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Intel Seeks EUR 8 Billion in Subsidies for European Chip Plant

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By Reuters | Updated: 1 May 2021

Intel wants EUR 8 billion ($9.7 billion or roughly Rs. 71,249 crores) in public subsidies towards building a semiconductor factory in Europe, its CEO was cited as saying on Friday, as the region seeks to reduce its reliance on imports amid a shortage of supplies.

The pitch is the first time Pat Gelsinger has publicly put a figure on how much state aid he would want, as Intel pursues a multibillion-dollar drive to take on Asian rivals in contract manufacturing.

“What we’re asking from both the US and the European governments is to make it competitive for us to do it here compared to in Asia,” Gelsinger told Politico Europe in an interview.

Politico cited Gelsinger saying that he was seeking roughly EUR 8 billion in subsidies. The company later distanced itself from the report, saying he had not given a specific figure, although he had made it clear that EU leaders needed to invest to ensure a vibrant semiconductor industry.

Gelsinger, on his first European tour since taking charge, met European Commissioner Thierry Breton in Brussels on Friday. The visit followed the launch of a plan for Intel to invest $20 billion (roughly Rs. 1,48,191 crores) in chip production in the United States.

On top of that, Gelsinger is prospecting for a location for a plant in Europe that he says would back Breton’s goal of doubling the region’s share of global chip output to 20 percent over the next decade.

Breton held talks earlier on Friday with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s No.1 chip maker ahead of Korea’s Samsung and Intel.

In separate tweets, Breton described his meeting with Intel’s Gelsinger as an “in-depth discussion”, while a video call with Maria Marced, president of TSMC Europe, had been a “good exchange”.

“To meet current & future semiconductor industry demand, Europe will drastically increase production capacity – both on its own and through selected partnerships to ensure security of supply,” said Breton.

TSMC said the talks with Breton demonstrated its commitment to the region. “Our desire to support our customers as fully as possible means that we’re always willing to establish open communications with governments and regulators wherever they, and we, are based,” the company said.

The Commission said Breton would hold further talks on May 4 with the CEOs of two Dutch semiconductor players: ASML, the leading maker of semiconductor lithography tools, and with chipmaker NXP.

Recent disruption to semiconductor supply chains has added urgency to efforts to reduce import dependency, yet analysts caution Europe’s shrunken technology base means it doesn’t offer a viable market for a leading-edge plant, or “fab”.

Industry and diplomatic sources say that, of the Big Three chipmakers, Intel is the only one so far to express concrete interest in Breton’s goal of producing the most advanced chips in Europe.

Breton’s drive to attract a major foreign chipmaker has unnerved home-grown players, and he is also discussing the creation of a European semiconductor alliance that would bundle their interests.

Germany’s Infineon said on Friday it welcomed Breton’s initiative to strengthen chip production in Europe.

“As financial resources are naturally limited it is important to discuss most urgent needs and the most reasonable ways of investment,” Infineon said.

German visit
Gelsinger, who met Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and Bavarian governor Markus Soeder on the German leg of his European tour, was quoted as saying Germany would be a suitable location for a potential European foundry.

“Geopolitically, if you’re in Europe, you want to be in continental Europe,” he told Politico, in remarks echoed in a second interview with German business daily Handelsblatt.

“We think of Germany as a good candidate – not the only, but a good candidate – for where we might build our fabrication capabilities,” he said, also indicating interest in the Benelux countries.

In Germany, Gelsinger also met executives from carmaker BMW and telecoms operator Deutsche Telekom, Intel said. Sources said he also visited the headquarters of Volkswagen, although neither side confirmed this.

Gelsinger travels on next week to Israel, where Intel is due to announce a $200 million investment in a new chip development campus and the hiring of 1,000 staff.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

Computers

Big Tech Antitrust: US Bill Introduced to Stop Amazon, Google, More Firms From Favouring Own Products

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By Reuters | Updated: 19 October 2021

About a dozen US senators from both parties on Monday formally introduced a bill that would bar Big Tech platforms, like Amazon and Alphabet’s Google, from favouring their products and services. The bill follows others introduced with the goal of reining in the outsized market power of tech firms, including industry leaders Facebook and Apple. Thus far none became law, although one, which would increase resources for antitrust enforcers, passed the Senate.

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley’s bill would prohibit platforms from requiring companies operating on their sites to purchase the platform’s goods or services and ban them from biasing search results to favour the platform.

A companion has passed the House Judiciary Committee. It must pass both houses of Congress to become law.

Reuters reported on Wednesday, after reviewing thousands of internal Amazon documents, that Amazon’s India operations ran a systematic campaign of creating knock-offs and manipulating search results to boost its own private brands in the country, one of the company’s largest growth markets.

When news of the bill broke last week, both Amazon and Google warned of potential unintended consequences.

Amazon said in a statement that the bill, if it became law, “would harm consumers and the more than 500,000 US small and medium-sized businesses that sell in the Amazon store, and it would put at risk the more than 1 million jobs created by those businesses.”

Google said that the measure would make it more difficult for companies to offer free services – Google’s search and maps are both free – and would make “those services less safe, less private and less secure.”

Facebook, which said that it competes with a range of social media, including TikTok and Twitter, said antitrust laws should “not attempt to dismantle the products and services people depend on.”

Klobuchar chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee while Grassley is the top Republican on the full committee. Co-sponsors include five Democrats and five Republicans.

Companies expressing support for the bill included Spotify, Roku, Match Group and DuckDuckGo, Klobuchar’s office said in a statement.

The bill would not break up the companies or force them to drop services but bars some bad behaviours that affect businesses that rely on their platforms, said Stacy Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance who said that she would prefer a more aggressive bill.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Apple’s Rumoured MacBook Pro Models Could Receive Higher Resolution Screens, macOS Beta Leak Suggests

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By ANI | Updated: 25 September 2021

The latest beta build of Apple’s macOS Monterey has recently provided clues about the resolution of the company’s rumoured 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros.

According to The Verge, the seventh beta of the upcoming operating system contains references to ‘3456 x 2234 Retina’ and ‘3024 x 1964 Retina’, which are two resolutions not supported in any of Apple’s current Macs.

This theorises that the two new resolutions correspond to Apple’s much-rumoured 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, which are widely expected to launch this year with new designs and a new Arm-based Apple processor called the M1X.

For reference, the current 16-inch MacBook Pro has a resolution of 3072 x 1920, while the current 13-inch MacBook Pro’s display sits at 2560 x 1600. If the new resolutions are accurate, both laptops should see an increase in pixel density as well as screen resolution.

Along with the improved screen resolutions, both laptops are rumoured to feature a revived magnetic MagSafe laptop charger and the return of useful ports like an SD card slot and HDMI.

As per The Verge, the widely disliked OLED Touch Bar is also reportedly on the way out. The new laptops are expected to be announced at an Apple event this year, although an exact date is yet to be made public.

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Intel Breaks Ground on $20-Billion Arizona Plants as US Chip Factory Race Heats Up

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By Reuters | Updated: 25 September 2021 

Intel on Friday broke ground on two new factories in Arizona as part of its turnaround plan to become a major manufacturer of chips for outside customers.

The $20 billion plants — dubbed Fab 52 and Fab 62 — will bring the total number of Intel factories at its campus in Chandler, Arizona, to six. They will house Intel’s most advanced chipmaking technology and play a central role in the Santa Clara, California-based company’s effort to regain its lead in making the smallest, fastest chips by 2025, after having fallen behind rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

The new Arizona plants will also be the first Intel has built from the ground up with space reserved for outside customers. Intel has long made its own chips, but its turnaround plan calls for taking on work for outsiders such as Qualcomm, Amazon.com’s cloud unit, as well as deepening its manufacturing relationship with the US military.

“We want to have more resilience to the supply chain,” Intel Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger, who earlier in the week attended a White House meeting on the global chip shortage, told Reuters in an interview. “As the only company on US soil that can do the most advanced lithography processes in the world, we are going to step up in a big way.”

Gelsinger said it was too early to say how much of the new plants’ capacity would be reserved for outside customers. He said the plants would produce “thousands” of wafers per week.

Wafers are the silicon discs on which chips are made, and each can hold hundreds or even thousands of chips.

Intel rival TSMC has also purchased land to build its first US campus in Phoenix, not far from Intel’s location, where TSMC plans up to six chip factories , Reuters previously reported.

Gelsinger said Intel plans to announce another US campus site before the end of the year that will eventually hold eight chip factories.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Nvidia Seeks EU Approval for Arm Deal, Decision Due October 13: European Commission Filing

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By Reuters | Updated: 9 September 2021

Nvidia sought EU antitrust approval of its $54-billion (roughly Rs. 3,98,090 crores) takeover of Arm, according to a European Commission filing, with regulators likely to echo worries similar to those voiced by the UK watchdog last month.

The world’s biggest maker of graphics and AI chips announced the deal last year, triggering concerns in the semiconductor industry over whether Arm could remain a neutral player licensing key intellectual property to customers and rivals.

Worried customers include Qualcomm, Samsung, and Apple.

Arm customers Broadcom, MediaTek, and Marvell are backing the deal.

“We are working through the regulatory process and we look forward to engaging with the European Commission to address any concerns they may have. This transaction will be beneficial to Arm, its licensees, competition, and the industry,” Nvidia said in a statement.

It has previously said it would maintain Arm as a neutral technology supplie

The EU competition enforcer can clear the $54 billion (roughly Rs. 3,98,090 crores) deal with or without concessions after its preliminary review or it can follow up with a four-month long investigation if it has serious concerns.

Britain’s competition watchdog has warned that the deal could damage competition and weaken rivals, and required a further lengthy investigation.

Arm, owned by Japan’s SoftBank, is a major player in global semiconductors, key to technologies from artificial intelligence and quantum computing to 5G telecoms networks. Its designs power nearly every smartphone and millions of other devices.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Intel to Invest Up to EUR 80 Billion in Boosting EU Chip Capacity: CEO Pat Gelsinger

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 September 2021

Intel said it could invest as much as EUR 80 billion (roughly Rs. 6,97,050 crores) over the next decade to boost the European region’s chip capacity and will open up its semiconductor plant in Ireland for automakers.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, speaking at Munich’s IAA auto show, also said the company would announce the locations of two major new European chip fabrication plants by the end of the year.

There is speculation about possible production sites, with Germany and France seen as leading contenders while Poland, where Intel also has a presence, also in the picture.

The CEO said the aim was for a “total project of EUR 80 billion (roughly Rs. 6,97,100 crores) over the next decade that would be a catalyst for the semiconductor industry… a catalyst for the entire technology industry.”

Intel, the biggest maker of processor chips for PCs and data centres, in March said it planned to open up its chip factories for outsiders to use.

Gelsinger told Reuters in April that the company wanted to start producing chips for automakers within six to nine months to help alleviate a shortage that has disrupted vehicle production around the world.

It is unclear whether the latest announcement means Intel will meet that goal.

“Cars are becoming computers with tires. You need us and we need you… The aim is to create a centre of innovation in Europe, for Europe,” Gelsinger said.

The “Intel Foundry Services Accelerator” is aimed at helping automakers learn to make chips using what Intel calls its “Intel 16” chip manufacturing technology and later move to its “Intel 3” and “Intel 18A” technologies.

Those manufacturing processes would be far more advanced than most of the processes currently used in the automotive industry. Intel said that nearly 100 automakers and key suppliers – including BMW AG, Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG, and Bosch – had expressed support for its programmes. An Intel spokesman declined to confirm whether any had committed to becoming customers.

Gelsinger has been quoted saying Intel wants the EU to commit state aid to Intel’s proposed European investment drive.

Intel views automakers as a key strategic priority. Gelsinger said Tuesday that the company believes chips will make up 20 percent of the cost of vehicles by 2030, a five-fold increase from 4 percent of the cost in 2019.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk Signals Competition Concerns Over Nvidia-Arm Deal: Report

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By Agencies | Updated: 30 August 2021

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has signaled competition concerns over Nvidia’s planned purchase of British chip designer Arm, the Telegraph reported on Saturday, citing multiple sources.

E-commerce giant Amazon and smartphone maker Samsung have also lodged opposition to the deal with US authorities, the newspaper reported.

Earlier this year, the US Federal Trade Commission opened an in-depth probe into the takeover. The probe findings are expected in the coming weeks, according to the newspaper.

Tesla, Amazon, Samsung, and Nvidia did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Nvidia is likely to seek European Union antitrust approval for the $54 billion (roughly Rs. 3,96,910 crores) purchase of Arm early next month, with regulators expected to launch a full-scale investigation after a preliminary review, people familiar with the matter have said.

Last week, Musk said that Tesla was working on improving the much-awaited update to its self-driving software “as fast as possible.”

Musk tweeted that the Full Self-Driving Beta version 9.2 is “actually not great imo [in my opinion], but Autopilot/AI team is rallying to improve as fast as possible.”

“We’re trying to have a single stack for both highway & city streets, but it requires massive NN (neural network) retraining.”

Tesla had recently come under the scrutiny of US safety regulators, who opened an investigation into its driver assistant system because of 11 accidents where its cars crashed into stationary police cars and fire trucks.

The incidents dating back to 2018 included one fatal crash and seven that resulted in injuries to 17 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The agency “is committed to ensuring the highest standards of safety on the nation’s roadways,” a spokesperson said, and in order to “better understand the causes of certain Tesla crashes, NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into Tesla Autopilot systems.”

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