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TikTok to Try to Turn from AI Titan Nvidia

Tempus Fugit

TikTok parent ByteDance is developing an AI accelerator (NPU) according to Reuters. Working with ASIC supplier Broadcom to circumvent restrictions intended to keep advanced technology from Chinese companies, such as TSMC’s process technology and Nvidia’s fastest GPUs.

Even without the restrictions, large companies with AI expertise have sought to reduce their dependence on merchant chip suppliers, particularly Nvidia. It’s harder to break from the Nvidia ecosystem for training than for inference, and ByteDance likely runs only a few models. Therefore, we expect the company to optimize its NPU for executing recommendation models as Meta’s MTIA does. TikTok’s success comes from how well it keeps users’ attention by suggesting videos. A proprietary NPU could run more-effective engines and reduce the cost of computing content recommendations.

Prohibited from using the best Nvidia chips, ByteDance has more incentive than other hyperscalers to find alternatives. Its decision to roll its own reflects its scale and is an indicator that Chinese-developed merchant NPUs don’t meet its requirements. But given the ByteDance-Broadcom project’s early stage, it will take a few years before the homegrown chip’s effectiveness is revealed.


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