.-based companies like Intel, AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Apple and others power the devices we all know and love – as well as the cloud-based servers that stream Netflix and Disney shows to our screens, deliver our emails, host our videoconferences and much more – very few people bother to think about where they all come from. Well, one of the many things that the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear is that supply chains – that is, the network of companies that make parts or help distribute a product or service – are not as robust as they need to be. In addition, they are far too reliant on foreign suppliers.
Wally Rhines, president and CEO of Mentor, a Siemens Business, sat down with Semiconductor Engineering to discuss a wide range of industry and technology changes and how that will play out over the next few years. What follows are excerpts of that conversation. SE: What will happen in the end markets? Rhines: The end markets are perhaps more exciting from a design perspective right now than they have been in recent years. Everyone is intrigued with the electronic design opportunities that have been emerging in the automotive industry.
The technology sector is in an interesting place today. On the one hand, technology has historically tended to be cyclical, with technology demand fluctuating with GDP growth. On the other hand, technology is achieving more extraordinary feats by the day, and is helping to solve a lot of the problems caused by coronavirus. That may actually lead to a surge in demand for some tech products and services due to the stay-at-home economy. These cross-currents came into focus in the first quarter earnings release of technology bell-weather Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE: TSM).