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Semiconductor outlook 2008: EDA to grow 7.8pc; semicon 6-11pc

December 19, 2007

Forecasters at the panel discussion the 2008 Semiconductor Industry Forecast webcast presented by Semiconductor International were guarded in their predictions — which were a mixed bag — with the majority predicting semiconductor growth in the range of 6-11 percent during 2008.

However, some other panelists predicted 2008 to be flat year or a year of negative growth. There are fears of a possible recession in 2008, along with concerns surrounding consumer spend that could be hit by higher oil prices and the US mortgage crisis. Hence, the need for forecasters to be watchful with their predictions.

EDA playing catch-up; to grow 7.8pc
The EDA industry is said to be lagging behind the semiconductor industry at the moment, and is in the catch-up mode, according to Gary Smith, President, Gary Smith EDA, while commenting on the forecast for the EDA industry.

On the outlook for the EDA market, Smith said the EDA industry is in a lttile unusual position. He said: “The market’s been flat for the past four years. Tools for 65nm, 45nm silicon dsign have also been delayed.” The R&D was not put in because of the recession. “Right now, we are in a position of lag in the market,” he added.

EDA tools cover two process generations. The industry is just starting to introduce 65nm and 45nm tools. That generation is being called the DFM generation tool. Smith said: “It is even more important to the semiconductor industry as we run into manufacturing problems that they are relying on design tools to solve, rather than on semiconductor equipment.” That’s a major shift in the market!

According to him, the industry is now now into a pretty good growth area. “We were 11 percent last year, 10.2 percent to come in this year. We will be a bit down next year at 7.8 percent,” he forecast. This has been attributed mainly to the EDA industry’s lag in the market. “Some are moving to 32nm. And certainly, a lot of work is being done in 45nm,” he added.

Smith noted: “The EDA industry is in the catch-up mode. We will lag them. We’re expecting the downturn to really hit us in 2009. However, we’re not an industry that goes negative often. No matter what you guys do, you still have to design something. So, when you go into recession, typically, the way you get out of recession is you generally design yr way out!”

DFM, ESL, parallel computing EDA growth drivers
He said that DFM, parallel computing and ESL were the growth drivers. Among the drivers is the DFM issue, which is increasingly getting more complex. There is said to be a move to restrict the design rules that is in place now for 45nm. “We’re going to see major changes in 32nm; that’ll have impact on tools,” he added.

The other issue is parallel computing that has become a major task for the EDA industry. “With signal threading, we can no longer handle designs over 100 million gates. Of course, at 45nm, you can do a 100mn gates. That rewriting process is another issue that is also slowing out down. That’s a full three-year re-write,” Smith said.

Further, EDA is also starting to move up into the ESL. The ESL is going to shift the EDA market more into the systems market, and serve less on its dependency on the semiconductor world.

As for the inhibitors, an issue hitting the EDA industry right now is that, in 2007, the cost of designing or developing the embededded software for an SoC actually passed the cost of desgining the SoC itself. “So, we’re in the middle of a software crisis that’s going to hit the entire electronics ind in the next five or six years,” he added.

Next, the industry has been also going to muticore, multiprocessor architecture. That demands a completely new programming model. According to Smith, what was unthinkable six months ago, is now a major topic of discussion — that is abandoning C as a programming language! That’s going to be a major shift in the industry.

Tariff concerns in Europe
Earlier, in a discussion regarding concerns about tariffs in Europe, and how will it impact the industry, Anne Craib, Director of Market Research, International Affairs and Finance, Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), said: “We are working on a number of policy initiatives that we see as potential challenges in consumer sector.” In Europe, there is an effort to re-classify goods that have business and consumer funtionalities, as consumer products not covered by tariff-free agreement.

As we see continued convergence, for example, the cell phone will be covered, so, there are questions as to whethe a cell phone has a cam or an MP3 player, and will that be considered as a consumer device or a business device. The result could be the imposition of fairly steep tariffs in the mid to high teens. “When you start to increasing your pricing to that level, it could potentially affect consumer demand. We havent seen that happen yet, but it’s an issue that we are quite concerned,” she added.

SIA is also concerned about some efforts in other parts of the world to put in place proprietary standards that could drive up the cost for manufacturers for accessing those markets — by requiring to make devices that are specific to certain markets — that wouldnt be interoperable. Most of them could affect the downstream products, but not semicon specifically. However, there are areas that the industry also needs to be aware of.

Stay tuned for full report later!

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