TSMC’s Former Executive Says Intel is Way Ahead in Delivering Performance

A former executive of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Firm (TSMC) spoke with the Computer History Museum about his experience working with the company from its beginning until the precise moment that TSMC rose to become one of the leading chipmakers globally.

Throughout his decades-long tenure at the Taiwanese chipmaker, Dr. Chiang Shang-Yi led TSMC’s R&D initiatives and collaborated with Dr. Morris Chang, the company’s founder. The former CEO encountered some controversy during his time working in the semiconductor sector when he left TSMC to join China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), his final chip company before retiring.

Dr. Chiang Shang-Yi | ITRI Taiwan

In 2020, Dr. Chiang gained attention when its co-CEO Mong-Song Liang abruptly announced his retirement after being named vice chairman. The CEO wrote a stern letter to SMIC’s management, but he continued to work there. According to SMIC’s regulatory filings, the business had also provided him a home. Dr. Chiang departed the firm last year, but while he was there, he frequently emphasized how important the supply chain and innovative packaging were to the future of SMIC.

In the interview, he discusses his tenure at TSMC as well as his opinions about Intel Corporation, which at the time was dominating the chip manufacturing industry. Dr. Chiang recalled expressing to colleagues how TSMC’s technological capabilities were decades behind Intel’s, and he expressed his hope that, while he was still working there, TSMC will surpass Intel’s technological capabilities.

He shared at the time the distinctions between Intel and TSMC as follows:

“And one reason is, obvious reason is Intel’s system. They can sell the wafer for $20,000 a wafer, because their CPU chip’s very high price. And TSMC cannot sell the wafer for $20,000. We can only sell for $4,000.”

He also mentioned that one of his biggest professional regrets is that when working at TSMC, he began a project to challenge Intel’s transistor leadership that ultimately failed.

“TSMC usually will wait until Intel adapted, till do it at the next following generation. Number three, not only the design rule, TSMC was also behind in transistor performance. TSMC always behind Intel’s transistor performance. And that’s a good reason because Intel, their only product is CPU. And that is performance driven – they need that. TSMC doesn’t need that.”

As TSMC constructs its biggest chip production in Arizona, the disparities in working cultures between the U.S. and Taiwan have also been a topic of intense discussion in the industry lately. Dr. Chang has frequently referred to these distinctions in support of his contention that one of the main factors contributing to TSMC’s success is Taiwan’s rigid workplace culture.

Muhammad Zuhair
Passionate about technology and gaming content, Zuhair focuses on analysing information and then presenting it to the audience.