With its 281 types of process technologies, including advanced nodes, speciality technologies and advanced packaging, TSMC has approximately 500 customers worldwide. As the role of semiconductors expands further into every facet of modern life, one can say that it is those securing TSMC’s advanced process nodes who will lead the tech industry. So far, these are Apple, AMD and MediaTek.
Apple, unsurprisingly, remains the Taiwanese foundry’s biggest customer, thanks to its huge volumes of iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches. The position is unlikely to change as Apple introduces its in-house, ARM-based M1 and M2 chips, gradually phasing out Intel, its partner for the past 15 years. M1 used TSMC’s 5nm node, while M2 might use TSMC’s N5P or N4, according to different reports. With TSMC and Apple long rumored to cooperate on the latter’s Apple Cars, undoubtedly Apple will be maintain its position as TSMC’s largest customer in the foreseeable future.
Beyond Apple, TSMC’s 2nd and 3rd largest customers have recently changed. For risk diversification, Nvidia and Qualcomm are sourcing from both TSMC and Samsung, and their places are filled by AMD and MediaTek.
TSMC’s advanced 7nm node was key to AMD’s recent success in catching up with Intel: AMD released its Zen 2-based Ryzen 3000 processor in 2019, when Intel was still struggling with its 10nm and 7nm processes. Undoubtedly, AMD will continue its partnership with TSMC to maintain its edge. The company will continue to use TSMC’s 7nm process until the release of its Zen 4 core, which will use the 5nm process. In fact, AMD has come to be TSMC’s largest client in terms of the 7nm process. With AMD seeking to gain a larger share in the server market (some estimations suggest a 25-30% share in 2023) and its acquisition of Xilinx, another user of TSMC’s advanced nodes, it is expected that AMD will remain TSMC’s 2nd largest customer all the way through 2021.
As a result of U.S. sanctions on Huawei and Qualcomm’s strategic misjudgment, MediaTek has emerged to be TSMC’s third largest customer, primarily benefiting from the vacuum left in the Chinese market. MediaTek’s growth-driving Dimensity 1000 series, first announced in 2019 for flagship 5G smartphones, are fabricated on TSMC’s 7nm process. According to MediaTek, its new 5G chipset, most likely the Dimensity 2000 series, will be shipped in Q1 2022. As the first MediaTek chip to use ARM’s latest V9 architecture, it will also use TSMC’s 4nm process. Despite MediaTek’s current position, it cannot be ruled out that Qualcomm will return to be TSMC’s third largest customer in 2022, as the company is widely expected to switch back to TSMC’s advanced technologies.