IC Design


2021-07-15

Gaming market remains the most hotly contest battleground in the competition among processor suppliers

In recent years, notebook computer (laptop) brands and processor suppliers alike have been actively adjusting their product strategies and business operations in response to behavioral shifts in the way consumers purchase and use computing devices. While notebook brands jostle for superiority in industrial design with improvements to their product appearances every year, competition in the processor industry has been even fiercer. TrendForce’s investigations indicate that the current competitive landscape in the processor industry consists of three developments, indicated below:

First, competition between AMD and Intel. Not only are both companies focused on expanding their respective ecosystems, but they have also been aiming to conquer the gaming market by releasing new products aimed at gamers this year. Apart from making headways in the PC processor market, AMD has introduced the AMD Advantage Design Framework.

AMD Advantage gaming notebooks are certified to meet standards of performance set by the company. AMD hopes that this certification system will allow it to generate a more consolidated gaming ecosystem while raising its brand equity. Intel, on the other hand, has been cultivating its presence in the creator and 5G notebook markets in an attempt to become the primary driver of digital transformation in the post-pandemic era.

Second, the Nvidia-Arm collaboration. This collaboration took place for the purpose of establishing an AI-enabled reference platform for notebook computers. More specifically, Arm’s CPU/NPU/GPU product stack delivers such wide-ranging AI solutions as real-time recognition, vibration detection, and keyword spotting. Following Arm’s successful foray into the PC segment, Nvidia will speed up its release of notebook products, including CPUs based on the Arm architecture.

Third, Qualcomm’s cross-sector ambitions. By architecting always connected notebooks* with Microsoft and Google, Qualcomm is now leveraging its advantages in 5G technology to prepare for upcoming competition with Intel in the 5G services market.


As the aforementioned companies’ presentations at Computex 2021 would suggest, not only do these processor suppliers possess their own competitive technological advantages, but they also share the common goal of upgrading their gaming competencies, including graphics cards, graphics technologies, and cooling performances.

Some of their current offerings aimed at the gaming market include the AMD RX 6000M, Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti/RTX 3070 Ti GPU, and Intel 11th Gen Core H45. Interestingly, the AMD Advantage Design Framework, which certifies OEMs’ gaming notebooks based on the AMD platform, represents the company’s intention to challenge Nvidia’s dominance in the gaming market.

After Nvidia announced its US$40 billion acquisition of Arm last September, the partnership is expected to yield considerable technological synergies by way of the two companies’ AI collaboration. TrendForce believes that, in the long term, Arm Cortex CPUs based on the Armv9 architecture will allow Nvidia to break free from the dominance of Intel and AMD in the notebook CPU market. In particular, Nvidia will be able to cultivate its presence in the high-performance notebook market by combining its existing graphics technology with Arm Cortex CPUs.

Qualcomm’s main impetus for entering the notebook market can be attributed to the fact that the pandemic has brought about a new normal in which consumer adherence to notebook products has become increasingly strong. On the whole, Qualcomm’s cross-sector ambition appears to be on the cusp of victory, given the company’s preexisting 5G competencies and its experience in always-connected applications, advanced camera technologies, immersive audio/visual and display experiences, AI acceleration, and power efficiency for smartphones. As a case in point, Qualcomm is set to release Windows on Snapdragon notebooks as its own 5G *always connected PC platform.

It should be noted that Intel has also adopted MediaTek’s 5G chip technology in 5G connected notebooks featuring “Intel 5G Solution 5000”. On the other hand, Qualcomm is also developing mobile processors aimed at the entry-level always connected 4G/5G notebook market. TrendForce expects competition in the always connected market to generate a fresh wave of replacement demand in the mobile computing market.

*Always connected laptops (notebooks): notebooks that feature modem chips and have a constant internet connection much like smartphones. These notebooks can connect to the internet using 4G/5G networks without the need for Wi-Fi.

(Cover image source: Pixabay)

2021-06-11

Third-Generation Semiconductor GaN Technology Expected to Revolutionize the Fast Charging Industry

In response to the increasing demands of mobile applications, manufacturers are now placing a priority on extending the battery life of such devices like smartphones and notebook computers. However, due to the inherent limitations of physical space in these devices, the quest for ever-greater battery capacity has seemingly reached a bottleneck, forcing them to look elsewhere for solutions, hence the development of fast charging technology. As such, fast chargers equipped with GaN (Gallium nitride, which is a third-generation semiconductor) chips have are now expected to introduce the next chapter for the fast charging market.

According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, as smartphone brands including Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo have successively been releasing fast chargers since 2018, the market demand for GaN power devices has undergone a corresponding growth as well. Given the continued upward trajectory of the market, GaN power device revenue for 2021 is expected to reach US$61 million, a 90.6% YoY increase.


Due to their low portability and tendency to overheat, traditional fast chargers are increasingly unable to meet consumer demand

In the past, fast chargers were generally based on Si (Silicon) chips. However, as these chargers increase in wattage, their mass and physical dimension increased as well, meaning they suffered from low portability and a tendency to overheat when fast charging. On the other hand, as battery capacities expanded past the 4000mAh mark, traditional Si chargers began to see a drop in charging efficiency. In light of this, after certain breakthroughs in GaN manufacturing technologies were achieved, next-gen GaN chargers are likely to completely transform most consumers’ preexisting impressions of fast chargers.

Nonetheless, the manufacturing costs of GaN chargers are still 80%-120% higher compared with Si chargers at the moment. That is why very few devices bundle GaN chargers as a standard accessory included with the purchase and why GaN chargers are consequently sold separately instead. TrendForce expects the market for GaN chargers to experience rapid growth in 2021, with about 57 million units shipped for the year.

IC design company Navitas is the biggest winner in the GaN charger supply chain

The GaN charger supply chain encompasses virtually all major companies in various industries, and companies for which GaN businesses account for a larger share of their sales or technologies are more likely to benefit from the booming GaN charging market as well. As the largest supplier of GaN charger chips at the moment, Navitas has a clientele consisting of such major brands as Xiaomi, OPPO, Lenovo, Asus-Adol, and Dell. TrendForce’s investigations find that Navitas’ share in the GaN charger chip market surpassed 50% as of last year.

Navitas’ chips are currently fabricated with TSMC’s GaN on Si technology on 6-inch wafers, while TSMC is planning to increase its GaN production capacities by outsourcing its epitaxial processes to Ennostar subsidiary Unikorn. As Navitas expands its shipment volume going forward, TSMC and Ennostar are expected to benefit as well.

(Cover image source: Unsplash)

2021-06-10

Global Cryptocurrency Mining Craze Becomes Key to Nvidia Overtaking Broadcom in Revenue for 1Q21, Says TrendForce

While foundry capacities remained tight, prompting IC design companies to compete over limited foundry capacities in order to fulfill rising demand for various end devices, the top 10 IC designe (fabless) companies posted remarkable revenues in 1Q21, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. In particular, thanks to the global mining craze brought about by the cryptocurrency market, Nvidia was able to surpass Broadcom in revenue and take the second spot among the top 10. On the other hand, fifth-ranked AMD scored a staggering YoY growth of 92.9%, which is the highest % increase on the top 10 list.

Market leader Qualcomm saw growths in its smartphone, RF front end, IoT, and automotive departments in 1Q21, during which it posted a revenue of US$6.28 billion, a 53.2% increase YoY, placing Qualcomm firmly in the number one spot. Coming in second place is Nvidia, which overtook Broadcom with $5.17 billion in revenue. Nvidia’s revenue performance can primarily be attributed to massive gaming graphics card demand generated by the cryptocurrency market and the stay-at-home economy. In addition, Nvidia’s Cloud & Data Center business also saw positive growths in 1Q21, thereby contributing to its revenue for the quarter as well.

Broadcom, ranked third on the top 10 list, posted a $4.49 billion revenue in 1Q21. Broadcom’s performance took place on the back of the bullish broadband telecom market, with growths in passive fiber optics and wired networking for data transmission. AMD, on the other hand, continued to benefit from the stay-at-home economy and other such market demands, in addition to its growing foothold in the server market. The company experienced increasing market shares and led its competitors with an impressive 92.9% YoY increase in revenue, the highest on the top 10 list. It should be pointed out that the extreme volatility of the cryptocurrency market, as well as the strict surveillance policies imposed on cryptocurrency trading by several countries, may introduce uncertainties in the future of gaming graphics card revenue for both Nvidia and AMD.

Regarding the performance of Taiwanese IC design companies, MediaTek’s smartphone business unit registered a remarkable 149% YoY growth in revenue mainly on account of high demand from Chinese smartphone brands, which were particularly aggressive in seizing Huawei’s former market share. Furthermore, as Qualcomm’s recent performance in the entry-level and mid-range smartphone markets remained relatively lackluster, MediaTek therefore aimed to fulfill demand from its smartphone clients as its chief goal on a macro level. As a result, MediaTek’s revenue for 1Q21 reached about $3.81 billion, an 88.4% YoY increase, placing the company in the fourth spot.

Novatek derived its performance from high component demand from manufacturers of IT products, TVs, and smartphones. In view of the current shortage of foundry capacity and rising prices of foundry services, Novatek has been able to maintain a stable supply of components via increased prices due to its longstanding, stable, and flexible strategic relationships with Taiwanese foundries (UMC, VIS, and TSMC), China-based Nexchip, and Korea-based Samsung LSI. Hence, Novatek leapfrogged both Marvell and Xilinx for the sixth place while increasing its revenue for 1Q21 by 59.4% YoY.

On the whole, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, which has resulted in decreased production targets for Chinese smartphone brands, is not expected to drastically affect IC design companies’ component demand in 3Q21 because of the following factors: First, price hikes of foundry services have already been reflected in chip prices; secondly, market demand for devices remains high; and finally, Chinese smartphone brands still need to maintain a safe level component inventory, as they have yet to resolve the discrepancies among their various materials’ sufficiency levels.

Incidentally, although some expect that the recent spread of COVID-19 among KYEC employees may impact the procurement activities of IC designers that are part of KYEC’s clientele, TrendForce’s investigations of financial reports from various companies in April and May indicate that infections in KYEC facilities will unlikely result in major impacts on the revenues of IC designers in 2Q21.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-03-25

Revenue of Top 10 IC Design (Fabless) Companies for 2020 Undergoes 26.4% Increase YoY Due to High Demand for Notebooks and Networking Products, Says TrendForce

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 1H20 seemed at first poised to devastate the IC design industry. However, as WFH and distance education became the norm, TrendForce finds that the demand for notebook computers and networking products also spiked in response, in turn driving manufacturers to massively ramp up their procurement activities for components. Fabless IC design companies that supply such components therefore benefitted greatly from manufacturers’ procurement demand, and the IC design industry underwent tremendous growth in 2020. In particular, the top three IC design companies (Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Nvidia) all posted YoY increases in their revenues, with Nvidia registering the most impressive growth, at a staggering 52.2% increase YoY, the highest among the top 10 companies.

According to TrendForce’s latest investigations, Qualcomm was able to overtake Broadcom for the leading position in the top 10 list primarily due to two reasons: First, the sudden demand surge for network devices; and second, Apple’s decision to once again adopt Qualcomm’s baseband processors. Incidentally, US sanctions against Huawei also prompted other smartphone brands to ramp up their production volumes in an attempt to seize additional market shares. Taken together, these factors collectively drove up Qualcomm’s revenue last year. Likewise, although the US-China trade war hampered Broadcom’s performances in 1H20, its smartphone RF front-end became a crucial part of Apple’s supply chain in 2H20. Even so, Broadcom fell to second place in the rankings, since its revenue growth was relatively minor. The Mellanox acquisition substantially bolstered the depth and breadth of Nvidia’s data center solutions, which generated nearly US$6.4 billion in revenue, a 121.2% increase YoY. Owing to its data center solutions and gaming graphics cards, which performed well in the market, Nvidia posted the highest YoY revenue growth among the top 10 companies, at 52.2% as previously mentioned.

The three Taiwanese companies delivered remarkable performances as well. In particular, MediaTek’s revenue underwent a 37.3% YoY increase in 2020, an overwhelming improvement over the 1% YoY increase in 2019. MediaTek’s growth last year took place due to several reasons, including the skyrocketing demand for notebooks and networking products, the success of MediaTek’s 5G smartphone processors, and improved specs as well as cost optimizations for MediaTek’s networking products. Novatek’s revenue grew by 30.1% YoY, as the US-China trade war and the stay-at-home economy brought about by the pandemic resulted in strong sales of its driver ICs and TV SoCs. Finally, Realtek benefitted from the high demand for its various offerings, most notably networking products and notebooks, although sales of its audio products and Bluetooth chips were also respectable. Realtek’s revenue increased by 34.1% YoY.

Capitalizing on the capacity limitations of Intel’s 10nm process, AMD made significant inroads in the notebook, desktop, and server CPU markets, resulting in a $9.7 billion revenue, a remarkable 45% increase YoY. Although Xilinx’s revenue declined by 5.6% YoY in the wake of the US-China trade war, recent QoQ changes in Xilinx’s revenue show that the company is well on its way to recovery going forward.

Although vaccines are being administered across the globe at the moment, the pandemic has yet to show any signs of slowdown in 1Q21. While device manufacturers remain active in procuring components, the shortage of foundry capacities is expected to persist throughout the year. IC design companies are likely to raise IC quotes given the need to ensure sufficient foundry capacities allocated to IC products, in turn propelling IC design revenue to new heights in 2021.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Semiconductor Research, please click here, or email Ms. Latte Chung from the Sales Department at lattechung@trendforce.com

2021-01-13

Strong End-Demand to Result in 8.6% and 46.2% YoY Growths for Smartphone and Tablet TDDI IC Shipments for 2021, Respectively, Says TrendForce

Given the forecasted recovery of the smartphone market and the corresponding rise in TDDI IC demand throughout this year, total smartphone TDDI IC shipment for 2021 is expected to reach 760 million units, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. Tablet TDDI IC shipment for 2021, on the other hand, is expected to reach 95 million units.

TrendForce indicates that the overall demand for consumer electronics and IT products has been gradually intensifying since the COVID-19 pandemic began to slow down in 2H20. At the same time, smartphone manufacturers restocked their component inventories, while Huawei was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Commerce. These events marked an upturn in demand for smartphone components, including IC products. However, although foundries ramped up their capacity utilization rates in response to soaring end-product demand, semiconductor component supply has been lagging behind the rising demand.

Case in point, TDDI IC prices have been increasing due to the component’s tightening supply. As foundries’ production capacities at their 12-inch fabs’ 80/90nm nodes are unable to meet the global demand for TDDI ICs, IC design companies have been stepping up the pace to transition the manufacturing process of their higher-end TDDI IC products from the 80/90nm nodes to the 55nm node instead. Smartphone and tablet manufacturers, on the other hand, have expanded their procurement activities for TDDI ICs owing to a forecasted shortage of these components. These factors propelled smartphone TDDI IC shipment for 2020 to 700 million units, a 25% increase YoY.

Tablet TDDI IC shipment for 2021 is projected to reach 95 million units as the tablet market becomes the next battleground for IC design companies

Smartphone manufacturers have been ramping up TDDI IC adoption in light of smartphone TDDI ICs’ increasing maturity. In addition, as 8-inch capacities become fully loaded across the foundry industry, IC design companies are accelerating the transition of traditional discrete DDIC architecture to TDDI IC, which is primarily manufactured with 12-inch wafers. This transition is expected to result in even higher demand for foundry capacities. As previously mentioned, wafer capacities at the 80/90nm nodes have been in severe shortage. Therefore, to mitigate the risk of tight wafer supply in 2020, IC design companies are now not only transitioning their TDDI IC manufacturing process towards the 55nm node, but also looking to secure a stable supply of wafer capacities by outsourcing their manufacturing operations across a diverse number of foundries. As smartphone demand rises going forward, smartphone TDDI IC shipment for 2021 is expected to reach 760 million units, an 8.6% increase YoY.

Likewise, IC design companies have also turned their attention to the budding tablet market and started releasing TDDI ICs for tablets. IC design companies are primarily interested in developing TDDI ICs for tablets for two reasons: First, a mid-range or high-end tablet contains double the number of TDDI ICs per unit compared to smartphones. Secondly, most of these tablets feature active stylus compatibility, which means the ASP for their display ICs is relatively high. For the past two years, Huawei in particular has been ambitious in cultivating its tablet market and developing TDDI ICs. However, other IC design companies are now following suit and participating in this market as IC design technologies become more mature, and more tablet manufacturers become proactive in adopting TDDI ICs for tablet use. Tablet TDDI IC shipment for 2020 is estimated at 65 million units, whereas this number is projected to reach 95 million for 2021, an impressive 46.2% increase YoY.

For more information on reports and market data from TrendForce’s Department of Display Research, please click here, or email Ms. Vivie Liu from the Sales Department at vivieliu@trendforce.com

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