Top 10 global semiconductor trends for 2008


It is really difficult to stick your neck out and predict. That’s what makes the analyst’s jobs so difficult. Things happen and pass you by so quickly. For instance, as an example, who would have thought that Samsung would face a substantial blackout that would halt six chip production lines in a complex operated by the world’s largest flash memory producer?

Plans for the fab in India are now well under way. There have been questions like, do we need fabs? The year 2008 is the year of presidential elections and the Summer Olympics. Will we really see a recession in 2008? Here are some of the trends that are visible for 2008. Would love to hear from you.

1. Semiconductor firms may have to face a recession year in an election year

Yes, strange as it may sound, this just might happen! Concerns about consumer spending, caused by higher oil prices, mortgage crisis in the US and fears of a possible recession have made analysts more cautious, albeit optimistic. Analysts are wary of an impending recession in semiconductors during 2008. That, it should fall in the year of the US presidential elections makes it all the more intriguing. The nervousness is already showing in the slowing down of some markets.

2. DRAM market looks weak in 2008

Will DRAM prices rebound? Remains to be seen, although DRAMeXchange says that Taiwanese suppliers are likely to have their output to trim by 10-25 percent during February (Chinese New Year) as they usually plan for an average of 3-7 days of annual facility maintenance during this period. DRAMeXchange regards this as a possible catalyst for a price rebound in near term. Analysts haven’t helped either, with some saying DRAM will be on the slow side or even negative in H1-08.

3. NAND market will remain hot

You can bet, it will! Analysts remain upbeat for a positive NAND market in 2008. The reason being – new applications such as wireless USB, increase in cell phones memory capacities, higher content in portable media players, etc. We hope it is not a flash in the pan. There are rumors of another iPhone along the way!

4. Power will remain major issue

This isn’t going to change anytime soon! Power awareness is crucial for portable applications. It determines battery lifetime, and there’s an increased amount of computation involved as well. Power awareness is extremely crucial for high-performance applications. It determines cooling and energy costs. Many chip designs today are power limited and still require maximum performance.

5. EDA has to catch up

And fast! Analysts at a recent webcast hosted by Semiconductor International elaborated how the EDA industry was in a position of lag in the market. The DFM issue is increasingly becoming more complex. There is said to be a move to restrict the design rules that is in place now for 45nm. We are likely to see major changes in 32nm. That will have an impact on the EDA tools.

6. Need to solve the embedded dilemma

It is said that in 2007, the cost of designing or developing the embedded software for an SoC actually passed the cost of designing the SoC itself! We seem to be in the middle of a software crisis that is going to hit the entire electronics industry in the next five to six years.

Analysts are wary of an impending recession in semiconductors during 2008

7. Consolidation in the fab space

Some of the other older IDMs and fabs are said to be actually shutting down and going over to the foundries and process wafers for less than what they can do on their own. In this respect, we are seeing a lot of consolidation within the fab space. The mid-level players are consolidating. The customer base is clearly narrowing. The field is narrowing in 65nm and 45nm, and as we get to below 45nm, the field is going to get much, much narrower.

8. Capital equipment guys will continue to move to other markets

The best example, you can think of, is Applied Materials, which is into innovative equipment, service and software products for fabrication of chips, flat panel displays, solar photovoltaic cells, flexible electronics and energy efficient glass. Even the smaller guys are moving into LEDs or MEMS markets. That tells us what these companies are thinking about the semiconductors market.

9. Spend on capital equipment to drop

Gartner is expecting the long overdue capital spending correction in DRAM market to push the capital equipment market into contraction. Another slow year from foundry, along with concerns of US economic recession, adding to the downside. However, NAND spend should ramp up.

10. Mini fabs in developing countries

India has announced fab plans. There have also been talks of mega fabs and mini fabs elsewhere. There are going to be different types of fabs! With globalization, lot of countries may decide they want to have a fab. The market’s going to change.

However, bear in mind that the outlook on new fab starts appears weaker, as many companies have cut back on spending to wait for the market to improve. After a forecasted 8 percent YoY increase in fab construction spending in 2007, levels are likely to be flat in 2008.

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  1. JB
    June 16, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Very nice article, Pradeep!

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