TSMC, Intel and Samsung continue to compete for the leadership in more advanced technologies beyond 7nm node. Samsung has already foretold that it will mass produce for 4nm technology in 2021, with the 3nm process likely to be available in 2023. In the future, Samsung will produce its own chips with its 3nm GAAFTE process. As we all know, Samsung has a lot of contracts from its internal system design center. Only when Samsung wins orders from external customers can there be structural improvements. But many external customers are wary of Samsung's dual role as player and referee which leverages its technology, production capacity and market operations against its customers. Samsung has considered spinning off its wafer foundry business to endorse its credibility, but has not made a move because semiconductor is a highly capital-intensive industry. TSMC has announced that between 2021 and 2023 it will invest US$100 billion or an annual capital expenditure of US$30 billion for capacity expansions. The budget is more than double Samsung's sales from wafer foundry business. A spun-off Samsung foundry business wouldn't be able to afford such big investments all on its own, and would face enormous challenges trying to make profits.
AMD and MediaTek are said to be seeking to form a joint venture that will develop notebook applications integrating Wi-Fi, 5G and high-transmission technologies. Other chip vendors in Taiwan are also hoping MediaTek to play a leading role in the local supply chain to compete with Qualcomm in the mmWave 5G market. In the EV market, Thailand has ambitious goals for its car manufacturing sector.
Chip shortages have undermined shipments to the notebook market. The top-5 notebook vendors saw their combined shipments drop 3% sequentially in August, according to the latest figures from DIGITIMES Research. Acer chairman Jason Chen has disclosed Chromebook demand has shifted from 11.6-inch models to 15-inch ones to meet needs from high school and college students. In the memory sector, DRAM contract prices will drop faster than previously expected in fourth-quarter 2021, as demand from PC OEMs decelerates.
NAND flash pices may stablize in 2022, but supply is likely to turn tight in the second half of next year, according to Silicon Motion's president. Meanwhile, Chinese memory maker YMTC is ready to volume produce 128-layer QLC NAND flash, initially targeting consumer SSDs. And in a recent interview by DIGITIMES, Harish Krishnaswamy, CTO and co-founder of MixComm, and Marzieh Veyseh, CTO/CPO and co-founder of SiTune, talked about their views on the development of mmWave market, latest chip crunch, and the Satcom market opportunities.
In a recent interview by DIGITIMES Etron chairman Nicky Lu explains why monolithic/heterogeneous integration is important to the future of the semiconductor industry. Meanwhile Apple has increased the storage capacity of its new iPhone 13 series to up to 1TB, and memory makers believe this will prompt other smartphone brands to follow suit and equip their flagship devices with the same internal storage capacity. Backend service providers believe Apple's new iPad mini 6 will generate strong orders for 5G RF modules.
Apple has just unveiled its iPhone 13 series. Digitimes Research estimates that the vendor will place orders for about 90 million units of the new smartphones with its manufacturing partners for 2021, with the iPhone 13 model expected to account for the biggest portion. The IT supply chain has endured long spells of component shortages, but constraints of consumer ICs have now shown signs of easing. But notebook battery module makers are still being troubled by IC shortage, and rising costs.
The US-China trade tensions are driving US chip vendors away from Chinese foundry houses, which neveretheless still see strong demand from the domestic market. China's top foundry house SMIC is gearing up expansion of its mature process manufacturing capacity. US-based notebook vendors remain optimistic about demand from the enterprise segment in 2022, as they step up component purchses.
China's Big Fund is stepping up investments in the country's memory sector in line with its push for IC self-sufficiency. Meanwhile, the world's major memory chipmakers are ramping up their QLC NAND chip output, eyeing robuts demand from both the PC and server segments. And IDMs, Foxconn and BYD are gearing up deployments in third-generation semiconductors, eyeing EV applications.
Tight supply has pushed up foundry costs, fueling pressure on IC design clients. First-tier IC design houses are now ready to increase prices for their chip solutions in first-quarter 2022. Pure-play foundry houses UMC and VIS have reported record sales for August. In the IT sector, ODMs Wistron and Inventec both sae increases in notebook shipments in August, but overall results for third-quarter 2021 may be disappointing.
Taiwan's networking device makers see clear order visibility through the first half of 2022, thanks to demand from the stay-at-home activities and companies whose employees are retruning to offices. Cooling module suppliers believe that vapor chambers, now found mostly in notebooks, will become a key component for smartphones. But handset demand remains weak, reportedly prompting CIS vendor OmniVision to cut back orders for IC manufacturing in Taiwan.
When I started my business, someone from the electronics industry claimed "it's a complete rip-off" to sell our newspaper at NT$20 per copy, while others' newspapers were generally priced at NT$10. The claim stemmed from a failure to understand that B2B professional information costs much higher than B2C information. Evidently, newspapers are nothing more than a tool to convey information. In terms of cost, it is simply a losing business. But I regard our newspaper as a form of direct mail "loaded with knowledge."
As order visibility for many market segment, such as 5G and EV, has already extended to 2025, foundry houses are eager to expand fab capacity for both advanced and mature manufacturing processes. IDMs are migrating production of third-gen semiconductors to 8-inch fabs amid growing demand. Commodity DRAM may be seeing a slowdown in demand, but demand for the server and datacenter applications has been stable.
Times have changed. In the past PC brands had all the say with emphasis on white-collar business opportunity. However, after the surging demand of handsets in 2000, the Chinese market has become increasingly important. How to define the needs of the Chinese handset market and even keep an eye on the upstream supply chain have posed a formidable challenge for many world-class consulting companies. In the early days of China's economy opening-up, all privatized state-owned enterprises sought out endorsements from world-class consulting companies. Although the same logic should apply everywhere, Chinese state-owned enterprises may not have really understood the strategic recommendations of consulting companies. But the endorsements from well-known consulting companies would provide them with a springboard to promote privatization in China. It is indeed a lucrative business for the consulting companies worldwide. But they are dedicated to local market research and corporate projects, rather than supply chain research.
Chip shortages have been troubling many vendors, including Apple, whose much anticipated miniLED-backlit MacBook Pro series may be unveiled later than expected. The electric vehicle market looks so promising that many companies are eager to have a share, including Chinese handset vendor Xiaomi, which has just set up an EV business. LCD TV panel prices had soared for months until recently, and they are expected keep falling till year-end 2021.