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February 26, 2021
🧀 Good morning! Lots of opinions on the “cheese is good” article linked yesterday. Always welcome your thoughts. And especially your cheese recommendations. Mmm, aged cheddar.
Chipageddon details

Finally some good detail on the “chipageddon” situation we’re in, where semiconductor supply is lower than demand, and not just at the bleeding-edge around the Nvidia, Playstation 5, and new Xbox Series X consoles either. The demand is coming from broad segments of the market, which is impacting everything from cars to consoles.

A report from TrendForce, spotted by AnandTech reveals that demand is 30% above supply right now, with 20% year-on-year growth for foundries that are fully loaded, and able to charge more.

  • The maybe-good news is that the industry being flush with cash could drive more foundries to expand, but it’s a long way from breaking ground to actually being able to supply silicon.

The bad news is in two forms: 

  • TrendForce predicts that demand for chips is projected to continue to exceed supply “for several quarters,” with lead times stretching for 14 weeks for an order of fresh hardware.
  • And, “market observers predict that manufacturers will be busy for a long time, and beyond this, will take a long time to catch up.”
  • But the other bit is that “warnings about fab equipment are coming into play.” 
  • With foundries running at maximum capacity, there are warnings that equipment may wear out faster with less maintenance operations, which increases the risk of small disruptions becoming major problems.

Anandtech digs into the manufacturing breakdown, showing TSMC leading the market with 56% of revenue, followed by Samsung (18%), UMC (7%), and GlobalFoundries (7%), with five of the top 10 global foundries banking more than $1B per quarter.

  • TSMC’s lead is even despite the pure-play foundry losing Huawei as a top customer, with any excess wafers quickly snapped up by the likes of Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia, and AMD.
  • Samsung is behind TSMC on capacities and adoption of leading-edge processes, but is expanding.

One question that isn’t answered is how this happened. 

  • I can only wave my hand at the global pandemic, which has both lifted demand for things like laptops, consoles and tablets, and caused supply constraints and shipping issues.
  • Reporting from AP over the past 12 months indicated factories scaled back, expecting falling demand through the initial pandemic and thinking economies would be crushed. Yet after the initial shocks, remote learning, working, and need for leisure activities drove demand for all kinds of products.
Roundup

📸 Here’s how much cameras influence your phone purchase: only 5% of people don’t care (Android Authority).

🗄️ Report: PlayStation 5 to gain SSD expandable storage support this summer (Android Authority).

📺 Also, Sony held the PS5 State of Play yesterday, here’s all the trailers from the event (CNET).

Xbox Live outage cut off players for over six hours (Engadget).

📱 It’s been two years since the last Nokia flagship phone. What gives? (Android Authority).

🍎 Apple forced to add iPhone and MacBook repairability scores to comply with French law (The Verge).

🍏 Apple now selling refurbished M1 Mac mini, some iMac models currently unavailable (9to5Mac).

🐤 Twitter is suddenly adding a heap of new product features, including announcing Super Follows, a paid option to let people charge for tweets, added group features, and more (The Verge).

💰 Coinbase filed its S-1 for a direct listing, and among the things we learned from it, the company says unmasking the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, might harm its business (Mashable).

🥽 Oculus Quest 2 and Portal devices now respond to “Hey Facebook”(Engadget).

🚁 LinkedIn’s co-founder is going in on flying taxis, buying Joby Aviation (Gizmodo).

🌱 Vertical farms nailed tiny salads: now they need to feed the world (Wired).

🔋 The Formula E season starts today with a night race (fiaformulae.com)

🕯️ ELI5: “What happens to all the melted candle over time? Are we just inhaling a whole candle while it burns?” (r/explainlikeimfive).

Friday Fun

Two bits of fun today:

The first is the best ugly cars (Jalopnik), which gives me a chance to pop in an image of one of the winners, the absurd Fiat Multipla: 

And NASA had a good non-Mars image this week, with this fly-by shot of Venus from the Parker Solar Probe, taken from about 8,000 miles away. A bunch of streaks making it particularly interesting — likely sunlight reflecting off space dust, or post-collision specks of spacecraft as it hits space fust.

Have a top weekend,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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