Digitimes reports that people wanting ICs to perform Bitcoin mining functions have been the among the first customers for new TSMC process nodes for the last three nodes 28nm – 16nm.
The Bitcoin miners are a new breed of client for foundries whose customers have traditionally been either design houses or IDMs wanting flexible external fab capacity.
The FAAMG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google) are the obvious early adopters of this new business model, using in-house design capabilities to put an IC design straight into a foundry, by-passing the traditional semiconductor industry.
In fact four of the FAAMG have already adopted the model.
Google developed the TPU specifically to advance machine learning in its data centres.
In 2015 Amazon bought Israeli chip designer Annapurna Labs to develop its own ARM-based chips.
Apple has been designing its own processors ever since it bought PA Semi in 2008.
Microsoft has its HPU (Holographic Processing Unit) used in its HoloLens VR project and has been designing its own processors for at least 17 years starting with solo2 in 2000.
The exception seems to be Facebook which still uses Nvidia GPUs in its servers.
The trend is not a good one for the semiconductor industry which has largely relinquished process capability.