A surprising twist comes today for all Oppo fans across the world. The popular Chinese brand seems to be retreating from its recent push into the chip manufacturing. The company has just confirmed that its Shanghai-based chip subsidiary Zeku will be closed down. The reason is the growing “uncertainty in the global economy and the smartphone industry”. You may not be familiar with Zeku’s name, but you probably heard about the MariSilicon chips. They’ve got popular thanks to the MariSilicon Y audio chip and the X ISP. The firm was behind the development of such chips, and now, their future is uncertain.
Oppo’s chip business arm – Zeku – is shutting down
Oppo’s ISP has been a key feature on recent Oppo flagships. The brand’s venture in the chip business started in 2019, and the company developed in-house co-processors, ISPs, modems, power management, audio and display chips. We don’t have official info, but the speculators point to a total investment of about $1.4 billion in those efforts.
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The news came as a big surprise for Zeku employees. After all, two weeks ago, the firm was publishing ads looking for new workers. The job postings covered dozens of positions. One employee, who declined to be named, told that workers were told on Thursday to not go in other office the next day. “I can’t even go back to the office to the get the laptop”, the employee said.
The demise of Oppo’s chip arm comes amidst tough times for fabless chip design firms in China. The chip acquisition has been hampered by escalating US export restrictions targeting such firms in China. There are growing sanctions that restrict the export of chips using US-origin tech. Hence, it is getting harder for China’s fabless firms to find manufacturers for their designs. With that in mind, we don’t think there is much hope for the future of the MariSilicon series. For the time being, however, Oppo may keep using the existing Y and X chips until the stocks run out.