The first hints of trouble emerged in the spring of 2020. The world was in the early throes of a mysterious pandemic, which first obliterated demand then super-charged internet and mobile computing when economies regained their footing. That about-face -- in a span of months -- laid the seeds for potentially the most serious shortage in years of the semiconductors that lie at the heart of everything from smartphones to cars and TVs.
Auto and electronics makers that cut back drastically in the early days of the outbreak are now rushing to re-up orders, only to get turned away because chipmakers are stretched to the max supplying smartphone giants like Apple Inc. This week, Qualcomm Inc.’s Cristiano Amon, head of the world’s largest mobile chipmaker, flagged shortages “across the board,” citing the industry’s reliance on just a handful of players in Asia.