By its own reckoning, Bitmain built 70 percent of all the computers on the Bitcoin network. It makes specialized chips to perform the critical hash functions involved in mining and trading bitcoins, and packages those chips into the top mining rig—the Antminer S9.
But Bitmain CEO Jihan Wu sees a future beyond blockchains and cryptocurrency. As he told IEEE Spectrum contributing editor Morgen E. Peck in July: “It’s quite personal that I wanted Bitcoin to be successful. But as a company we are not allowed to solely rely on the success of Bitcoin. That’s a thing we cannot afford.”
So Bitmain is applying its Bitcoin playbook to artificial intelligence. On 8 November, Bitmain’s other CEO Micree Zhan will detail its new AI chip, the Sophon BM1680, at AIWORLD in Beijing, and the company will begin selling systems based on it.