TikTok owner Bytedance announces plans to Design its Own Chips
Bytedance, one of the largest Chinese tech and internet companies announced that it will start designing its own semiconductors, also called chips, soon. In addition to owning the popular video app Tiktok, Bytedance owns a large number of popular information, entertainment and gaming apps. The company claims that the chips designed will be used by Bytedance for its own applications only and will not be sold to other companies. This announcement is in keeping with the Chinese government policy of encouraging Chinese tech companies to design their own chips so that China becomes self sufficient in this critical technology.
SMIC Lags Behind
At present the largest semiconductor company in China, Semiconductor Manufacturing international corporation (SMIC) is still lagging behind the world leaders in semiconductor technology like Intel (USA), Samsung , SK Hynix (Korea) and TSMC (Taiwan). Since semiconductors are being used extensively for a large number of applications ranging from home appliances, home automation, vehicles to smartphones, desktops, and servers, design and manufacturing of semiconductors has been a critical technology for countries. The Chinese government has invested a large amount in developing the local semiconductor industry since the country is many years behind the world leaders .
China Self Sufficiency Plan
China is encouraging Chinese tech companies to develop their own semiconductors or chips to become self sufficient and also for national security reasons. The Chinese search engine Baidu has designed a Kunlun chip, while the top Chinese eCommerce company Alibaba has developed the Yitian 710 chip for its own use. The Alibaba chip uses the latest chip design technique, the 5 nanometre process and uses the architecture from Arm, a British semiconductor firm. Oppo, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer is also developing its own chip for its smartphones, using a 3 nanometre process.The Kirin processors developed by another large Chinese tech company Huawei helped it become one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world.
Bytedance which is headquartered in Beijing has advertised the vacancies related to semiconductor design on its website, confirming that it recruiting engineers specializing in chip design. At present, the company is purchasing chips from other companies and then customizing them for their own requirement. Bytedance claims that it is not able to find suppliers for certain kinds of chips it requires. If Bytedance develops its own chips, they can be directly used for the applications no additional programming will be required. However, at present, Bytedance like other Chinese companies will then have to outsource the manufacturing of the chips to other companies which specialize in semiconductor manufacturing.
At present most of these semiconductor manufacturers are located outside China . Also only one company, ASML from Netherlands is capable of manufacturing the machines required for producing the semiconductors with the latest technology. In addition to investing a huge amount of money, technical expertise and experience is required to develop suitable manufacturing facilities of the latest semiconductor technologies. The Chinese government realizes that it is lagging behind other countries like United States, Korea, in semiconductor technology, leaving it vulnerable to sanctions from other countries . Hence the announcement of Bytedance regarding chip development is part of the Chinese strategy to develop this core technology.
TikTok owner ByteDance explores self designed chips as China aims for