|Kang In-yup, head of Samsung Electronics' system LSI business, introduces the company's Exynos 2100 mobile application processor, Tuesday. Courtesy of Samsung Electronics|
By Kim Yoo-chul
Can Samsung Electronics really compete with TSMC of Taiwan? The probable answer is, it depends on how the world's top memory chip supplier will earn "trust" from foundry clients.
Samsung has long been chasing the foundry chip-making giant TSMC in terms of high-volume manufacturing (HVM) applying ultra-thin chip-fabrication technology at the below 7-nanometer level. It has recently unveiled a $116 billion investment plan to take on TSMC with the aim of catching up to the Taiwanese foundry giant by next year.
In this year's online Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Samsung released an advanced Exynos 2100 mobile processor in an octa-core CPU that includes one Arm Cortex-X1 core clocked at 2.9 gigahertz. Its main appeal, among others, is that it is capable of offering up to 10 percent more performance than its earlier 7-nanometer predecessor, and 20 percent less power consumption as it is produced using 5-nanometer tech.
From a business standpoint, the 2100 Exynos will primarily be used for Samsung's upcoming Galaxy 21 in South Korea as a litmus test for greater compatibility before selling it to other countries.
Samsung has a track record of releasing flagship handsets using Qualcomm-designed mobile processors in the United States. But this time, Samsung plans to increase the adoption of the 2100 chip for Galaxy devices for the European and Japanese markets.
It remains unclear whether or not the Samsung Exynos will be sold in high volume to Chinese handset manufacturers such as Oppo and Huawei. But amid the intensifying rivalry with TSMC in the foundry business, it is widely expected that Samsung will launch a massive marketing campaign for the upcoming Galaxy S21, according to sources.
"Samsung is clearly hoping to narrow the performance gap between its processors and those of Qualcomm's. Samsung has to ensure that its newest Exynos will be fine in terms of reliability and production yield. Plus, Samsung hopes the 2100 processor chip could attract more customers as the company will need to build a new ecosystem," said one source asking for anonymity. Trust in foundries mostly comes from the strong intellectual property (IP) resources and soundness of production.
Looking forward, Samsung and TSMC will be competing to lead in the development of 3-nanometer level technology.