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How chipmakers can win the nanometer race

December 18, 2020

How chipmakers can win the nanometer race
When it comes to chipmaker companies, two major players have historically been dominant, but more are entering the market. And the goal of these companies is the same as any other—grab as much market share as you can. But could one company really hope to leap ahead of the others and establish itself as the king of the next-gen processor market? And if so, how could they hope to achieve this? There are certainly a few ways manufacturers can hope to achieve silicon supremacy. Let's take a look at three strategies that chipmaker companies could use to dominate the market.
Before we go further, we should mention Moore’s Law, which states that the maximum number of transistors possible on a silicon chip will double every two years. American engineer Gordon Moore made this observation in 1965, and thus far it’s held true, and the reason being is that improvements in technology have allowed transistor size to steadily shrink over the years. And this leads us to the first strategy:
#1 - Reducing nanometer count
Being able to cram significantly more power onto a processor is a sure way to get a leg up on the competition. And the silicon wars have mainly been about just that—inventing new ways to create smaller transistors so you can include more of them within a smaller area. Why? Because smaller transistors are more efficient, can do more calculations and create less heat. They also enable manufacturers to create smaller die sizes (the physical dimensions of the processor), which means more cores per unit while shrinking manufacturing costs.
#2 - Increasing SOC functionality
Transistor counts are all well and good, but today processor technology has evolved beyond just doubling the transistor count every two years. By adding traditional computer components (like RAM, GPU, etc.) onto processors themselves (system on chip, or SOC), manufacturers have opened up a whole new realm of possibility—mobile chips. These SOC chips are tiny, powerful, produce less heat and consume less power than traditional processors, and this makes them ideal for smart phones, tablets, routers and more. The manufacturer that finds a way to take another leap forward in mobile chips will certainly have an advantage over the competition.
#3 - Break Moore's Law
Rules are made to be broken, right? But does that include Moore’s Law? Probably not, and the reason being is that only a revolutionary technological breakthrough would allow for Moore’s Law to be exceeded. Perhaps in the future this could occur, but there are many predicting that by 2022, Moore’s Law will be obsolete. This is because the physical limitations of the materials used to create chips are being reached. Consider that processor die sizes are discussed in nanometers (14nm, 7nm, 5nm, etc.) and that the diameters of actual atoms ranges from 0.1 to 0.5 nanometers.
How small can we really go? That remains to be seen. There are potential replacements for silicon transistors being explored (quantum qubits, graphene, nanomagnets), but if a manufacturer makes a significant leap ahead in the next 5 years and seizes control of the market, it will most likely be through realizing one of the above three strategies.
For more information on processors or any other computer hardware, contact the experts at Ingram Micro.


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