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ByteDance has joined a growing list of Chinese companies looking to establish their own internal production line of chips for varying uses.
ByteDance is reportedly exploring the possibility of designing Chips for its own use in specialized fields. This is because the TikTok developer is yet to find a semiconductor supplier that can meet its specific requirements.
The proposed ByteDance chips will be customizable so that the company can effectively execute workloads related to numerous business areas. According to a ByteDance spokesperson, these include video platforms, information, and entertainment apps.
ByteDance has opened 31 semiconductor design jobs in a bid to assemble a specialized team dedicated to chip designing. The related job listings on ByteDance’s website span positions that cover the entire chip design production cycle. ByteDance wants people that can handle intellectual property (IP) core design, testing, and system-on-a-chip (SoC) tapeout.
However, ByteDance also pointed out that its formation of a chip-manufacturing team is still in its preliminary stages. In the meantime, the notable Chinese unicorn is looking into how application-specific chips can support its services. The company also noted that it would not manufacture chips for sale to other companies.
ByteDance Self-manufactured Chips Outlook Puts It in Familiar Company
ByteDance has now joined several leading Chinese internet companies focused on semiconductors. The company’s projected self-reliance on semiconductors underscores a growing desire among such companies to create chips for specific purposes. Furthermore, this company trend, in turn, comes against a broader backdrop of China striving to become more self-sufficient in the semiconductor manufacturing space.
Established tech players in the Chinese economy such as Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu have all made similar moves towards self-sufficient chip production. Many of these tech heavyweights have already debuted varying versions of their self-designed chips in the past few years. All of these have happened despite the companies’ lack of semiconductor experience or background.
Weighing in on this growing quest for self-reliance on semiconductors for task-specific purposes, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, Sravan Kundojjala, explains:
“Big cloud companies are investing in chips to save costs by using Arm-based chips. Instead of going with general-purpose chips from Intel, AMD and NVIDIA, these cloud vendors are trying to build purpose-built AI accelerators to save costs and get better performance per watt.”
China Still Heavily Reliant on Foreign Chips
However, as it stands, Chinese businesses are still predominantly dependent on foreign companies to supply semiconductors. This is especially so in the smartphone production space that features Huawei Technologies, Xiaomi, and Oppo.
The heavy reliance on foreign aid for semiconductor manufacturing and supply has also brought China in direct confrontation with the US. This is part of a broader technology war between both nations that has seen sanctions imposed on Chinese companies. As Beijing continues to push for self-sufficiency in semiconductors, China currently lags behind the US. Furthermore, the East Asian country is also playing catch up to rivals in other parts of Asia. On why China is having a hard time establishing self-reliance, Kundojjala suggested that the country lacks some of “the IP and knowledge base.”