former tsmc r&d chief expresses optimism as samsung and intel intensify competition

Burn J Lin, a former TSMC vice president best known for his pioneering work on immersion lithography, has lately offered a dose of optimism towards the Taiwanese foundry’s future, even as it faces continuous competition from Samsung and a resurgent Intel. In an interview with the Taiwanese news media CNA, Lin referred to TSMC’s successful track record of fighting off competitors, and believes the foundry will retain its industry leadership.

Even though South Korea’s Samsung poses a threat with an immense capital at disposal, Lin believes that Samsung’s competitive relations with its clients would be a detrimental weakness of Samsung’s foundry business. According to Lin, potential Samsung customers likely would not trust Samsung with critical products. In contrast, trust is an advantage enjoyed by TSMC: it is not competing with its customers, and it undertakes measures to prevent exchanges among the hundreds of customers it has.

In the interview with CNA, Lin also drew attention to the fact that it was not the first time Samsung claimed a lead. When TSMC was still at 16nm, Samsung claimed to have reached 14nm. Both used by iPhones, Samsung’s 14nm chips however led to thermal management problems. Similarly, Samsung also claimed to lead in 10nm technology, but TSMC eventually became the first to churn out 10nm chips. “To win orders, Samsung is willing to exaggerate a bit,” said Lin.

Meanwhile, Lin perceives Intel as a different type of rival. For one, Intel’s corporate culture is less intense than that of Samsung. Moreover, Intel went through a period of talent drain as people without engineering backgrounds took the helm. Lin believes that it was a primary factor causing Intel to lag behind TSMC. Furthermore, Lin found the recent US actions reminiscent of its past efforts to counter Japan’s rising DRAM industry, observing that the US difficulty to restore chip manufacturing sector and its urge to stay ahead have prompted it to resort to suppressing all competitors.

Keyword: Former TSMC R&D chief expresses optimism as Samsung and Intel intensify competition

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