Dialogue vivo Hu Baishan: “Core Matters” can be big or small, and the “track” should be long rather than short

In the machine circle, the second blue and green factory has the nickname "this branch", which is divided into two characters. It originated from Duan Yongping, the founder of BBK, and gradually became the internal program idea of ​​vivo and OPPO and many direct brands.

To outsiders, the two characters of duty and low-key can almost be equated. Therefore, when it comes to making the core of vivo, vivo appears to be quite low-key. This is not the mentality of making a fortune, but the current In other words, Vivo believes that the matter of making cores by itself is not actually a great event.

Vivo’s core manufacturing is currently not meant to disrupt the industry, but to solve some specific scene problems. From this point of view, the "core thing" can be big or small. After all, vivo's first chip is an ISP (image processing chip), which focuses on the field of camera photography, rather than a large-scale SoC (including CPU, GPU and baseband, etc.) Integrated chip.

In view of the fact that the core-making matter belongs to the field of hard work and prosperous talk about the country, it is probably to avoid too much talk from the outside world. Hu Baishan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of vivo, recently came out to accept media interviews including Ai Faner. Talked about the "core thing" of vivo.

What core does Vivo make, how does it make it, and what's the use?

Now when everyone talks about chips, there will be a sea of ​​stars in your mind. It is a lithography machine, an advanced manufacturing process, and an SoC, but the scope of the chip is actually very large. The smartphone SoC is more like the jewel in the chip field, although it is brilliant , But rare.

So even before the interview, there was a lot of news about the types of cores made by vivo, but the focus of the interview was still to verify the truth of the news, that is, what cores made by vivo, how to make them, and what's the use?

Faced with three consecutive questions, Hu Baishan replied:

We have a chip to be released soon. The internal code name of this chip is V1, which is mainly focused on the video track. Of course, we will not rule out laying out chips on other long tracks in the future. The core basic logic is still strongly related to consumer insights and algorithm conversion, and industry partners do not have the resources to do it in the short term, so we can do it ourselves. Of course, we will do some division of labor if we do it ourselves. We will set a basic principle internally. For example, we will not do the chip tape out ourselves, because we feel that this thing is not differentiated, and in fact, all partners can do it.

Roughly speaking, vivo’s first chip is ISP (Image Processing Chip), which is a relatively subdivided type of chip field, which is mainly responsible for processing image signals and optimizing camera effects.

▲ V1 chip transmitted on the Internet

When it comes to how to make it, in fact, vivo does not currently manufacture it by itself, and it is mainly handed over to partners, but this does not mean that vivo is a shopkeeper and lists a demand for downstream manufacturers. In fact, vivo is not stingy in investing in this area, Hu Baishan Say:

Regarding the continuous investment in personnel, there are two aspects. On the one hand, there is a strong investment in imaging algorithm personnel. We have a dedicated algorithm department. The second is the algorithm transfer to IP (image processing) department, which is completed by the chip team. The third part is the IC (Integrated Chip) design department. At present, it is mainly responsible for the design of the IC frame, and the internal wiring and other things are handed over to the partners. The interface with the foundry is provided by our partners. We do not have enough grasp of IC at present. At present, it is equivalent to controlling the level of IC architecture design by ourselves.

The current manpower allocation is about 300 people if it is strongly related to chip research and development.

Compared with the B-side partners, our user insight is better, and the requirements are very clear. Most of the research and development are completed by partners. This time the algorithm and IP conversion is completed by us, including the chip architecture and construction. We do it ourselves, but the details of the chip design are done by our partners. If we originally did 20%, this time we achieved 60%, and the next round of V2 will be 70% to 80%.

Of course, there is another question that is actually "asked knowingly", that is, Vivo wants to build an ISP? In essence, this is actually two questions, the subtext is why not build SoC.

The answer given by Hu Baishan is:

The big SoCs in the industry include Qualcomm, TSMC, and Samsung that have invested heavily in making them, all of which are CPUs and GPUs. But our different brands have different target consumer groups, and different target consumer groups have different needs in the image sector. Different directions determine different algorithms to support its development direction. For example, the current image of vivo emphasizes two points, one is night scene photography, and the second is portrait photography. Whether it is night scene photography or portrait photography, there needs to be a corresponding algorithm. Compared with SLRs, mobile phones have the biggest environmental limitation is limited space, so the lens provides less space for it. Powerful algorithms are needed to bridge the physical gap between optical and sensory devices.

Different brands need different algorithms when doing different camera directions. This algorithm can run on SoC, but the negative effect is that it consumes a lot of power and the mobile phone heats up. Therefore, we have to solidify these algorithms. Once the soft algorithms are turned into hardware things, naturally the power consumption will be greatly reduced, and the heat will be greatly reduced. This can run on the phone. Mainly focus on the night scene video.

Everyone’s direction is different, and consumers’ needs are different.

Indirectly, the question of what is the use of the V1 chip has also been answered: the X70 series released next month will release the V1 chip to improve the shooting experience of night scene videos.

Where does the core-making matter belong in vivo?

Although the V1 chip is one of vivo's 0 to 1, but in terms of strategic positioning, it can actually be large or small, with great significance and a small foothold. However, from the perspective of the entire vivo company's strategy and figure out the position of this matter, you will be able to better understand vivo's long-term route.

In fact, at the beginning of the interview, Hu Baishan was not talking about chips, but the four tracks of vivo:

Before talking about the chip, let me briefly introduce the long track we want to focus on. This is strongly related to the future chip layout. After researching user dynamics and technology dynamics in the past few years, we have sorted out the long tracks that vivo will need to work on in the future, and summed up there are 4 long tracks to be used in the future: design (including appearance, interaction, etc.) , Image (shooting, video, etc.), system (including the underlying system and the use of AI technology, etc.), performance (games and other scenes).

The long track has two characteristics. First, consumers continue to pay attention and have continuous high demands. The second is that on this track, vivo can continue to iterate, and there is room for action.

The main layout of the future chip is to serve the long track, and the image is one of the tracks that is strongly related to the chip. We have to distinguish what can be done by ourselves and what can be done with our partners. Our biggest advantage is that we are closer to consumers. We will gain insight into consumers' needs for images and convert them into core algorithms. The chip is actually a hardware carrier. The combination of the chip and these core algorithms derived from consumer insights is that we want to transform this set of things into vivo's own image processing system.

From an analysis point of view, in the imaging part, our partners cannot help us solve this problem in the short term, so we will deploy the chip on the imaging track.

At present, the V1 chip serves the long-term track of imaging. If vivo encounters problems that cannot be solved by partners at the system or performance level in the future, then vivo may also solve it by making its own chips. Of course , This is all if things happen.

But what happened in the past may also pave the way for if things happen. This is the cliché and literary saying: everything in the past is a prologue. In vivo, these 8 words have become 12 words: product planning, technical planning, and technical pre-research. This is the iron triangle system of innovation and R&D within vivo. Hu Baishan further explained this iron triangle system:

In the Audio-Technica, product planning is actually to think clearly about what you want, and technical planning is to look at what users want and how we can meet the needs and achieve them. After the two shake hands, there will be a series of technology lists to be done in the next 36 months. Some technologies may not be fully mature in the short term. We may need to mature them through investment or increased human input. Of course, the final technology is pre-research, which is to put the products produced after the two handshake of product planning and technology planning to the ground.

The Audio-Technica system is relatively mature now. For example, for the X70 series products that will be launched soon, some of the new technologies above were actually pre-researched two years ago.

Of course, there are more than 36 months, which is more than 3 years of technical prediction. We established an Academia Sinica at the beginning of this year, and I am also the dean of the Academia Sinica. The main solution is to predict the 36-month product technology direction.

The "four tracks" refers to the spatial direction of product technology, while the "iron triangle" refers to the layout of time. From this point of view, the V1 chip once belonged to the scope of technical planning. More than 2 years ago, vivo It has been seen that the demand in the imaging field needs to be solved with chips, and finally the products have been launched on the X70 series. In the future, V2 and V3 chips will also be included in this system.

Similarly, there is the cooperation with Zeiss: Zeiss technology is mainly focused on the optical part. Vivo hopes to make full use of its optical capabilities and some of its algorithmic capabilities on the mobile terminal to communicate with each other. Vivo and Zeiss have also established a joint imaging laboratory, bringing together experts from both sides, looking forward to making breakthroughs in mid- to long-term technical research.

To a certain extent, the mobile phone manufacturers currently ranked in the forefront of the country have basically reached the stage of making the following moves.

▲ iQOO 8 Pro

iQOO inherits the mantle of NEX, NEX will be reborn next year

Now that we talked about long-termism, we naturally have to talk about the long-missing NEX series of mobile phones.

It has been a year and a half since the release of the last NEX mobile phone, and the last NEX 3s is actually just a small change. At the end of last year, vivo announced that it would classify its brands: iQOO is the joy of exploration; vivo is the joy of humanity; and NEX is the joy of achievement. In other words, NEX has become a sub-brand alongside iQOO and vivo, and the exploration part that originally belonged to the NEX brand temperament has also been divided into the iQOO brand.

After iQOO has become a test field for vivo's new technology, where does NEX go?

Hu Baishan said:

The previous NEX was more focused on technological innovation and exploration. At present, this positioning is given to iQOO, so iQOO 8 and others reflect some of the previous NEX's positioning. We re-defined the target consumer group and the product itself for NEX. The product should be re-released in the first half of next year, and the audience and brand positioning will be announced at that time. In the future, NEX will maintain a year-to-year rhythm. We have internally positioned vivo, iQOO, and NEX clearly enough and will continue.

Now the price range of iQOO 8 Pro and X60 Pro+ has stood at around 5,000 yuan, belonging to the category of high-end phones, and has been recognized to a certain extent. It can be foreseen that the starting point of the NEX series will only be higher, and the consumer positioning will be higher-end. After all, the brand connotation has been said to be "the joy of achievement".

▲ NEX 3

In fact, when NEX 3 was released, there was already a sense of positioning as a business machine. Looking at it now, NEX may follow the commercial and mature positioning in the follow-up.

In the interview, Hu Baishan also bluntly stated that the first and second market share is not important. The important thing is whether it can stand firm in the high-end market and whether it can compete with international brands:

The Chinese market (super high-end smartphones above RMB 6,000) is currently the only one that is dominated by Apple. The short-term share of OPPO, Xiaomi and Honor is not the key to the problem. The key to the question is who can compete with the top players in the future. This is the pursuit that all Chinese mobile phone brands want in the future.

NEX's future positioning may be to target the market above 6,000 yuan and compete with Apple and Samsung.

So far, in this interview, Hu Baishan actually described the brand structure of vivo very clearly, focusing on the track and R&D system: three brands, four tracks and the iron triangle system. The more you understand the three strategic guidelines of vivo, the more you understand what vivo is doing and what it will do, and the better understand the pattern and trend of the domestic smartphone market.

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