When Oppo’s management announced in mid-May that it would phase out its own processor development activities, which it had been running since 2019, the decision was due to a slowdown in the smartphone market, weak macroeconomic conditions and lower sales. Now, informed sources report that such a result turned out to be a natural consequence of the problems accumulated in the Zeku department.
This department, like Caixinwas founded in 2019 as part of Oppo, which until recently was the third largest smartphone manufacturer in China. Under Zeku, chip development activities were divided into four areas, one of which related to the development of CPUs for mobile devices. The firstborn in this direction was supposed to leave in September, but then it was postponed first to December last year, and then to June of the current year. It was expected that a contract manufacturer using 4nm technology would produce the first prototypes of this Oppo processor.
The development of this processor was accompanied by communication problems between the development teams in Zeku State. In addition, the active recruitment of personnel, although it enabled the company to become the fifth chip developer in China in terms of the number of employees, could not qualitatively affect the corresponding processes. Notably, by the time the department closed, nearly a third were college graduates with no hands-on experience designing processors. Hiring specialists with experience in HiSilicon, MediaTek and Qualcomm didn’t help much in the end. The effectiveness of the developers was limited by the lack of normal channels of interaction between neighboring groups of specialists, as former employees admitted.
Related divisions of Zeku were able to market some specialty chips for video processing or audio transmission over wireless channels, but cost optimization issues stood in the way of their commercial success. If we talk about a mobile processor for smartphones, then it turned out not to be as productive as initially calculated, and in the end it made no sense to start mass production. The release of samples of a mobile processor using 4nm technology did not begin in June of this year. After spending at least $1.4 billion to develop its Zeku division, Oppo ultimately failed to realize its potential. The closure of the department came suddenly, even for the Zeku employees, as staff were hired at the end of April.