April 14, 2024
Mark Zuckerberg woos Big Tech in Asia to double down on AI chips


Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is touring Asian countries this week, said in a meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Thursday that Meta wants to beef up its cooperation with Samsung Electronics for AI chips to offset geopolitical risk issue in Taiwan, where TSMC, the world’s biggest contract chip manufacturer, is headquartered.

Zuckerberg and Yoon also discussed ways to expand cooperation in artificial intelligence and extended reality industries, a South Korean presidential official said in a briefing today (in Korean).

AI processors — the manufacturing and procurement, and the development of cutting-edge technologies that are more efficient than the current generation of chips — have become a major priority for any company working in the field of AI, and so too they have become a focus for Meta for the future of its social media and hardware devices businesses.

Zuckerberg reportedly met Samsung’s executives, including Samsung executive chairman Jay Y. Lee, Wednesday night to discuss potential collaborations around AI chips, semiconductors and extended reality. A Samsung spokesperson declined to comment on Zuckerberg’s meeting with Samsung when contacted by TechCrunch for a response to the report, but also did not dispute it.

TSMC opened its first chip fabrication plant in Japan to diversify its supply chains away from Taiwan as the U.S.-China tech war intensifies. TSMC-owned Japan Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing (JASM), which was established by the Japanese government and the corporations in 2020, started the plant’s construction process in April 2022. JASM is set to set up its second chip plant in Japan, with construction commencing in late 2024.

Meta’s founder also met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday to discuss AI and semiconductors. Japan has been seeking to revitalize its chipmaking industry, which is about 10 years behind Taiwan and South Korea when it comes to next-generation chips.

Zuckerberg’s tour coincides with what has become a major global AI chip race. Nvidia continues to dominate the global market for AI chips, leaving a big opportunity for countries that have traditionally been strong in processors or want reignite their innovation instincts. That’s something that tech companies building AI businesses are keen to support to ease their Nvidia dependence. To that end, the social media giant has been ramping up its efforts to secure AI chips, and has been working on its own in-house AI chip, Artemis, for its data centers. Big tech companies like Microsoft, OpenAI, Amazon and Google have equally been scrambling for AI chips to support their AI ambitions.

Meta’s ambition on XR: Meeting with LG

The meetings today are the latest in a string of visits that the Meta CEO has been making in the region. Just yesterday, Zuckerberg met LG Electronics CEO William Cho in Seoul during his tour of Asia. LG Electronics said it had a two-hour meeting with Zuckerberg to discuss the two companies’ potential strategic collaboration on extended reality (XR) device development.

When TechCrunch asked if the discussion included concrete plans between the two parties, a spokesperson of LG Electronics said that LG Electronics and Meta “have been working closely even before the top management meeting yesterday,” and that the two companies were expecting more opportunities going forward. No details on financial terms or what products specifically a collaboration would involve.

The LG spokesperson also said, citing the company CEO Cho, who told local reporters after the meeting, “The top management of the two companies discussed the strategic directions and timelines of the collaboration.”

On the part of LG, the Korean tech giant wants to bring Meta’s extended reality (XR) platform to LG’s content and consumer devices — for example, its TVs — to forge a “distinctive ecosystem” in the Korean company’s newly set up XR business, LG said in a statement.

LG, like every other tech company in the world today, is blowing the AI horn at the moment. But realistically, it has not made many waves to date in the AI race — neither as a chipmaker, nor as a developer of AI-centric products, nor in services. Meta presents a chance for LG to partner with a company that has made more headway, yet which doesn’t present a direct competitor to LG in terms of its larger consumer electronics business, and moreover offsets the dominance of some other big players in the AI space like Google and OpenAI.

Case in point: The company specifically has pointed out that Cho “expressed a keen interest in Meta’s advanced technology demonstrations, notably focusing on Meta’s large language models and its potential for on-device AI integration,” while experiencing the Quest 3 headset Meta recently launched and Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses, the company said.

After LG shut down its struggling mobile business globally in April 2021, the Korean electronics and appliance giant shifted its business focus to other growth areas, including smart homes, connected devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), electric vehicle (EV) components and robotics and — needless to say — artificial intelligence platforms.

In late November, LG said that its home entertainment division had newly set up an extended reality (XR) team as part of the organization reshuffle to expedite the development of an XR device, aiming for 2025.

“We’re excited to see a longtime leader in consumer electronics share our commitment to building the next generation of XR devices,” a spokesperson at Meta said. “Meta’s vision for a more open ecosystem depends on collaboration among the industry’s most innovative companies and we look forward to our work with LG resulting in more ways for people across the world to benefit from the computing platforms of the future.”



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