Sam Altman’s Secret Visit Sees Unusual Response From Samsung – Report

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After making major announcements regarding OpenAI’s plans to make its own chips, the firm’s CEO, Mr. Sam Altman, has spent a busy couple of days speaking with Korean memory manufacturers, according to reports in the local media. The start of 2024 has seen big tech remain relentless in its focus on building the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence and data science systems.

Not only did Altman, whose OpenAI is known for its close partnership with Microsoft, announce an interest in designing chips from the ground up earlier this month, but Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg has also shared his aim of buying hundreds of thousands of the most advanced GPUs from NVIDIA to gain an edge over rivals Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Sam Altman Interested In High Bandwidth Memory Chips Suggest Sources

When it comes to stimulating semiconductor demand for A.I. use cases, most industry and media attention has focused on graphics processing units or GPUs. However, silently in the background, memory manufacturers are also basking in newfound attention, with firms such as Broadcom thought by many analysts to have significant untapped potential for supplying connectivity chips.

Another key component of the A.I. semiconductor supply chain is memory. These chips are necessary to ensure that software runs fast, and Altman’s visit to South Korea focused on securing supplies of the memory chips. According to reports in the Korean press, the OpenAI chief has met with officials from Samsung Electronics’ chip manufacturing division and those from the Korean memory manufacturer SK Hynix.

Altman’s plans to establish a new venture to develop special A.I. chips took the industry by storm earlier this year. The stunning rise of A.I. in 2023 has placed the semiconductor industry in the spotlight. It has enabled GPU maker NVIDIA to post new record share prices and helped the industry weather a supply-demand mismatch downturn that affected income statements all around in 2022 and 2023.

Sam Altman OpenAI

According to the details, Altman met with Samsung’s head of semiconductors, Kyung Kye-hyun, and a team of other officials who gave him a tour of the Korean technology giant’s chip manufacturing facilities. The report from the Korea Times also adds that Samsung’s decision to let an outsider view its factories is also unusual, which can mean that the firm is eager to work with OpenAI to shore up demand for its products.

While the broader, non-memory semiconductor industry was able to weather the downturn last year due to interest in A.I., the memory segment witnessed a bloodbath. The significance of the downturn in the memory industry cannot be understated as it led Samsung, the world’s largest semiconductor company in 2022, to lose the spot to Intel in 2023 according to Gartner’s data.

Samsung isn’t the only company that Altman is purportedly interested in working with. Sources within the Korean industry, which often ‘leak’ information about firms such as Samsung, report that after meeting with Samsung officials, Altman made his way to SK hynix. SK hynix is another major memory manufacturer and one of Asia’s biggest. Allegedly, Altman met with SK’s CEO Kwak Noh-jung, but the location of their meeting is unclear with representatives from both firms declining to confirm whether the meetings took place.

Altman visited South Korea on Thursday and saw his trip extend to 19 hours from an earlier planned six hours. He is believed to be interested in high bandwidth memory chips. These are capable of handling large amounts of data when compared to, say, the chips that are found inside a laptop. This makes them suitable for heavy duty uses such as data science.

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