Daily Management Review

Chipmakers Look Beyond Crowded Smartphone Market At Taiwan's Biggest Tech Fair


Chipmakers Look Beyond Crowded Smartphone Market At Taiwan's Biggest Tech Fair
Shifting away from smartphones where intense competition has pushed down components prices, and with bets on new areas such as driverless cars, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, were put by chipmakers who switched focus at Taiwan's top tech fair this week.
In order to show off their processors and other components, products that play a large part in Taiwan's export-driven economy, the Computex Taipei event, now in its 36th year, has historically been a central venue for electronic parts manufacturers.
Launches like last year's Zenbo, a child-friendly home robot unveiled by Asustek Computer Inc, that could sing, snap pictures and help in the kitchen, grabbed headlines as companies pushed for such lalunches amidst falling prices of processors.
This time aimed more squarely at the "internet of things" (IoT), a buzzword used to describe connectivity between an increasing range of devices, this year, attention is back on core processing rather than novelties.
"We are going from hype phase to more a reality phase with real products. You can see them, you can feel them," said Hugo Swart, head of business development and product management for Internet of Things and consumer electronics at Qualcomm Inc.
"I see last year was a year of a lot of promises and this year is a material realization," Swart said of IoT.
A prominent part of the fair has been a push to boost artificial intelligence processors, a key technology behind driverless cars.
Focused on its Volta Graphics Processing Unit, the product of $3 billion investment in research and development is Nvidia Corp, a visual computing company. Smart cars such as Tesla Inc, which made its first Computex appearance with two of its vehicles on display, will use this processor.
Announcing last month about its Vision Fund - investing in technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics, was Japan's SoftBank Group Corp and $93 billion was raised by Nvidia which is part-owned by SoftBank.
ARM Holdings expects to ship 100 billion chips globally over the five years, from 50 billion in the 2013-2017 period and SoftBank also has a majority stake in this British software and semiconductor firm which was present at Computex this year.
Foxconn, a major Apple Inc supplier and which was formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, was also at the fair. Aimed to be initially implemented at its own factories before wider release to market, the firm is developing technologies such as ones that automate sorting and packaging.
Smart manufacturing will be the focus of much of Foxconn's new investment, said Fang-ming Lu, corporate executive vice president at the Taiwanese contract electronics maker, at Computex.
"Computex seems to have shied away from mobility in favor of 'internet of things', which incorporates aspects of both cloud computing and artificial intelligence," Anshel Sag, associate analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.
Manufacturers are now putting this technology to other uses, where as in the past, chipmakers had geared their research and development to meet the demands of the global smartphone market.
"Right now we're focused on things beyond the mobile phone, including PCs and automotives," David Zhang, Goodix founder, said. "We're seeing if there are opportunities for us in the IoT wearables and industrial space."

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