Architosh this past weekend released its INSIDER Xpresso newsletter No. 31 with a Special Feature entitled, “Chip Technology, Geopolitics, and the CAD Industry.”
We consider this one of our best special reports published in the past few years. The long-form article makes a sweeping arc through the semiconductor industry’s present situation, including the heightened tensions between the United States and China and the emergence of the US Chips Act.
The article also mentions what China is lacking in technology and native industry in order to gain full semiconductor independence. Even if China invaded Taiwan that country has zero native manufacturing of critical tools used to make semiconductors.
The point of the article is to educate the reader on the state of semiconductors and their impacts on the CAD market.
Rising ARM and Falling Intel
The article looks at Moore’s Law and highlights the exact year timeframes when both the ARM architecture began to accelerate (in many ways thanks to Apple) and when the Intel X86 architecture began to falter. An entire section delves into the recent history of Intel’s chip manufacturing problems and answers the question “what specifically has been Intel’s chip manufacturing issues?”
The article also looks at Apple’s recent chip “brain drain” as its chief CPU architect left in 2019 to form Nuvia which was acquired by Qualcomm. Secondly, another wave, or, exodus occurred more recently heading to the RISC-V start-up Rivos.
The article ties together the PA Semi acquisition from 2007 and why Steve Jobs wanted to buy it. Even Jobs had just brought the Mac over to Intel a few years before, PA Semi showcased to Jobs a stunning high-performance, low-power PowerPC architecture chip that convinced Apple to acquire PA Semi and use their team as the foundation of Apple’s semiconductor group.
Apple currently crushes both Intel and AMD in world-leading single-core performance versus wattage, yet Nuvia has mapped out even more superior single-core performance aiming initially at the data center. Qualcomm has different plans for the Nuvia team, while Rivos’s plans for RISC-V architecture dominance center on the data center.
ASML and EUV
One of the most critical pieces of equipment for Apple, Qualcomm’s Nuvia team, Rivos, Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA’s future high-performance chips (CPUs and SoCs in particular) is ASML’s extreme ultraviolet lithography machines (EUV lithography). This equipment is critical to taking processor manufacturing nodes down to 5nm and beyond. Apple is already shipping chips using EUV from ASML, while AMD and Intel are not quite there yet. We discuss this Dutch company’s equipment and who has it and in which proportion.
Lastly, we discuss the landmark tidal shifts in the global semiconductor industry and how the world of software—specifically CAD, BIM, and 3D software—may have to respond to these shifts. Many incumbents in the CAD industry may suffer the same fate as Intel which could not react fast enough to new types of challenges in its manufacturing. These CAD leaders are so entrenched around multi-decade “Wintel development models and technology” that the very thing that has given them streamlining and massive growth could now come to haunt them as new upstarts can target the emerging ARM-based platforms without the legacy code dependency issues that incumbents depend on.
Accessing the Special Feature
To read the feature please sign-up for our free monthly XPresso newsletter here. The system will email you and provide guidance to reading past issues, including issue No. 31 which contains this special feature.
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