Nvidia’s Huang Leads Parade of CEOs to Taiwan’s AI Tech Fest

(Bloomberg) -- Nvidia Corp.’s Jensen Huang will informally kick off Computex 2024 with a speech this Sunday, inaugurating what will be the biggest-ever iteration of Taiwan’s annual electronics showcase event.Most Read from BloombergDonald Trump Becomes First Former US President Guilty of CrimesWorld’s Largest Nuclear Plant Sits Idle While Energy Needs SoarSouth Africa Election Results With 29% Voting Districts InInsurers Sink as UnitedHealth Sees ‘Disturbance’ in Medicaid‘Not Gonna Be Pretty:’ C Read More...

(Bloomberg) — Nvidia Corp.’s Jensen Huang will informally kick off Computex 2024 with a speech this Sunday, inaugurating what will be the biggest-ever iteration of Taiwan’s annual electronics showcase event.

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The Tainan-born chief executive officer frequently visits the island of his birth, and this year he’ll be accompanied by almost all the major US chip firm bosses as they race to close the gap on Nvidia in the artificial intelligence chip race. Lisa Su of Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Pat Gelsinger of Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc.’s Cristiano Amon and Arm Holdings Plc chief Rene Haas will all host keynotes in Taipei over the coming week.

Taiwan’s preeminence in semiconductors is at an all-time high, with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. fabricating Apple Inc.’s iPhone chips, Nvidia’s must-have AI accelerators, AMD’s competing products and a good chunk of the Arm chips powering the global mobile market. The path to AI breakthroughs is paved with semiconductors and servers, many of which are made or assembled in Taiwan.

“Last year was already hot because of AI. And this year is explosive because AI is accelerating,” said James C. F. Huang, chairman of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), which runs Computex. “We are like a big magnet.”

‘Only Taiwan’

The island’s most valuable company is also courted by global superpowers, with the US and Japan spending billions on subsidies and support to have TSMC chip plants on their soil. But TSMC is only the most visible part of a vast semiconductor ecosystem that helps international customers take care of their chip needs in one place. Taiwan is parlaying that indispensable depth of expertise into a policy of so-called tech diplomacy.

Read more: Taiwan Stands Out as Asia’s AI Canary

At a media event during last year’s Computex, Nvidia’s Huang presented an array of AI hardware from the company — from H100 AI chips to integrated server rack modules and proprietary technologies to help multiple components work like one unified computer. When asked if all those parts were made in Taiwan, Huang said that they were. Taiwan’s dominance has much to do with the fact that neither Intel nor Samsung Electronics Co. have matched TSMC’s technology leadership and manufacturing reliability.

Jensen Huang’s arrival in Taipei, a week ahead of Computex, was greeted with the usual excitement for the homegrown rock star CEO and lifted the local Taiex to an all-time high. Reports of an Nvidia collaboration with chipmaker MediaTek Inc. on an AI processor also pushed up the Taiwanese firm’s shares.

TAITRA’s Huang said that from chips to motherboards to server assemblers, the AI hardware supply chain all comes together in Taiwan, making it an efficient one-stop shop for big tech firms like Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Meta Platforms Inc. to buy their hardware.

“That’s why they all had to come. You couldn’t find this in Seoul, in San Francisco, in Las Vegas, or in Berlin or Singapore. No. Only Taiwan,” James Huang said.

The AI PCs arrive

Qualcomm will play the role of disruptor at Computex this year, as its Snapdragon chips will feature heavily in the most promoted product at the show: Microsoft’s new breed of Copilot+ PCs. These so-called AI PCs will feature Microsoft’s latest and best collection of AI features — such as Recall, which keeps a searchable visual history of everything a user does — and rely on Qualcomm silicon, to the exclusion of Intel and AMD. Everyone from Asustek Computer Inc. to Lenovo Group Ltd. and Dell Technologies Inc. will have such wares to show.

Until recently, Computex was colloquially dubbed the “Wintel” showcase, reflecting how most PCs were powered by Microsoft’s Windows and Intel. Microsoft’s choice to transition to Arm-based Qualcomm chips with the latest batch of laptops from its partners may finally deliver a long-awaited shift away from Intel. Apple Inc. accomplished a similar move when it switched to its in-house Silicon chips, and its MacBooks have benefited with better battery life and thermal performance as a result. Qualcomm has high expectations to meet.

Read more: Qualcomm Bets on AI to Knock Intel From PC Perch: Tech Daily

Su and Gelsinger will face challenging questions, as both find themselves playing catch-up. Gelsinger’s Intel is losing PC-making partners after the significant loss of Apple revenue, and it has yet to present a detailed plan for making up lost ground in the AI contest, while AMD remains behind Nvidia on AI-training accelerators.

Arm’s presence at the show can be expected to feature more announcements than last time, when Haas limited himself to discussing existing products in the buildup to the SoftBank Group Corp.-owned company’s initial public offering. Arm has sought to position itself as a leader in AI on devices, such as with the Qualcomm-powered AI PCs and upcoming smartphones. Its shares are up more than 140% since their debut in September.

TAITRA started Computex in 1981 as an exhibition of computer components. The show has morphed over the years into a launchpad for the latest trends in areas like mobile tech, data center hardware, and now AI. More than 1,500 companies and over 50,000 visitors are expected to attend. Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, has also confirmed he’ll attend the opening ceremony on June 4, the organizers said.

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