According to a forecast of IC Insights, the world-leading smartphone chip designer MediaTek is to post a 60% yearly sales increase in 2021 – the second highest sales growth after that of AMD. However, MediaTek chairman, Ming-Kai Tsai, sees much room for improvement: not only for MediaTek, but for Taiwanese semiconductor industry as a whole.
Even though top Taiwanese chip designers like MediaTek, Realtek and Novatek have all achieved sales revenues worth billions of dollars, the MediaTek chairman believes that Taiwan’s entire semiconductor industry needs an upgrade, especially as international competition intensifies. The pursuits of chip autonomy in the United States, European Union, China, Japan, South Korea and India have become a challenge for Taiwan, alongside domestic challenges. As Tsai puts it, Taiwan’s shrinking population has also led to a shortage of future engineering talents. In 2020, the relevant talent pool already shrank to beneath 95,000 people, impeding the long-term development of Taiwanese chip industry.
One of the ways to address the challenges is product diversification. According to the MediaTek chairman, logic ICs remain the mainstay of Taiwanese chip design industry, while relatively less emphasis has been placed on memory and analog ICs. This preference derives from the primary markets so far targeted by Taiwan’s chip design companies: consumer electronics, smartphones and computers. In other words, new application scenarios will be the key to drive new design capabilities.
Tsai also perceives the need to strengthen Taiwan’s integrated device manufacturers (IDMs). Despite Taiwan’s lead in fabless design and chip manufacturing, its IDMs lag behind those in Japan, South Korea and Europe.
Furthermore, the MediaTek chairman has a high expectation from quantum computing, likening its importance to the development of transistors in the 1940s. From the emergence of quantum computing in the 1980s to the onset of noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) era in 2018, fault-tolerant quantum computation, he observes, will be the next revolutionary breakthrough.