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Semiconductors: Serial disrupter

August 23, 2013 at 3:05 am | News Desk

TAIWAN has a paradoxical claim to fame. The island of 23m people is home to many leading information-technology companies—few of which are well known abroad. Most of the world’s personal computers are made by Quanta, Wistron or some other obscure Taiwanese firm, though they bear the names of Dell, HP or Lenovo. The processors in your smartphone or tablet may have been made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and its touch-screen by TPK. And, especially if your device is Chinese, there is a good and growing chance that the chips were designed by MediaTek.The firm entered the smartphone-chip market in 2011. That year just 10m smartphones were shipped containing its technology. Last year the number jumped to 110m. This year it expects 200m, plus 15m-20m tablets, which in all should account for 40-50% of revenue. In the first seven months of 2013, revenue was 35% higher than a year before, at NT$70.5 billion ($2.4 billion). Its profits for the first half were up by more than 60%. “We are very confident that in the next three to five years we will be in the top two vendors of systems-on-a-chip for smartphones,” says Ming-Kai Tsai, the founder and chairman.Mr Tsai is well on the way. Stuart Robinson of Strategy Analytics, a research firm, says MediaTek is already the fourth-biggest maker of smartphones’ application processors (or “brains”), with a shade less than…

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