In a new article, The Next Platform takes a look at whether the era of the general purpose computer chip is ending. Citing academics, the site points out that trends like the disintegration of Moore's Law and new applications like deep learning and the blockchain are driving the industry toward a model that favors specialized chips.
But the computational economics enabled by Moore’s Law is now changing. In recent years, shrinking transistors has become much more expensive as the physical limitations of the underlying semiconductor material begins to assert itself. The authors point out that in the past 25 years, the cost to build a leading edge fab has risen 11 percent per year. In 2017, the Semiconductor Industry Association estimated that it costs about $7 billion to construct a new fab. Not only does that drive up the fixed costs for chipmakers, it has reduced the number semiconductor manufacturers from 25, in 2002, to just four today: Intel, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Samsung and GlobalFoundries.