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Samsung, Apple still world's biggest chip buyers

  • ByZDNet2017-02-04 09:34:55

Samsung, Apple still world's biggest chip buyers. Science & Technology World Website

Samsung Electronics and Apple contributed 18.2 percent to the global semiconductor in 2016, spending US$61.7 billion.

The smartphone makers had spent US$61.3 billion the previous year and occupied the top two positions for six consecutive years, according to figures from Gartner. Positions were swopped, though, with Samsung assuming the pole position while Apple fell to second.

Spending US$31.67 billion last year, Samsung grew its semiconductor design total available market (TAM) with a 9.3 percent share. The iPhone maker spent 2.9 percent less at US$29.99 billion, on decreased design TAM for the first time since Gartner began tracking the market in 2007. Its market share dropped to 8.8 percent, the research firm said, noting that Apple's iPad tablet did not sell well last year and it also lost share in the PC market.

Gartner's principal research analyst, Masatsume Yamaji, noted: "While both [Samsung and Apple] continue to exert considerable influence on technology and price trends for the wider semiconductor industry, their impact has lessened due to falling expectations for future growth."

Most of the top 10 companies in 2015 remained on last year's top 10 list, with the exception of Cisco Systems, which dropped out and was replaced by Chinese smartphone OEM, BBK Electronics.

Among the top 10 global chip buyers in 2016 were Dell, Lenovo, Huawei, and LG Electronics.

Yamaji said: "Even though the influence on the semiconductor industry of the top two strongest OEMs is weakening, the combined design TAM of the top 10 companies outperformed the average growth rate of the total semiconductor market in 2016.

"However, semiconductor chip vendors can no longer secure their businesses by relying on a few strong customers because market share changes much faster these days," he said. "BBK Electronics grew very fast in 2016 and increased its design TAM, but this extraordinarily fast growth also underlines how volatile the businesses in China can be."

The Gartner analyst underscored the need for market players to diversify their clientele to remain competitive.

Samsung, Apple still world's biggest chip buyers. Science & Technology World Website

Samsung will invest $1 billion in Texas factory for mobile chip production

Samsung will invest $1 billion in Texas factory for mobile chip production Science & Technology World Website

It is reported that Samsung is planning to invest one billion dollars in the Austin factory of Texas in the beginning of 2017, in an effort to improve the production line of its mobile chips.  

Although Samsung is still sorting out the mess connected to the recalled Galaxy Note7, it plans to invest one billion dollars in the Austin factory of Texas. The investment will be applied in the beginning of 2017, which will be used to expand manufacturing of semiconductors for electronics, the company said.

Samsung’s Exynos chips are not only used in its smartphones, but also in semiconductors for storage, memory and batteries. Most of the components in Galaxy S7 smartphones are made in Samsung factories.

Because of the battery problems which led to overheating and fires in some smartphones, Samsung halts the production of the Note 7. But apparently this cannot prevent the company from expanding its mobile chip production. 

The companies like Intel and GlobalFoundries also have manufacturing factories in the US. Intel has signed an agreement recently to make ARM-based mobile chips, and will provide smartphone chips for LG smartphones manufactured in the US factories.

The chip manufacturers also apply more resources to the manufacturing of chips for Internet of Things devices. Samsung offers Artik Internet of Things chips, including processors, memory and wireless components made by the company. Most of Samsung's manufacturing factories are located in South Korea. 

The company set up the Austin factory in 2007, which was initially used to make NAND flash chips. Samsung invested 3.5 billion dollars at that time to launch the plant. The Austin factory covers 2.3 million square feet and has 3000 employees, said Samsung.

ReRAM can now store and process data in the same chip

ReRAM can now store and process data in the same chip. Science & Technology World

Those lucky enough to work from home will probably tell you that one of the best things about it is the time saved by not commuting to the office. Inside a computer, data goes through a similar process, commuting between its "home" in the system memory to "work" in the processor, but now researchers in Singapore and Germany have found a way to help that data effectively work from home. The team is developing memory chips that can process information right where it's stored, potentially allowing for faster, smaller and more efficient computers and mobile devices.

The new circuit is based on Resistive switching RAM (ReRAM) memory chips, which are just starting to become commercially available. These chips store information by effectively remembering a variable value of electrical resistance, which can be changed by applying different currents, and being non-volatile, they can retain that memory even while turned off. Also known as a "memristors," these chips are said to function like the neurons in a human brain, and are sought after due to the fact that they're faster, smaller, can store more data and require less energy to run.

Memristors have been projected to be the future of both memory and processors, and the new circuit combines them both into one device. Developed by scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, RWTH Aachen University, and the Forschungszentrum Juelich research center, the ReRAM chip could remove the need for separate processing and memory components, leading to smaller and thinner devices that use less power. And since there's no wait time for data to run between the storage and processor, they will be faster too.

"ReRAM is a versatile non-volatile memory concept," says Professor Rainer Waser, co-author of the study. "These devices are energy-efficient, fast, and they can be scaled to very small dimensions. Using them not only for data storage but also for computation could open a completely new route towards an effective use of energy in the information technology."

The binary system, where information is represented with a series of ones and zeroes, is standard practice, but the team says translating data into this digital language takes time and can slow the process down.

"This is like having a long conversation with someone through a tiny translator, which is a time-consuming and effort-intensive process," says Anupam Chattopadhyay, co-author of the study. "We are now able to increase the capacity of the translator, so it can process data more efficiently."

To do so, the team is making use of ReRAM's ability to store data in an analog format – that is, it can register on a more detailed gradient scale, rather than the simple on or off of binary. The prototype circuit uses what's called the Ternary number system, which can store and process data using three states: zero, one or two. While it's not truly analog yet, it's a step in that direction.

The next step for the researchers is to develop a system that allows ReRAM to process and store data with higher amounts of states, as well as reaching out to companies to help develop commercial products that make use of the findings.



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