Under the radar disruption of 2020
For over a decade, Intel, Nvidia Qualcomm, and Apple were clear unchallenged category leaders on their prospective devices from servers to pcs to phones with very little change in hierarchies. But in 2020, the entire industry got turned on its head.
- Apple ditched Intel chips in their MacBooks for their homegrown m1 chips.
- AMD beat intel on both pcs and servers.
- Amazon released its second-generation arm processors for servers while Microsoft has started working on its equivalent.
- Mediatek overtook Qualcomm as the largest vendor of mobile socs.
- Samsung’s Exynos processors began catching up to Qualcomm on the high end.
- Nvidia bought ARM, which is arguably the most significant chip acquisition and maybe ever
- Huawei’s kirin chip business collapsed overnight as they were cut off from the global supply chains.
- Commercially successful chips based on the RISC-V instruction set were introduced to the market.
Basically, after a decade of slow and steady progress, everything got turned on its head in the chip industry this year, and I think there are four main underlying reasons for this change:
- ARM chips have been increasing their performance at a much faster rate than x86 chips for a long while now, and even though they started from a much lower base this year, they have become viable replacements in more power-intensive machines.
2. Contract manufacturers and especially tsmc became so good at manufacturing chips that they lifted all of their clients, including apple Qualcomm Mediatek well past the likes of Intel, who builds their own chips.
3. Processing has increasingly moved away from the main CPU to everything else on the chip, from AI co-processors, hardware acceleration to various software layers. Companies like intel that have built their entire business on pure CPU performance have been hurt.
4. The trade wars and the deglobalization of technology.