“Chips are the key components of hardware and the core infrastructure of the industrial internet,” said Dowson Tong Taosang, president of Tencent’s cloud and smart industries group, as he unveiled the three chips at the company’s Digital Ecosystem Summit in Wuhan, capital of central Hubei province.
The Shenzhen-based firm’s new silicon products include: artificial intelligence (AI) chip Zixiao, which is focused on processing images, video and natural language; video transcoding device Canghai; and network interface controller Xuanling.
Tong said Tencent has long-term plans for developing advanced chips, marking the first time the company has publicly shared the progress of its push into semiconductor research and development. Tencent did not reveal which major chip foundry it has contracted to manufacture the three silicon devices.
By designing its own chips, Tencent intensifies China’s push towards semiconductor self-sufficiency and the establishment of a competitive domestic supply chain for these devices.
Alibaba and Tencent compete head-on in China’s vast cloud infrastructure services market, which was estimated to be worth US$6.6 billion in the second quarter. Alibaba Cloud had a market-leading 33.8 per cent share in that quarter, according to data from tech research firm Canalys. Tencent Cloud had an 18.8 per cent share in the same period to rank third behind the cloud unit of Huawei Technologies Co, which had a 19.3 per cent share.
At the Wuhan event, Tencent’s Tong pledged US$3 billion worth of resources to help the company’s cloud business partners over the next three years.
Tencent’s AI chip, Zixiao, has already entered trial production and performs 100 per cent better than existing products of its kind, according to company vice-president Qiu Yuepeng at the Wuhan event.
The compression rate of video transcoding chip Canghai has measured 30 per cent greater than existing chips of its kind, according to Tencent, citing a recent industry competition. Xuanling, meanwhile, performed four times better than other network interface controllers.
While Tencent is mostly known for having the world’s largest video gaming business by revenue and for operating multipurpose super app WeChat, the company has made strategic investments in the semiconductor industry over the past few years.
In January, Tencent took part in the US$279 million Series C fundraising round of AI chip start-up Enflame Technology. That marked the fourth time in more than two years that Tencent has invested in the Shanghai-based firm, which is now valued at 10.8 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion).
Shares of Hong Kong-listed Tencent rose 1.08 per cent on Wednesday to close at HK$469.