Silicon nerd 🤓 that I am, I have gone through multiple cycles of excited-then-disappointed for Windows-on-ARM, especially considering the success of ChromeOS with ARM, the Apple M1/M2 (Apple’s own ARM silicon which now powers its laptops), and AWS Graviton (Amazon’s own ARM chip for its cloud computing services).
I may just be setting myself up for disappointment here but these (admittedly vendor-provided) specs for their new Snapdragon X (based on technology they acquired from Nuvia and are currently being sued for by ARM) look very impressive. Biased as they may be, the fact that these chips are performing in the same performance range as Intel/AMD/Apple’s silicon on single-threaded benchmarks (not to mention the multi-threaded applications which work well with the Snapdragon X’s 12 cores) hopefully bodes well for the state of CPU competition in the PC market!
Overall, Qualcomm’s early benchmark disclosure offers an interesting first look at what to expect from their forthcoming laptop SoC. While the competitive performance comparisons are poorly-timed given that next-generation hardware is just around the corner from most of Qualcomm’s rivals, the fact that we’re talking about the Snapdragon X Elite in the same breath as the M2 or Raptor Lake is a major achievement for Qualcomm. Coming from the lackluster Snapdragon 8cx SoCs, which simply couldn’t compete on performance, the Snapdragon X Elite is clearly going to be a big step up in virtually every way.
Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite Performance Preview: A First Look at What’s to Come Ryan Smith | Anandtech
The 2022 CHIPS and Science Act earmarked hundreds of billions in subsidies and tax credits to bolster a U.S. domestic semiconductor (and especially semiconductor manufacturing) industry. If it works, it will dramatically reposition the U.S. in the global semiconductor value chain (especially relative to China).
With such large amounts of taxpayer money practically “gifted” to large (already very profitable) corporations like Intel, the U.S. taxpayer can reasonably assume that these funds should be allocated carefully and thoughtfully and with processes in place to make sure every penny furthered the U.S.’s strategic goals.
But, when the world’s financial decisions are powered by Excel spreadsheets, even the best laid plans can go awry.
The team behind the startup Rowsie created a large language model (LLM)-powered tool which can understand Excel spreadsheets and answer questions posed to it. They downloaded a spreadsheet that the US government provided as an example of the information and calculations they want applicants fill out in order to qualify. They then applied their AI tool to the spreadsheet to understand it’s structure and formulas.
Interestingly, Rowsie was able to find a single-cell spreadsheet error (see images below) which resulted in a $178 million understatement of interest payments!
To be clear, this is not a criticism of the spreadsheet’s architects. In this case, what seems to have happened, is that the spreadsheet creator copied an earlier row (row 40) and forgot to edit the formula to account for the fact that row 50 is about subordinated debt and row 40 is about senior debt. It’s a familiar story to anyone who’s ever been tasked with doing something complicated in Excel. Features like copy and paste and complex formulas are very powerful, but also make it very easy for a small mistake to cascade. It’s also remarkably hard to catch!
Hopefully the Department of Commerce catches on and fixes this little clerical mishap, and that applicants are submitting good spreadsheets, free of errors. But, this case underscores how (1) so many of the world’s financial and policy decisions rest on Excel spreadsheets and you just have to hope 🤞🏻 no large mistakes were made, and (2) the potential for tools like Rowsie to be tireless proofreaders and assistants who can help us avoid mistakes and understand those critical spreadsheets quickly.
I have followed TSMC very closely since I started my career in the semiconductor industry. A brilliant combination of bold business bet (by founder Morris Chang), industry tailwinds (with the rise of fabless semiconductor model), forward-thinking from the Taiwanese government (who helped launch TSMC), and technological progress, it’s been fascinating to see the company enter the public consciousness.
In hearing about TSMC’s investment in the very aptly-named ESMC (European Semiconductor Manufacturing Company), I can’t help but think this is another brilliant TSMC-esque play. TSMC gets:
Guarantee outsized market share in leading edge semiconductor technology in Europe
Paid for in part by some of their largest customers (Infineon, Bosch, and NXP) who will likely commit / guarantee some of their volumes to fill this new manufacturing facility
AND (likely) additional subsidies / policy support from the European Union government (who increasingly doesn’t want to be left out of advanced chip manufacturing given Asia’s current dominance and the US’s Inflation Reduction Act push)
TSMC has managed to turn what could have been a disaster for them (growing nationalism in semiconductor manufacturing) into a subsidized, volume-committed factory.
TSMC, in collaboration with Bosch, Infineon and NXP, is planning to invest in the European Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (ESMC), based in Dresden, Germany. This strategic move aims to meet the burgeoning demand for advanced semiconductor-manufacturing services, particularly in the automotive and industrial sectors.