Your tech news digest, by way of theÂ DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Friday, May 15.
1. TSMC comes to America
Itâ€™s official:Â TSMC will build and open a 5nm advanced chip factory in ArizonaÂ (WSJ, $), it announced today.
- The new plant is set to cost roughly $12 billion (which includes all costs, over nine years), and construction will be subsidized by the US government, with 1,900 advanced jobs and 20,000 silicon wafers made per month.
- TSMC, the worldâ€™s eighth-largest tech company based on market value, is about as close to a household name as you might get because the firm makes Appleâ€™s A-series chips, including the latest A13 Bionic series. It also partners with Qualcomm for Snapdragon chips, Nvidia GPUs, MediaTek, Huaweiâ€™s HiSilicon chips, and AMD.
- The plant would make 5-nanometer (5nm) transistor chips, which is a ridiculously small-yet-somehow-normal number already in use in AMD CPUs.
- Itâ€™s worth remembering that a 5nm transistor size means more than 1400 transistors fit on a single red blood cell.
- Itâ€™s not quite the absolute bleeding edge (no pun intended): Samsung and TSMC are working on aÂ 3nm process, although Samsung generally focuses on memory production.
- This newsletter avoids politics as much as possible, but the reasoning at play is to do with supply chains, national security, and general American first protectionism policies.
- TSMC isnâ€™t the only one: the Silicon Desert, as itâ€™s being called, in Arizona is growing, already including Intel and Microchip.
- And the question will be if it actually happens. Announcements, like Foxconnâ€™s plant in Wisconsin, are cheap.Â Even building an empty building for Foxconn is cheap, compared to $10B in slated costs.
What it could all mean:
- Construction is said to commence in 2021, with production targeted to start in 2024, so nothing changes today for consumers, with the ripple-effects on semiconductor design, development and manufacturing.
- It may mean Apple chips may soon be made in the US.
- But without the likes of Foxconn investing in assembly in the USA, iPhones will still be made elsewhere, though. And thatâ€™s hugely unlikely, given one million peopleÂ work for Foxconn in Zhengzhou. One. Million.
- The issue of if this could see chip prices rise (more costly manufacturing?) or fall (no tariffs on USA-made chips?) is open, but expect this to be probed.
- Will 5nm be cutting edge enough by 2024? It clearly wonâ€™t be state-of-the-art by then, but upgrades will be possible, and the mid-tier of chips hasnâ€™t come close to 5nm process yet.
2. Pixel 4a price leak: Google could be bringing the fight to the iPhone SE: $349 would be very interesting indeed (Android Authority).
3. â€œThe only reason the Pixel line isnâ€™t Androidâ€™s crown jewel is Googleâ€�. Hard to disagree here with C. Scott (Android Authority).
4. Apple acquired NextVR for a suggested $100mÂ which announced on its website it was shut. This might be about data or maybe another likely step towards Appleâ€™s future AR and VR headsets. Reports are Apple is pushing ahead with two products, but who knows what consumers will see from the â€˜Apple Glassesâ€™ by 2022, which is the latest rumored date for being announced (Bloomberg).
5. How to extend the life of your laptopÂ (CNET).
6. Sony AR app shows if a new TV will fit your room: no more measuring (Engadget).
7. Inside HBO Max, the $4B bet to stand out in the streaming wars. The cast ofÂ FriendsÂ is just the start â€“ great reading, save it for your weekend (Variety).
8. The Epic Games store was down for hoursÂ as everyone tried to get GTA V for free. Also, yes, GTA V is free on the Epic Games store!! Coming soon, from reports: Civilization 6, Borderlands â€“ The Handsome Collection, and ARK Survival (The Verge).
9. Watch 18 minutes of new Ghost of Tsushima gameplay footage. I needed about 18 seconds before deciding I want to play (The Verge).
10. Ubisoftâ€™s educational Assassinâ€™s Creed tours are free until May 21st: learn Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece (Engadget).
11. Million-mile batteries: Why Tesla is so interested in â€˜Cell-To-Packâ€™ batteriesÂ (Jalopnik).
12. Chrome will soon block resource-draining ads: Hereâ€™s how to turn it on now using Chrome flags (Ars Technica).
13. â€œHow come the space station needs to fire a rocket regularly to stay in orbit, but dangerous space junk can stay up there indefinitely?â€� (r/askscience).
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