A while ago I wrote an article about The silicon industry invisible revolution. The main thesis was that general-purpose processors no longer meet their user needs. I mean, they still meet some of them, and can meet all of them, but at the price of increased energy consumption (you know, they are all Turing machines and can emulate each other, but that adds overhead).
This revolution is hidden from consumers. Sometimes, you can pick up in the news that this-and-this manufacturer builds its own chips. Or bought a chip factory, but people in general do not pay attention to the value chain being in the invisible part for them.
Let me copy a map that was a part of that analysis:
Special use cases put pressure on manufacturers to build specialised chips. Factories and designers do not scale easily, so this situation is being played in two different ways:
- Big players acquiring factories. Their purpose is to develop know-how, patents, build solutions that fit specialised user needs and prevent others from doing so. Since they already own those factories, they will do everything to hold those constraints for as along as possible, to prevent competition.
- Small players, notably in the IoT world, where there is still need to build and launch very niche designs, and where building a chip is not a competitive advantage, do everything to keep costs down, and avoid creation of constraints around factories. That includes sharing designs, building blocks, and also sharing machines that can physically produce chips.
The game of constraints is simple - identify what all players want, and what you can control. Than start controlling it, and you will make everyone else life harder.