Editor's take: Undeniably, we usually spend a lot of time talking about leading edge semiconductor manufacturing. This is a common mistake that everyone falls into when discussing semis, one which we are as guilty of as anyone. The world is rightly focused on the scarcity of companies capable of operating at the leading edge, but there is a lot more to semis.
Big quote: It's often said that there are three significant influences on global politics (and wars): oil, land, and religion. According to Intel boss Pat Gelsinger, semiconductors will join that list and become more important than the location of oil reserves for the next five decades.
There is no simple answer, but we think there are a few factors that really stand out...
The big picture: By now, we are all familiar with the fact that TSMC is, by far, the most capable semiconductor manufacturer in the world, with all the entails for the industry and geopolitics. And as this reality sets in, many people have been asking us how did they get so good?
In context: Samsung will use its most advanced manufacturing process to make chips for four well-known technology companies. The race to overtake TSMC as the world's largest chip foundry is on, while geopolitical conflicts are tearing the old economic balance apart.
The chip companies are never going to really love this business
The big picture: Earlier this year we were reviewing Analyst Day slides from leading semiconductor companies and a clear theme emerged. Large companies are all shifting in a similar direction, posing some potential challenges for their long-term positions. More and more customers are looking for special purpose chips, a coping mechanism for dealing with the slowdown in Moore's Law. And the big players are all looking to support those customers.
Cars are still less than 10% revenue for most chip companies
Why it matters: Over the past few years the semis industry has become somewhat obsessed with autos. Every major chip company now dedicates a fair amount of coverage to cars in all their investor presentations. Or at least it seems that way. In part that reflects a genuine growth in auto semis, and in part the tapering of growth in many other categories like mobile, PCs, etc.
Why it matters: Earlier this month, the US government blocked the sale of specific chips to anyone in China. We see this as an important change by the government in the tactics they are deploying. The United States has gone from blocking specific companies in China, to blocking all companies and focusing on specific products.
This is a big change, and opens up the question -- what exactly are they hoping to achieve? This matters obviously in that it can help us predict the outcome, but we increasingly hold the view that the government may not have entirely thought through how this will ultimately play out.