Electronics giant Samsung has begun manufacturing ASIC chips designed for Bitcoin mining, according to local media reports.
The firm, which owns one of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturing plants, completed the development of its ASIC chips last year and began mass production this month.
Samsung is supplying its ASIC chips to an unnamed Chinese company that manufactures Bitcoin mining equipment, and it aims to target the Chinese market before potentially expanding into other regions.
“We are in the middle of a foundry business that is being supplied to a virtual money mining company in China,” a Samsung spokesperson confirmed to a Seoul-based media outlet, adding that the company was unsure how profitable the venture would prove to be.
The publication notes that at present, Taiwan-based TSMC is the only other major semiconductor manufacturer to form a similar partnership with a Bitcoin mining hardware manufacturer — Bitmain. A report from tech outlet DigiTimes said that Bitmain’s chip orders occupy as much as 90 percent of TSMC’s foundry capacity during off-peak season.
While the report does not state what hardware manufacturer Samsung is working with, it is likely that it could provide this firm with the ability to scale up its operations and challenge Bitmain’s dominant market share.
Last year, Samsung used 40 old Galaxy phones to create a Bitcoin mining rig as part of an “upcycling” initiative intended to persuade customers to find new use cases for their old phones. The rig, of course, was more of a curiosity than an actual use case for antiquated mobile devices, but it is an interesting development given that Samsung was secretly developing ASIC chips at the time.
Notably, Samsung is not the first major firm to make a foray into the Bitcoin mining industry. Earlier this month, Eastman Kodak announced that it had licensed its name to a mining hardware manufacturer to produce Kodak-branded miners. The scheme was roundly criticized, both for its optimistic — some said deceptive — profit predictions and the stipulation that Kodak would receive half of all coins mined by the devices.