- OPPO closed Zeku due to failure and costs.
- MariSilicon chips improved OPPO phones.
- Closure reveals challenges in competing with Qualcomm and MediaTek.
OPPO, a well-known smartphone manufacturer, has made the decision to close its subsidiary, Zeku, which was responsible for developing the MariSilicon custom chips. These chips were aimed at improving imaging, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) performance on OPPO’s smartphones. The closure of Zeku came as a surprise to its employees, who were given less than a day’s notice.
In the world of smartphones, the dominance of hardware and software development is largely controlled by a few companies. While Google maintains the Android software, most top Android smartphones rely on chips from Qualcomm or MediaTek. However, some Android manufacturers, like OPPO, have ventured into developing their own custom chips to enhance their devices’ capabilities.
OPPO introduced its custom MariSilicon X neural imaging chip last year with the Find X5 series. This chip was responsible for processing photos taken by the 1-inch Sony IMX989 camera in the Find X6 Pro. Unfortunately, OPPO’s chip development efforts have come to an abrupt end with the closure of Zeku, its chip design subsidiary.
Apart from the MariSilicon X ISP, which is found in certain Find and Reno-branded phones, Zeku also designed OPPO’s MariSilicon Y Bluetooth audio System-on-a-Chip (SoC), unveiled in December 2022. The decision to shut down the subsidiary is likely due to the initiative’s lack of success compared to the development costs incurred.
The smartphone industry as a whole is facing challenges, with a 12% market shrinkage in the first quarter of 2023 due to a slowdown in consumer demand. Sales are expected to decline further in the current quarter, with a possible recovery projected for the third or fourth quarter of the year.
Considering OPPO’s move, it raises questions about whether other manufacturers, such as Xiaomi with its Surge chips, will also succumb to the dominance of Qualcomm and MediaTek solutions. The closure of Zeku may indicate the difficulty for smartphone companies to compete with established chip manufacturers, especially when faced with a challenging market.
In conclusion, OPPO’s decision to close its chip design subsidiary, Zeku, marks the end of its MariSilicon chip development efforts. The closure came as a surprise to employees and is likely linked to the initiative’s lack of success and the shrinking smartphone market. This raises concerns about other manufacturers following a similar path and being unable to compete with industry giants like Qualcomm and MediaTek.