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Top 20 semicon rankings Q2-09 — TSMC climbs up, AMD slips down!

July 31, 2009 Comments off

Very interesting, isn’t it? And I am not surprised! TSMC deserves to move up the top 20 semiconductor companies rankings!! It seems that AMD especially needs to really get its act together.

First, to the rankings. Recently, IC Insights released the list of the top 20 semiconductor sales leaders during Q2-09.Source: IC Insights

In this list, there are four fabless semiconductor companies — Qualcomm, Broadcom, MediaTek and Nvidia in the top 20, and one foundry — TSMC, perhaps, emphasizing the growing influence of TSMC as well as the fabless semiconductor companies.

AMD slips! Again?
I had written a couple of posts some time back on AMD and Intel, where the former had commented on the EC ruling on Intel, and also how both were at each other’s throats, and had asked the question — how will all of this help the market?

Well, one hopes that AMD will come back very much stronger in the next quarter, despite its uninspiring guidance for 3Q09, saying that it expects its sales to be “up slightly” from 2Q09.

TSMC, Hynix, MediaTek shine
Coming back to the table, the clear movers are TSMC, and no surprises there, as well as Hynix and MediaTek. In fact, with a little better Q3 performance, TSMC could well move up to the third position, overtaking both Texas Instruments and Toshiba.

Look at the last column — the 2Q09/1Q09 percentage change — TSMC has grown by a whopping 93 percent! One other thing! TSMC is reportedly eyeing business opportunities in solar photovoltaics and LEDs in a bid to diversify its revenue channels. Should these happen, expect TSMC to move up higher!

The closest to TSMC in terms of growth are Hynix at 40 percent and Qualcomm at 36 percent, respectively. MediaTek, another impressive mover, grew by 20 percent. Of course, there is Samsung as well, with 29 percent growth.

ST, Micron, Nvidia and NXP have done well too! According to IC Insights, Nvidia replaced Fujitsu in the Q2-09 top 20 rankings. And that brings us to the shakers or those who fared poorly.

Fujitsu, AMD, Freescale slide!
I’ve already touched upon AMD. Fujitsu cited flash memory and automotive device sales to have suffered immensely this quarter. However, it hopes Q3 will be better and said that customer demand was picking up. So, it could well be back in the Top 20 during Q3.

Yet another slip was in store for Freescale. It slipped from 16th position in 2008 to 18th position during Q1-09, and slid further to 20th position in Q2-09. Perhaps, overdependance on automotives has been its undoing.

An interesting statistic from IC Insights — Fujitsu, with -9 percent and Freescale, with -2 percent growth, were the only two top-20 companies from Q1-09 to register a 2Q09/1Q09 sales decline!

Wonderful industry guidance
It is heartening to see 19 of the 20 companies registering positive growth this quarter. It won’t be improper here to commend IC Insights on its wonderful industry guidance!

In an IC Insights study from late December 2008, it was very vocal in advising firms to adopt a quarterly outlook! It also forecast a significant rebound in the IC market beginning in the third quarter of the year!

IC Insights also stood out by pointing out in early July that H2-09 is likely to usher in strong seasonal strength for electronic system sales, a period of IC inventory replenishment, which began in 2Q09, and positive worldwide GDP growth.

IC Insights had marked 4Q08 as the beginning of the downturn/collapse and Q1-09 as the bottom of the cycle. This quarter (Q2) has largely been a replenishment phase for the inventories. Going by that count, Q3 could well see a true seasonal increase in demand. IC Insights also said that during Q4-09, market growth will mirror the health of the worldwide economy and electronic system sales.

There is light, after all, at the end of the tunnel! Wonder why are the industry folks continue to tell each other — we still aren’t having a good time! Maybe, it is time for them to shed their pessimism and from holding back on investments, and move on to show steely optimism, and indulge in really aggressive buying and selling! After all, work and progress will happen ONLY if you work!!

Semicon recovery in sight? Hope both Intel and AMD are ready — for today, and tomorrow!

June 11, 2009 Comments off

Where were we? Yes, the famous Intel and AMD server battle, and Computex!

Is server battle the only ground Intel and AMD are and should be looking at? Perhaps, not! Has AMD won the server battle? Perhaps, yes, in this particular round, for now, as statistics may suggest. However, statistics also have a bad habit of hiding certain vital statistics — like conditions, etc.

A couple of days ago, iSuppli reported that Intel had lost some share in the global microprocessor segment in Q1-2009. AMD, in fact, had managed a comeback.

As per iSuppli, Intel suffered a 2.5 point drop in share. Its global revenue dropped to 79.1 percent, down from 81.6 percent in Q4-2008. During the same period, AMD moved up from 10.5 percent to 12.8 percent — an increase of 2.3 points.

AMD’s turnaround has been attributed to its strong performances in each area of its microprocessor portfolio, particularly, notebooks. This is impressive, given the downturn and the weakness in the PC and server markets. So, is AMD a winner in the servers market? Not so soon!

The gap between Intel and AMD is still quite significant. We’ve had the EC ruling, we’ve had the various server platform launches, and we are done with Computex.

Recovery in the offing?
There have been indications from other quarters that the global semiconductor equipment market is likely to begin recovery by October 2009. Also, latest data from SEMI suggests an increase in investments for fab construction projects and fab equipping in H2-2009, with the trend continuing into 2010.

Further, iSuppli has also reported that after three quarters of contraction, the pure-play foundry semiconductor manufacturing industry will probably enjoy robust growth during the second quarter.

Given all of these interesting statistics and developments within the global semiconductor industry, a likely recovery for the industry could well be in the offing!

So, if AMD and Intel are done with their server wars, the real game is likely to begin shortly! Maybe, it is time for both to get over the “today and tomorrow affair,” and focus on the future. I hope both are adequately prepared for today, and tomorrow!

Whose (server) round is it anyway? Intel’s or AMD’s?

June 8, 2009 Comments off

What a week, what a day, what a show! I am referring to the recent developments at Intel and AMD — to their respective product launches and announcements, and of course, to Computex, in Taipei, Taiwan! Oh, and to the ongoing battle between AMD and Intel in the global servers market!

First Intel… Late May, Intel previewed the Nehalem-EX, a processor that will be at the heart of the next generation of intelligent and expandable high-end Intel server platforms, which will deliver a number of new technical advancements and boost enterprise computing performance.

The Nehalem-EX is said to feature up to eight cores/16 threads, 24MB of shared cache, integrated memory controllers, four high-bandwidth QPI links, Intel Hyper-Threading, Intel Turbo Boost, and 2.3B transistors. The Nehalem-EX is said to be on track for H2-09 production.

Some time later, Intel put out an in a local news daily, about “Sponsors of Tomorrow” — a global campaign that conveys the message that gigantic advances of the digital age have been made possible by silicon — the key ingredient in microprocessors.

And guess what, AMD promptly came up with an invitation to its Istanbul launch, stating that a smarter product today would help battle the slowdown, rather than look at tomorrow!

Quite appropriately, soon after, AMD launched its Istanbul six-core Opteron processor this week, which delivers up to 34 percent more performance-per-watt.

AMD’s poking fun at Intel didn’t really quite go down well at some quarters. I have always respected and appreciated — may the best one, win, and if you really have the guts, do it yourself! And let the market decide who is the winner!!

I would surely expect the two heavyweights of the global semiconductor industry to not resort to such tactics. Instead, it would do both of them good to focus on their core businesses. Poking fun at each other will not bring in the dollars!

One AMD executive even went to the extent of highlighting the ‘today vs. tomorrow’ story on the dias, adding that when Intel comes out with an eight-core processor, AMD will come out with a 12-core processor. And, most importantly, that Intel is talking about tomorrow, but AMD is talking of today! Quite interesting!!

So, who is the winner of round one — according to me, no one!

Now, switch to Computex Taipei, Taiwan! First AMD announced a flurry of launches — such as its two new dual-core desktop processors. This was followed by a new chip for HDTV-on-the-PC reception.

Similarly, Intel made a flurry of announcements too, starting with the introduction of four new processors for ultra-thin laptops. Later, Intel’s Sean Maloney outlined the industry growth opportunities, especially, future growth throughout the computing and communications industries, particularly in mobile and wireless.

Let’s continue this in the next post, lest this grows too long! ;)

AMD on EC’s ruling on Intel — will it help AMD break into the top ranks?

May 20, 2009 Comments off

As promised, dear friends, here is AMD’s comment on the recent European Commission’s (EC) ruling on Intel! It still remains to be seen how this ruling will ultimately help consumers and AMD in the long run. Nevertheless, here goes!

On the EC’s recent ruling on Intel, according to Ramkumar Subramanian, VP, Sales & Marketing, AMD India, after an exhaustive investigation, the EU came to one conclusion — Intel broke the law and consumers were hurt. With this ruling, the industry will benefit from an end to Intel’s monopoly-inflated pricing and European consumers will enjoy greater choice, value and innovation.”

Fair enough! So, what course of action should the industry now take?

Subramanian says: “We believe that the EC’s decision signals an inflection point in the IT industry. The ruling has the very real potential to transform the industry from being artificially organized around a monopoly that seizes nearly all the profit, into a marketplace democracy that puts consumers first. We also see the very real potential for a step change in the long-term pace of innovation and differentiated value propositions.

“The final ruling — years in the making — is about how Intel deliberately used its monopoly power and profits to control a critically important global industry. How it has decided what and from whom consumers are allowed to buy computers. How Intel severely punishes computer manufacturers and others in the IT ecosystem that do not play by its rules. That is what Europe is putting a stop to. We applaud them for doing so, and if you buy computers and value innovation, so should you.”

I am more interested to know how this EC fine on Intel will go along in any way in improving the global processor market.

The AMD executive adds: “The size of the fine is a clear sign that this was not a close call for the Commission. That Intel’s conduct was of a very serious nature. But it is not the size of the fine that matters.

“What matters are the remedies that Intel now has been ordered to implement, and implement immediately! No illegal conditioned rebates, no coercion, no threats or intimidation to OEMs or retailers.”

Great! So, how will this help AMD improve its position?

Subramanian notes: “We firmly believe that the EC’s bold action to wrest control of the market from Intel to consumers triggers an inflection point that will reset the way business is done across the IT industry. The EC’s ruling forces Intel to immediately change its business practices — this is a punch they cannot slip.

“Every antitrust regulator in the world is now looking over Intel’s shoulder to ensure consumers are protected. And in this equation, everyone wins but Intel.”

Even then, how will this ruling benefit consumers? Will it in any way influence them to buy more AMD products?

He says: “The intent of the ruling is to protect consumers. A consumer’s best friend is competition. Competition is the fuel for innovation, and innovation is the fuel of the IT industry. So first and foremost, we expect that true competition will increase the pace and quality of innovation.

“All market participants — OEMs, retailers and end customers alike — are now free to make choices purely based on the merits of a given product, and are no longer held captive by the “System Intel” designed to keep the industry locked in, the consumers locked out and competition locked down.”

Now, AMD has welcomed this fine of EUR1 060 000 000 (EUR1.06bn) imposed by the EC on Intel! That is fine, but how will all this help the industry or the chip market? Or even improve/reduce market shares?

Subramanian adds: “All we have ever wanted is competition on the merits of the products. We have proven that despite Intel’s deliberate tactics to block AMD’s access to the marketplace, we have still been able to either out-innovate or remain competitive at the technology level with a rival roughly 10x our size and resources.

“Japan, Korea and the European Union all agree that Intel limited AMD’s market share through bribes and threats, and that business model needs to end. We are ready for a new marketplace in which consumers and products rule, not Intel.

“We firmly believe that we have what it takes to grow our business — all we, and the industry, need is an opportunity to let natural market forces work.”

Recently, there was this report of chaos reigning among the top 20 semiconductor company rankings!

According to the report, AMD jumped into the top 10 group, moving up three spots from 12th in 2008 to 9th in 1Q09. However, AMD is also one of the few top semiconductor companies that has stated it expects 2Q09 sales to be worse than in 1Q09. How long will it stay in the top 10?

If AMD does intend to beat Intel, fine or no fine, it probably needs to do much more! I hope all of this to be beneficial for AMD in the long run! Time will tell!

Intel on EC’s ruling! Wonder how all of this will help consumers!

May 14, 2009 Comments off

A lot of folks out there were waiting for this post! :) Hope I haven’t disappointed them. As always, I love playing neutral!

Most of you, I believe, are aware of the European Commission’s ruling yesterday, where it imposed a hefty fine of EUR1.06 billion on Intel for abuse of dominant position, and also ordered Intel to cease illegal practices.

Intel president and CEO, Paul Otellini also issued a statement regarding the EC’s decision. Later, AMD too, came out with its own statement, where it also highlighted some other instances of Intel’s practices (click the link).

Thereafter, I’ve been reading a whole lot of posts on the Internet and elsewhere. Apparently, it has been a busy 24 hours for the industry and a whole lot of people!

I have friends at both AMD and Intel, and naturally requested to speak with them. Intel has already spoken with me, and I hope to have AMD here soon! :)

Intel’s take on EC’s ruling; to appeal
An Intel company spokesperson said: “We respect the Commission and its procedures. However, we believe that the decision is wrong because it fails to consider all of the evidence and we will appeal. Among other mistakes, the decision ignores the reality that the microprocessor market is highly competitive and works to the benefit of consumers worldwide. Regulators should be in favor of the lower prices that result from discounting. Under the Commission’s rules, Intel is entitled to ask the court to review the decision.”

All of this leaves me with a similar thought as before — what course of action should the global semiconductor industry now take? Will this EC fine on Intel go along in any way in improving the microprocessor market? How will this ruling help AMD improve its position and possibly affect Intel’s position in the market, especially in Europe? We are talking about improving competitiveness here!

The Intel spokesperson said: “We believe this is a retrograde step that has the potential to dampen innovation and competition in the market. Ultimately, it is consumers who stand to lose out, through higher prices. Computing power that cost $1 in 2000 now costs US 1 cent today. This came about as a result of vigorous competition in the microprocessor market segment.”

Yes, what AMD seeks to get out of this remains to be seen, and I have consulted them as well. Am awaiting its responses, which should be here tomorrow, hopefully!

The Intel spokesperson continued: “It has long been our viewpoint that when AMD has performed well, the market rewarded them; when AMD hasn’t performed, the market has acted accordingly. AMD, the sole complainant in this case, is alive, healthy, and claims to be expanding its business.”

Quite so! AMD has an aggressive product roadmap, which it revealed last November! It now has to religiously deliver on schedule, and then try to grab better market share. I’ve seen some of its latest products and those are quite good!

Will this ruling benefit consumers?
I have some other queries! How will this EC ruling benefit the consumers? After all, I am definitely a very choosy consumer, and am sure there are millions of such folks, like me, out there.

Therefore, will the EC ruling in any way influence consumers to buy more rival products, other than Intel’s? AMD has welcomed this EC fine, and that is quite all right, but how will all of this help the industry or the chip market? Or even help companies to either improve or worse, reduce market shares?

The Intel spokesperson said: “It won’t! Among other mistakes, the EU’s decision ignores the reality that the microprocessor market is highly competitive and works to the benefit of consumers worldwide. Regulators should be in favor of the lower prices that result from discounting.

“We intend to continue to compete vigorously by offering customers and consumers the best products at the best prices, and, during the appeal, we will do that within the context of the Commission’s decision.” Now, to see what AMD has to say!

To my friends on both sides — Intel and AMD — just focus on your core businesses! :) A request!

Categories: AMD, EC, EC ruling, European Commission, Intel Tags: ,

AMD on cross-license dspute, Xeon 5500 and HP Pavilion DV2

April 7, 2009 Comments off

Following my recent posts on the Intel-AMD cross-license dispute, I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with Ramkumar Subramanian, VP, Marketing & Sales, AMD India, and Vamsi Krishna, Senior Technical Manager, AMD India, and discuss this, and more, in greater detail.

On cross-license dispute
On the cross-license dispute, Subramanian said: GlobalFoundries is a subsidiary of AMD. The agreement is already there with AMD. It is unclear what an artificial dispute will achieve. Intel is a much bigger company than AMD, and if they wish to divert attention from their difficulties, this is nothing much than a distracting strategy.”

He added that if one reads what the European Commission’s (EC) findings are, these steps are not taken unless they really believe there has been some abuse of monopoly power.

By asking questions on different angles, is Intel trying to gather more information? Remains to be seen!

Subramanian added that the end customers — enterprises or home users — they will tell you that the price of computing has reduced signiificantly and the quality of technology available to them has increased substantially. This is a direct result of competition. “We have merely asked for the competition to be fair and open,” he contended. Value for money assumes great importance.

It is perhaps, fit that two people do not sit across the table and discuss to form a monopoly. A person who’s looking to stretch their dollar would stand to benefit more from competition!

On HP Pavilion DV2
AMD also showcased a new notebook, released recently, the HP Pavilion DV2. This notebook is using the AMD Athlon NEO. Subramanian said: “We are working on platforms. At the platform level, a lot of innovation has happened in this notebook, which will give you a very rich, visual experience.”

So, what does it bring to the consumer? According to Subramanian, it is the visual experience, which would be available in the normal notebook segment. Users can play HD content, complex games, etc. Krishna, added: “The moment you tune the notebook for high-end graphics applications, the Office applications become a cakewalk.”

On workstation graphics
AMD also touched upon workstation graphics.

Subramanian said that AMD entered this business post the acquisition of ATI. The ATI FirePro cards available today — whether in the range of application suites, or performance, or price — seems to be an unbeatable proposition. “We are bringing the value of competition in the workstation space,” he added.

Nvidia has been a partner in many ways, but in this space it is a competitor. AMD’s FirePro series — the applications certified on this particular card — that’s important. “We believe we will be able to penetrate this space very well,” he remarked.

Why AMD commented on Intel’s Xeon 5500?
I took this opportunity to ask AMD why it chose to comment on the Intel Xeon 5500, prior to its launch in India?

Krishna contended that AMD has brought a lot of innovation to the table ahead of the competition. “We have been leaders in this space, and brining innovative products to the marketplace,” said.

Subramanian added: “The world should know that we are the leaders in technology. Our position would be much stronger if the market was fair and open.”

Krisha noted that most people would think one-dimension — performance. “It is the overall value you give in the whole package. A simple example — Istanbul — it is exactly pin compatible to the existing server platforms. The value — customers have an extended product lifecycle.

Nehalem is a new processor, with a new platform. The IT managers would probably weigh all of the pros and cons, and arrive at decisions. Competition requirements are going up. Krishna added: “If your server investment is on the AMD server platforms, and they have a requirement of increasing computation requirements, they can swap the processors. Istanbul is a six core processor.

“In the same footprint, without changing the equation, they are multiplying the performance. Istanbul is also on the same power envelope as the existing dual- or quad-core Optron processors.”

I surely need to have AMD and Intel on stage, someday, for a proper panel discussion and sort out all issues, if possible.

AMD and Intel at each other, again! Post launch of Intel’s Xeon 5500 processor series

April 1, 2009 Comments off

Intel has recently introduced 17 enterprise-class processors, led by the Intel Xeon processor 5500 series. The Xeon processor 5500 series, previously codenamed “Nehalem-EP,” offers several breakthrough technologies that radically improve system speed and versatility. Technologies such as Intel Turbo Boost Technology, Intel Hyper-Threading Technology, integrated power gates, and Next-Generation Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) improved through extended page tables, allow the system to adapt to a broad range of workloads.

Now, even before I could analyze all of this, it was interesting to find first, AMD, and then Intel, exchanging pleasant notes on the chip’s features itself! And, I am being quite mild in my statement here! :) The picture here is from the Intel Xeon 5500 launch in India.

First, AMD! According to Vamsi Krishna, Sr. Technical Manager, AMD India, “Intel launched its new processor architecture (Nehalem) yesterday, which is quite different from any of its predecessors. However, what’s amazing is that many of the ‘groundbreaking, innovative technologies’ are quite similar to technologies AMD pioneered years ago, 2003 to be precise.

“Memory controller integration into the silicon die is one of the many features included in the new Intel architecture and this is believed to boost the whole system performance significantly. However, this is a standard feature on all of AMD’s server products since 2003. Nehalem is also supported by a high speed internal bus known as Quick Path Interconnect. It will replace current FSB (Front Side Bus) in most of the current design. Again, the concept is quite similar to existing HyperTransport technology available in AMD products and is known as Direct Connect Architecture (DCA).

“Products like Nehalem and technologies like Quick Path Interconnect are simply Intel’s admission that AMD was right all along about an integrated memory controller being the key to superior processor architecture.”

Naturally, I had Intel’s response too on these remarks. As per an Intel spokesperson: “The platform architecture of the Xeon Processor 5500 series has some similarities with AMD’s platform architecture in the use of an integrated memory controller and high speed serial interconnect, although the QuickPath Interconnect offers greater performance and additional capabilities compared to HyperTransport. The individual design tradeoffs are not as important to customers as overall performance and efficiency. Previous generations of Intel Xeon processors were superior to competitive alternatives due to superior microarchitecture, process technology and cache implementation. The new platform advances help the Xeon Processor 5500 series widen this competitive lead.”

Great! Here’s a classic case of two folks sledging over nothing!

First, the Intel chip is one of its kind, as of now, and I don’t think any other chip maker has a similar product, as of April 1. If they have, please come forth!

Two, AMD, if it had indeed pioneered such technologies, as those used in the Xeon 5500, in 2003, my simple question to them is: why aren’t you the no. 1 player in the semiconductor space today?

Three, will this new chip make Intel a runaway winner? Too early to say! We are still in a downturn, although, some positive news have been forthcoming. Will the chip be able to make its mark? That remains to be seen. IT spends need to go up significantly for that to happen, isn’t it?

Gartner recently put out a report on global IT spends. It says: “The unprecedented decline of the global economy is impacting the IT industry with worldwide IT spending forecast to total $3.2 trillion in 2009, a 3.8 percent decline from 2008 revenue of nearly $3.4 trillion. IT organisations worldwide are being asked to trim budgets, and consumers are cutting back on discretionary spending,” said Richard Gordon, research vice president, and head of global forecasting at Gartner. “The speed and severity of the response by businesses and consumers alike to these economic circumstances will result in an IT market slowdown in 2009 that will be worse than the 2.1 percent decline in IT spending in 2001 when the Internet investment bubble burst.”

It is not about the technologies you are using, or the process nodes. It is about market share and being there first. Who’s able to do so, timely, wins! Any other discussion won’t have any bearing!

Finally, to my friends at Intel and AMD: folks, do not take that cross-license deal issue to such levels. The industry does not need these things. It is a time to ally and move forward, focus on your core businesses and contribute to the overall health and growth of the global semiconductor industry.

Frankly, it takes off the joys of analysis, when people try to influence you to form a judgement they prefer! Well, I have always formed my own judgement, and right now, I feel that both friends of mine are in the wrong. Request, please shake hands!!

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