The chips and processors and what brand each uses have been making news over the last year. Apple’s change in its Macs from Intel to ARM or, more dramatically, the drowning that the U.S. government is exercising on Huawei, have revealed the weakness and dominoes of dependence that have the big brands of these components, as could not be otherwise.
Intel, Qualcomm, AMD, ARM, Nvidia are the brands that the chip industry advocates, along with the proprietary development that many of the Big-Tech companies do more or less independently.
However, they all have in common their interdependence of a series of patents, processes and materials that are offered by other companies that often stay under the radar.
That was the key to the last move of the pincer that Donald Trump’s executive executed on Huawei, when he introduced TSMC, his reference chip supplier, among the companies banned from trading with the Chinese giant.
After the initial veto in May 2019, a few weeks ago the U.S. Department of Commerce extended it by prohibiting Huawei from obtaining foreign-made chips and other electronic components developed or produced with U.S. software or technology, with immediate effect. The new ban is seen as an extension of the rule announced in 20019 and closes the loophole by which US companies could sell to third parties and those third parties could in turn supply to Huawei.
However, while the US is going in an all-out trade war, industry experts like Irwin Jacobs believes the US does not have an alternative.
Qualcomm, by selling companies a comprehensive chipset that could power a cellphone, actually made it easier for new Chinese competitors to hit the market, because they had the tools to create a product instantly. “Unfortunately,” he says, “nobody in the US has really run with it” and done the same thing.
Another complicating factor is that governments in China and Europe have had industrial aid policies that helped their telecom firms in a way that the US has not. “Our government has not provided R&D support or other support that Huawei and ZTE (another successful Chinese firm) managed to get from their own government,” Jacobs says.