> South Korean chip makers currently commanding a combined share of more than 50 percent in the global semiconductor market face growing challenges from Chinese rivals backed by the Chinese government’s full support and U.S. counterparts gearing up to regain the triumph.
In June 2014, the Chinese government introduced the “National Guidelines for Development and Promotion of the Integrated Circuit Industry” initiative to foster the country’s semiconductor sector and budgeted 120 billion yuan ($18.8 billion).
BOE Technology Group Co., the largest display maker in China, embarked its talent search for semiconductor specialists. Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. announced in July 2014 its proposal to acquire Micron Technology Inc., the U.S memory chip producer, at $23 billion.
The U.S-based Western Digital Corp., the largest hard disk drive (HDD) supplier in the world announced on Oct. 21 that the company is to purchase SanDisk Corp. at $19.0 billion. Unisplendour, a subsidiary of Tsinghua Unigroup of China, is the biggest shareholder of Western Digital, with a 15 percent stake. SanDisk is the original developer of NAND flash memory, and China obtained the key memory chip technology with a single shot, the industry assesses.
The U.S is also strengthening its memory chip industry. Intel Corp., the leader in the world’s semiconductor market, announced its interest to re-join the memory chip race, after the company exited the market 30 years ago.
Intel unveiled the “3D XPoint (cross point)” non-volatile memory, which the company developed with Micron Technology, in July 2014. The 3D XPoint, upto 1,000 times faster than NAND flash memory, is considered as the next-generation semiconductor memory chip technology. Intel invested about 6.3 trillion won ($5.5 billion) to convert the outdated central processing unit (CPU) plant to flash memory production lines in Dalian, China.
As the combat between China and the U.S is getting severe, the Korean companies are confronting the challenges by improving the production process and developing the next-generation semiconductor memory chips.
Samsung Electronics Co. is planning to introduce the 18-nano dynamic random access memory (DRAM), a semiconductor memory chip around next year to protect its global market leadership.
SK Hynix Inc., another Korean semiconductor market leader, joined hands with International Business Machines (IBM) Corp. and Toshiba Corporation to develop the next-generation semiconductor memory chips with a target to commercialize the product within a few years.