Is the semiconductor industry seeing the light at the end of the tunnel? TSMC apparently thinks so. Participating at a conference gathering the leaders of Taiwan’s chip industry, TSMC chairman Mark Liu compared the semiconductor industry’s development trajectory in the past fifty years with a tunnel: there was only one direction, charted by Moore’s law.
“We are at the end of the tunnel, however,” observed the TSMC chairman, “and the industry is preparing itself for a wide range of possibilities.”
What lies beyond the the tunnel’s exit? Liu believed that the future semiconductor manufacturing would bring forth an even tighter integration among different segments of semiconductor industry value chain. Even software, such as those used for Electronic Design Automation, would be further integrated with chip manufacturing itself.
TSMC ready for an era beyond smartphones
The TSMC chairman especially set his sight on the high-tech industry’s latest hype: metaverse. He observed that a significant rise in the volume of data generation, computing power and transmission speed would gradually make the assimilation between reality and the virtual world tangible. Eventually, the TSMC leader boldly predicted that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) would come to replace mobile phones – ushering in an utterly revolutionary change for both the physical and virtual worlds.
Mark Liu noted that the cost, weight and battery life of present-day AR/VR devices were the main reasons hindering its wide adoption, but the rise of smartphones also followed a similar path 20 years ago. To make metaverse-related technologies as prevalent as smartphones, weight and size improvements would be crucial, and an increase in computing power would be needed to enable this change. In this sense, semiconductor would be the backbone of such transformation.
♦ Further reading – Metaverse, made by whom? China and Taiwan vie for an answer
Finally, the TSMC chairman also indicated that the semiconductor industry’s goal had been cost reduction, but in the future, chip manufacturing would serve as an open platform for innovation. Therefore, hardware and wafer costs would no longer be the sole reference points in the chip industry.
Echoing TSMC’s bold prediction, Ming Chi-Kuo, a famed Apple analyst from TF International Securities, also believed that Apple aimed to replace iPhones with AR headsets after 10 years. According to Kuo’s estimation, Apple is to release its AR headsets in Q4 2022, and it will contain two processors. One of them will be on par with Apple’s M1 processors.