Applied Materials CEO on the war for AI leadership in semiconductors

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The war over who will create the framework for next-generation artificial intelligence will likely be the biggest corporate battle in the near future, Applied Materials President and CEO Gary Dickerson told CNBC on Thursday.

In an interview with “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer, Dickerson said that waiting for operating system upgrades and new mobile phone iterations may define the tech cycles of today, but the main focus will soon turn to the race for competitive AI.

“In the future, you’ve got transportation, health care, entertainment. All of these will change in amazing ways and create trillions of dollars of economic value. So you also have this war for AI architecture leadership that probably will be the biggest battle of our lifetime,” the CEO said.

As the chief of a company that creates semiconductor equipment for Nvidia, among other leading chipmakers, Dickerson thinks Applied Materials will be at the forefront of AI development.

“The materials that create the power and performance [for chips] come from Applied Materials. So in that war for AI architecture leadership, Applied will win no matter who ends up winning,” the CEO said.

Much of Dickerson’s argument was contrary to the generally accepted idea that semiconductors are subject to boom-bust cycles and highly dependent on supply and demand.

The CEO said that volatility has decreased across the industry in the last seven years and that the “war” for leadership in mobile has increased the need for top-performing chips.

“In AI and big data, data, many people talk about, is very similar to oil. But oil is no value unless you process it and put it into something like an automobile. So, same thing is true with data,” Dickerson said. “You have to have high-performance computing to turn that data into value. And many people talk about this inflection being the biggest in our lifetimes.”

And while boom-bust cycles may send red flags flying for some investors, Dickerson predicted that the industry won’t “bust” anytime soon given the massive amount of data new technology is bound to generate.

“A lot of big companies have models on ‘Where is data generated in the future?’ So if you look at a smart city, all of the different sources of data, the models suggest that people will only generate 1 percent,” Dickerson said of the burgeoning industry surrounding big data. “So when we see these non-linear inflections, it’s hard for all of us. We have long memories of where the past was. It’s hard for us to extrapolate anything that’s non-linear going in the future.”



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