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Intel to Launch Specialized AI Chips for Chinese Market Despite Export Controls

Intel is gearing up to introduce two specialized AI chips, HL-328 and HL-388, tailored specifically for the Chinese market in June and September, respectively. These chips have been developed in compliance with US export controls and sanctions. The announcement, outlined in a white paper on Intel’s website dated April 12, is a response to tightened regulations limiting the capabilities of AI chips exported to China. Competitor Nvidia also has plans for China-specific chips following similar export control restrictions.

Intel’s forthcoming China-specific AI chips are part of the Gaudi 3 product line, unveiled on April 9. Despite featuring advanced hardware components such as on-chip memory and high-bandwidth memory, these chips will undergo performance reductions to meet export control requirements. The objective is to adhere to US regulations while maintaining engagement in the Chinese market.

In a parallel move, Nvidia is addressing export control challenges by developing specific AI chips for China. One of Nvidia’s chips, the H20, is expected to enter the market in limited quantities in the first quarter of 2024, with larger volumes anticipated in the subsequent quarter. These developments underscore efforts by major semiconductor companies to adapt to evolving export regulations without completely withdrawing from the Chinese market, aiming to strike a balance between compliance and strategic business interests.

Why does it matter? Initiatives by both Intel and Nvidia reflect the broader impact of geopolitical tensions on the semiconductor industry. As governments implement stricter export controls, companies are innovating to meet regulatory requirements while continuing to serve global markets. The launch of China-specific AI chips represents a strategic response to these challenges, enabling technology firms to navigate complex trade dynamics while sustaining business operations.

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