Baidu split again, Kunlun core independent, valued at 13 billion

If the split is not complete, Kunlun core is not favored.

Baidu chip business will be established in the near future independent chip company – Kunlun core (Beijing) Technology Co., Baidu chip chief architect Ouyang Jian as CEO of Kunlun core company.

As early as March this year, there was news of the split of Baidu’s chip business. Reuters reported that Baidu’s artificial intelligence chip division “Kunlun” completed its independent split in March and received a new round of financing, led by CITIC Industrial Investment Fund Management Co. 13 billion RMB.

Baidu then responded by confirming that it had completed independent financing news, but did not comment on the investors and investment amount, saying that more information would be announced in the future.

Today, Baidu announced financing details, confirming that the financing was led by CPE Yuanfeng, with investors including IDG, Junlian, Yuanhe Puhua and others, valued at about 13 billion RMB.

Baidu split again, Kunlun core independent, valued at 13 billion

Ouyang Jian said that there is an unprecedented opportunity for change in computing and semiconductor technology, with unprecedented demand for smart computing in data centers, smart cars, cell phones and even PCs, with new scenarios emerging and new computing architectures flourishing and innovating. With such a historical opportunity, Baidu established a new company based on its accumulation in the field of computing chips over the past 10 years, and continues to increase its investment in innovation to create a leader in the field of intelligent computing and semiconductors.

At the Baidu AI Developer Conference in July 2018, Robin Li announced that Baidu would launch its own AI chip, Kunlun. As Baidu has previously accumulated years of experience in using FPGAs for AI acceleration, as well as with software-defined gas pedals and XPU architectures, it is not surprising that it chose to develop its own chip at a time when Google and Amazon have entered the chip market.

The positioning of the Kunlun chip is a general-purpose AI chip, and in December 2019, Baidu announced the completion of the development of the first Kunlun 1 generation AI chip for cloud and edge computing. According to Baidu, Kunlun 1 is capable of achieving 256 TOPS of INT8 processing power at less than 150 watts, as well as 260 trillion times per second of quorum computing performance, which is arithmetic leadership compared to Nvidia V100S and Cambrian’s SiYuan 270 launched at the same time.

At the end of 2020, Baidu Chief Technology Officer Wang Haifeng revealed that Kunlun 1 mass production of more than 20,000 pieces and achieve large-scale deployment, Kunlun 2 is expected to mass production in the first half of 2021. However, an industry insider told Lei Feng, “Kunlun first-generation chips are not used on a large scale internally, 20,000 pieces are the second generation of Kunlun chips ordered internally by Baidu, but since Baidu has not released the relevant data, it is impossible to make a judgment on the performance of Baidu’s self-developed Kunlun 2 chips.”

In fact, Baidu has split a number of businesses in recent years. in May 2018, Baidu announced that its financial services business group (FSG) had officially completed the signing of a split financing agreement, and the new company would launch a new brand “Du Xiaoman” after the split to achieve independent operation. on September 30, 2020, Baidu split its intelligent life On September 30, 2020, Baidu will split its intelligent life business group, Xiaodu Technology, and complete independent financing.

For the reason of splitting Kunlun chip business, a chip industry senior experts believe: “Baidu has been splitting non-core Internet business, it should be the company’s strategy. Last year Baidu had planned to split the cloud intelligence business, the team also walked a lot of employees, but then Poundland switched to the Baidu Intelligent Cloud, splitting plans on hold.”

This strategy of Baidu may also be related to its main Internet business is not strong enough in recent years, Baidu’s foreign rival Google is a representative of Internet companies to research their own chips, but there is no news yet that Google has the intention of splitting the chip team. In addition, including Amazon, Alibaba and other technology companies, the chip team is still within the company.

“A very important reason for the independent development of Kunlun is to do the chip is very expensive, requiring a large amount of external financing. And, after Kunlun set up an independent company can serve more non-Baidu users, but also more conducive to the development of Kunlun.” A chip investor said to Lei Feng.

A senior semiconductor analyst is also optimistic about Kunlun’s independence, and she also believes that this makes it easier for Kunlun to become a platform-based company. “The car needs a universal platform, but the provision of chips is not the ultimate purpose of Kunlun, Baidu is certainly to do system integration, they independently may be able to do the ecological platform of the car, and then further realize the combination of cloud and edge.”

The analyst also said, “The split not only can be distinguished from Baidu’s core business, but also to focus on vertical capabilities.”

Baidu is actually already providing chips to the public. In addition to the cloud AI chip Kunlun, Baidu has also launched the far-field voice interaction smart chip Hongwan for consumer electronics terminals and edge computing. In March this year, Baidu and TCL cooperation, Hongwan voice chip for the first time in mass production in the home appliance industry, TCL previously told Leifeng that cooperation with Baidu is not only good for Hongwan chip, but also for the strength of Baidu AI algorithm.

However, the chip industry senior experts said: “If Kunlun split completely independent operation, I am very optimistic, after all, Baidu’s chip team has many experts. But if the split is not thorough enough, I’m not so optimistic.”

Lei Feng Network believes that Baidu’s move is a bet on “computing +”. Last year, Robin Li launched the establishment of a new company – Baidu Biotechnology, fully into biocomputing. Therefore, the chip business is independent, but also to further continue the logic of “computing +”.

Like chips, bio-computing and autonomous driving require long term investment. At the first China Biocomputing Conference held by Biotu Biotech this year, Robin Li boasted, “In the most critical area of life and health, even if the investment is greater, the risk is higher, and the cycle is longer, we are determined to do it.”

However, the ideal is important, for a listed company, the financial results in front of investors is also very important. The “burning” chip business independent, so that the overall revenue pressure on Baidu will be much less. This is also an important consideration for the chip business independent out.

Looking back at Baidu’s splitting action in recent years, “potential” projects – Baidu Finance, Xiaodu, Baidu BioTech have become independent one after another. Looking ahead, will the autonomous driving business, which is “Baidu’s trump card”, also face independence?

For when the driverless can usher in large-scale commercialization, Robin Li has given a point in time: in September 2020, Robin Li has said that within 5 years, driverless technology will definitely enter the commercialization stage of scale. Will autonomous driving face the same adjustments as chips in this time cycle?

Of course, an interesting phenomenon is that, unlike Baidu, the other two BAT (Ali and Tencent), love to split their “cash cows”, for example, Ali will be independent of Ant, Tencent music was split to the U.S. listing. The two different routes of the giants, which one is the right solution?

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