IC Design


2021-10-13

EDA Expected to Become Primary Focus of Development under China’s New IC Policies

TrendForce’s investigations show that, among the three categories in the upstream semiconductor supply chain, which consist of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, materials, and EDA, China made the most progress regarding self-sufficiency in semiconductor equipment, followed by materials, with EDA coming in last, in 2020. In other words, Chinese companies are relatively slow to develop EDA solutions.

The EDA market is relatively oligopolistic and involves two US companies. That means once the US implements more stringent controls over the export of EDA technologies and products to China, China’s development of semiconductor self-sufficiency will most likely suffer dire consequences as a result. Even if Chinese domestic companies are able to supply semiconductor equipment for mature process nodes as well as technologies for chip design, manufacturing, and packaging/testing, these things are essentially inoperable without EDA software and technical support. That is to say, the EDA industry remains the final piece of the puzzle for China’s quest for semiconductor self-sufficiency. Since China’s new IC policies (termed the Policies for Promoting the High-Quality Development of the Integrated Circuit Industry and the Software Industry in the New Era) place more emphasis on semiconductor equipment, materials, and software, compared to past policies, EDA (for which China’s self-sufficiency rate is lower than 10%) will likely become the top developmental priority within the software category in the new IC policies.

Chinese EDA suppliers are likely to provide domestic substitute solutions for mature process nodes

As the Chinese semiconductor design and manufacturing industries continue to expand, the Chinese EDA software market is expected to grow at a 15.1% CAGR across 2020-2024, which is faster than the global average of 10.3%. Although Synopsys, Cadence, and Siemens still account for an approximately 80% share in the Chinese EDA market, domestic companies in China have been accelerating their pace of development in recent years. For instance, companies that have more than 10 years of experience developing EDA software, including S2C, Empyrean, Primarius, Xpeedic, NineCube, and Cellixsoft, are gradually making waves in the industry, while many other emerging companies, such as X-EPIC, Arcas, LEDA, and AMEDAC have also been attracting more attention in the EDA market recently. Now that China-US trade tensions have yet to be resolved, and China continues to proceed with its new IC policies, Chinese EDA suppliers will likely experience rapid growth going forward, especially in their attempt to create domestic substitutes for 28nm and other mature process technologies.

(Image credit: Unsplash)

2021-09-15

Revenue of Top 10 IC Design (Fabless) Companies Reaches US$29.8 Billion for 2Q21, Though Growth May Potentially Slow in 2H21, Says TrendForce

In view of the ongoing production capacity shortage in the semiconductor industry and the resultant price hike of chips, revenue of the top 10 IC design companies for 2Q21 reached US$29.8 billion, a 60.8% YoY increase, according to TrendForce‘s latest investigations. In particular, Taiwanese companies put up remarkable performances during this period, with both MediaTek and Novatek posting YoY growths of more than 95%. AMD, on the other hand, experienced a nearly 100% YoY revenue growth, the highest among the top 10.

TrendForce indicates that the ranking of the top five companies for 2Q21 remained unchanged from the previous quarter, although there were major changes in the 6th to 10th spots. More specifically, after finalizing its acquisition of Inphi, Marvell experienced a major revenue growth and leapfrogged Xilinx and Realtek in the rankings from 9th place in 1Q21 to 7th place in 2Q21.

Thanks to strong demand for major smartphone brands’ flagship and high-end 5G handsets, revenue leader Qualcomm’s processor and RF front-end businesses underwent remarkable growths, while its IoT business also benefitted from WFH and distance learning demands generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualcomm’s revenue from its IoT business reached nearly US$1.4 billion, making IoT one of the major growth drivers for the company. For 2Q21, Qualcomm’s revenue reached US$6.47 billion, a 70.0% YoY increase. On the other hand, Nvidia’s revenues from gaming graphics cards and data center solutions each grew by 91.1% YoY and 46% YoY, respectively, in 2Q21. Strong demand from cryptocurrency miners for Nvidia’s high-end gaming graphics cards, along with the data center segment’s demand for Nvidia’s HPC products, propelled the company’s revenue for 2Q21 to US$5.84 billion, a 68.8% YoY growth, and secured the second place for Nvidia on the top 10 list.

Broadcom, which took third place on the top 10, attributed most of its revenue to wired connectivity and wireless products. Regarding wired connectivity products, the continued build-out of 5G base stations worldwide resulted in increasing demand for Broadcom’s high-speed Ethernet controller ICs, whereas for wireless products, the release of certain high-end 5G smartphones also created high demand for Broadcom’s Wi-Fi 6E chips. Similarly, Broadcom’s broadband and industrial solutions businesses both underwent double-digit growths in 2Q21, thereby driving the company’s revenue for 2Q21 to US$4.95 billion, a 19.2% YoY growth. Turning to AMD, the company’s revenue for 2Q21 reached US$3.85 billion, a staggering 99.3% YoY increase, owing to the following: first, the bullish gaming console market; second, massive earnings growths from enterprise, embedded, and semi-custom solutions; third, increased client adoption of AMD’s server CPUs (it should be noted that AMD’s server processor business grew by 183% YoY in 2Q21). AMD took fifth place in the top 10 list for 2Q21.

Regarding Taiwanese companies, MediaTek was able to sustain the momentum it gained in 1Q21 throughout 2Q21. MediaTek’s smartphone chip business, which generated the bulk of the company’s revenue, registered a 143% growth in 2Q21. At the same time, its revenues from other businesses also saw an overall double-digit growth. Hence, MediaTek posted a revenue of US$4.49 billion for 2Q21, a 98.8% YoY growth, and reached fourth place on the list. Finally, Novatek’s SoCs and display driver ICs both performed well in the market primarily due to its close partnerships with major foundries, including TSMC, UMC, and VIS. Revenue from display driver ICs, which had traditionally been Novatek’s primary revenue source, grew by 81% YoY in 2Q21.

Certain rumors in the end-devices markets indicate that demand will likely undergo a slowdown in 3Q21 and lead to decreased orders for certain components. However, given that foundries’ newly installed wafer capacities have yet to kick off mass production, the ongoing chip shortage is expected to persist for now. In addition, as some IC design companies’ client orders still remain unfulfilled, these companies’ revenues will likely experience further growths in 2H21, albeit to a relatively limited extent. It should also be pointed out that Marvell is expected to benefit from Inphi’s earnings for the next two quarters and increase its own revenue by more than 50% YoY in 2H21. Even so, Novatek’s sixth-place ranking is unlikely to be threatened by Marvell in the short run since Novatek will continue to benefit from the ongoing chip shortage and price hikes for the time being.

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

2021-07-15

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

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