When you think about Taiwan usually there is no clear perception of its cultural, gastronomic or industrial peculiarities, yet each of us certainly carries a piece of it in his pocket. His chip they are inside smartphones, personal computers, smartwatches, smart TVs and any device that has a hardware component.
Taiwan is the queen of semiconductors: practically hosts the most important companies in the world that churn out the chips, transistors, diodes and even complete electronic devices. By scanning the rankings of Fortune e Forbes you can guess the weight of this island which is about 150 kilometers from the Chinese coast and no more than a handshake from Silicon Valley.
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The two most famous Taiwanese tech companies in the world are Asus from Acer, at least in the consumer segment. When you want to buy a desktop computer, laptop, monitor or accessory it’s easy to stumble upon their brand. Both together are worth more than 16% of the world market, according to the latest statistics from Statista updated to the first quarter of 2022; Lenovo is at 23% while Apple is at 9%.
After that the topic becomes more critical when you start talking about TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company)which is the largest semiconductor foundry in the world. This means that supplies large companies (Such as Apple, Qualcomm e Nvidia) of hardware for mobile phones, video cards, computers and any other gadget of today and tomorrow. In this case market share is 53% and the most hostile competitor, Samsung, holds just 16%. And the second largest producer in the world? United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC)a fifteen minute walk from TSMC headquarters, as they are both in Hsinchu Science Park.
MediaTek produces chips for wireless systems, smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, navigators and many other products by directly exploiting its brand. It boasts the leadership in the smartphone chipset market with 38% (Counterpoint Reaserach); followed by Qualcomm (30%) and Apple (15%).
Then, there is Foxconn who has factories all over the world but his own headquarters is in the capital Taipei. The company produces iPads, iPhones, Kindles, Playstations and any other successful product that can come to mind. In fact it is the largest “assembler / manufacturer” in the world with a turnover of 5,990 billion Taiwanese dollars (about 200 billion US dollars).
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Quanta Computer, Pegatron (formerly Asus spinoff), Wistrom (formerly Acer spinoff) and Compal Electronics are other key manufacturers for the laptop and consumer electronics sector; obviously they work for third parties, so for brands like Apple, Alphabet, Acer, Lenovo, Dell, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard and others.
Finally there are specialists like Delta Electronicswhich stands out for i power components and has among its customers Tesla, and Largan Precision which is a leader in the production of optical lens modules and optoelectronic components used in scanners, cameras, LCD projectors and lenses for telephones (including those for iPhones).
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Washington’s special eye
Taiwan’s industrial weight makes today’s meeting of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) With TSMC President Mark Liu more understandable. Net of diplomatic friction with China, Washington recently passed the so-called Chips and Science Act, a $ 280 billion investment plan to support national semiconductor manufacturing, research and designthe. Of these, a good 52 billion dollars will go to producers, or rather to companies that already have factories in the United States or are aiming to create new ones.
And here it comes into play TSMC which, although behind schedule, is building a new foundry in PhoenixArizona, which is expected to start manufacturing 5-nanometer chips in 2024, finally ensuring the United States has state-of-the-art solutions available – top-of-the-line products have always been manufactured in TSMC factories in other countries.
Moreover, it is not excluded that the project can be expanded with new sites precisely because, according to an investigation by the US Congress research center dating back to 2020, the US military force alone requires 1.9 billion chips per year for military equipment. including F-35 fighters and Javelin missiles. And then, in fact, the country cannot afford another chip crisis.
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As he pointed out Bloomberg however, the crux today is to find an adequate number of engineers and technicians. It is estimated that 40% of semiconductor specialists are of foreign origin: in practice they come from distant countries and then train in US universities. The problem is that current immigration policy makes it difficult to retain talent and at the same time universities are not churning out an adequate number of graduates with the required skills.
All time Bloomberg points out that according to a recent report by Eightfold AI, US self-sufficiency in chip manufacturing would require no less than 300,000 professionals. With the current structure there is a risk of leaving China 40% of the segment compared to a measly 6% national. This explains the renewed harmony with Taiwan. Not just bubble tea.