Archive for February, 2010

Industry reactions on Union Budget 2010

February 26, 2010 Comments off

Presenting industry reactions on the union budget 2010, sent by friends in the Indian PR community.

Jaswinder Ahuja, Corporate Vice President & Managing Director, Cadence Design Systems (I) Pvt Ltd
The 2010-11 Union Budget announcements will find broad-based appeal due to the provisions for social reform and increased allocation for primary education, health and rural infrastructure. Raising the tax slabs should positively impact consumption and as a result the overall economy.

Although there haven’t been any significant incentives or reforms for the IT sector, the tax reforms for R&D expenditure is a good step towards encouraging innovation in India across sectors, as well as in our national research bodies. The proposal to simplify the current foreign direct investment (FDI) policy is also a positive step.

This budget reflects India’s increasing commitment to environment sustainability and the raging issue of climate change. The focus on clean energy investments – with the increased allocation towards renewable energy and the setting up of the ‘National Clean Energy Fund’ for funding research in clean technologies – is a welcome measure.

For the semiconductor and solar industry in India, the proposal to set up solar, small hydro and micro power projects in the Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir seems encouraging. Significant budgetary allocations towards the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) project is likely spur investments in smart card technology in India. Other steps that stand out for the semiconductor industry include the reduction of Central Excise duty on LED lighting and the CVD tax exemptions on all medical equipment.

The reform process and policy announcements by the government are no longer just an annual exercise but a continuous, evolving process and we expect that other measures will be announced through the year that are take into consideration, the recommendations put forth by the ISA (India Semiconductor Association).

Tiger Ramesh, CEO & MD, Vignani Solutions
We welcome the Finance Minister’s acknowledgment of LEDs as a highly energy-efficient source of lighting for outdoor, indoor and street lighting and applaud the government’s decision of lowering the Central Excise duty from 8 percent to 4 percent ,as this will accelerate adoption rates for LEDs by reducing the capital expenditure for the end-users. This encouragement of the LED industry is significant as we expect the market share of LEDs to rise to 15-30 percent of the overall lighting industry by 2014 from a current 2-3 percent market share. We are actually on the threshold of a revolution in the Rs 10,000 crore Indian lighting industry!

The launch of the National Clean Energy Fund is also as per our expectations as we have always requested government’s support for funding research and the support of innovative projects in clean energy technologies. These two steps can act as important catalysts for energizing the LED market in India as well as stimulating R&D in clean energy technologies in India.

MAIT, the apex body representing India’s IT hardware, training and R&D services sectors, welcomed the thrust given in the Union Budget towards sustaining the national economic growth and making it inclusive. The industry body expressed satisfaction for the thrust given to infrastructure development, upliftment of the rural economy and significant outlay for promotion of the social sector, especially education and healthcare. Further, it also appreciated the focus in Budget on New and Renewable energy and announcement of proactive measures for environment conservation.

Congratulating the Union Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, Vinnie Mehta, Executive Director, MAIT, said: “We are glad that the Hon’ble Finance Minister has unveiled the roadmap for GST with a definite date for implementation i.e. April, 2011. Unification of the rate on excise duty and the service tax has been a step in the right direction towards implementation of the GST. The rate of service tax as well as that of excise duty will now be 10 percent. This will also help mitigate the issue of CENVAT overflow for manufacture of IT products in the country.”

Elaborating on the outcome, he added: “Exemption of Special additional Duty (SAD) on pre-packaged goods for retail is also a welcome step as refunds for SAD were not forthcoming. However, to sustain hardware manufacturing in the country in the long run, it is critical that SAD on the input components be exempted as well.”

“It is heartening that the Hon’ble Finance Minister has recognised the strong potential of the electronics industry and its role in energy generation. In this regard, the announcement of concessional customs duty of 5 percent on machinery, equipment etc. for setting up photovoltaic and solar thermal power generating units is welcome”, added Mehta.

“Lastly, MAIT welcomes the setting up of the Technology Advisory Group under the chairmanship of Mr Nandan Nilekani for monitoring effective IT implementation in projects of National eminence. Timely completion of IT implementation in Government projects is not only critical to the growth and development of the country but also essential for delivering services to the citizens”, mentioned Mehta.

Some of the other noteworthy outcomes of the Union Budget 2010-11 are:
* Extension of weighted deduction on expenditure on in-house R&D from 150 percent to 200  percent.
* Exemption from basic customs duty, CVD and SAD on parts of battery chargers and hand-free headphones for the mobile phone industry until March 2011. This will enable backward integration in the sector. Read more…

Union budget 2010: Solar, UIDs all the way!

February 26, 2010 8 comments

As expected, solar photovoltaics (PV) is the largest beneficiary of the UPA government’s union budget 2010, which was presented today by India’s Union Finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee. On India’s growth, he said that a 10 percent GDP growth rate is likely in the future.

Late last week, I had said that it would be a great surprise if solar/PV was not part of the budget, given the NSM. Well, it now has a major role, as do UIDs. However, as I expected, there is hardly anything for the semiconductor/VLSI industry segments, and definitely not what the industry had proposed. Apparently, semiconductor/VLSI is not yet a critical sector, and will need to wait for its time. Therefore, I am not surprised! It didn’t happen last year, and well, no change this year either!

Key budget highlights
* The plan outay for new and renewable energy has been increased by 61 percent from Rs. 620 crores to Rs. 1,000 crores. This is following the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM) announced last year, which aims for 20GW by 2022.
* Proposal to establish national clean energy fund.
* There are proposals for setting up solar and wind power projects in Ladakh region as well.
* Allocation for power sector doubled to Rs. 5,120 crores.
* Allocation of Rs. 1,900 crores for UAID scheme (UID projects).
* UID numbers are ready for take off. UID authority has been constituted, and it will issue the first set of UIDs by the end of this year.
* Smart cards extended to NREGA.
* The Unique Identification Authority of India to get an allocation of Rs. 1,900 crores.
*  An effective tax administration and financial governance system calls for creation of IT projects which are reliable, secure and efficient. IT projects like Tax Information Network, New Pension Scheme, National Treasury Management Agency, Expenditure Information Network, Goods and Service Tax, are in different stages of roll out. To look into various technological and systemic issues, the minister proposes to set up a Technology Advisory Group for Unique Projects (TAGUP) under the Chairmanship of Nandan Nilekani.
* The budget proposed to further simplify FDI.

New and Renewable Energy
* The Finance Minster proposed to increase the Plan Outlay for the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy by 61 percent  from  Rs. 620 crores  in 2009-10 to  Rs. 1,000 crores in 2010-11.
* To address the problem of energy deficiency in the Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir which faces extremely hard climate, the government proposes to set up solar, small hydro and micro power projects at a cost of Rs.500 crores.
* The Ministry of new and Renewable Energy (MNRE), which aims to develop and utilise new and renewable sources of energy fur supplementing energy requirements of the country in an eco-friendly and sustainable manner, has got a total Plan Outlay of Rs. 1,950 crores, which includes Rs.950 crores as IEBR in the annual plan for the year.  The following physical targets/activities have been set during the financial year:
* 2972 MW Grid-Interactive Power capacity addition from Wind, Small Hydro, Biomass, Power/Cogeneration, Urban & Industrial Waste to Energy and Solar Power; 142 MW eq. Off grid / Distributed Renewable Power Systems.
* Provision of basic electricity/lighting facility through SPV/other RE systems and devices, including DRPS in 1500 remote villages/hamlets; and Family type Biogass Plants of capacity of 0.30 million m2 (1.5 lakhs nos.).
* Deployment of Solar Water Heating Systems of 1.00 million m2; Promotion of Energy – efficient Buildings (1 million sqm. Floor area) and Development of Solar Cities.
* R&D activities on different aspects of new and renewable energy technologies; support to MNRE Centres /institutions and Standard and Testing; Renewable Energy Resource Assessment.
* Information, Publicity and Extension (IPE) of Renewable Energy systems; International  Relations; Administration and Monitoring including HRD and Training; Support to States, Public Enterprises and Industry  including HRD and training activities to be undertaken under Solar Mission.

Tax proposals
* GST to be rolled out by April 2011.
* Rs 1133 crores outlay for launch of GST.
* SARAL – II form for individuals ready for the coming year in a simple format in only two pages.
* Computerisation of commecial tax collection in states.
* Automation of central excise and service tax already rolled out.

Direct taxes
* Corporate tax hiked; MAT increased from 15 percent to 18 percent
* Current income tax slabs extended as follow:
Rs 1.6 lacs — nil
Rs. 1.6 lacs – Rs. 5 lacs – 10 percent
Rs. 5 lacs – Rs 8 lacs – 20 percent
Above Rs 8 lacs — 30 percent

Indirect taxes
* Under the NSM — concessional customs duty to machinery, equipment, applicances etc., required for setting up PV and thermal power units.
* Wind energy generators exempted from central excise duty.
* LED lights — central exicse duty reduced from 8 percent to 4 percent.
* To waive excise duty and solar and PV panels.
* Concessional 5 percent duty on set up of solar power unit.
* Excise duty on CFL halved to 4 percent.
* 4 percent duty on electric cars and vehicles.
* Mobile phone domestic production picking up. To encourage manufaturers of accessories, exemptions extended.
* Tax exemptions have been announced for equipment used in solar systems and wind energy system, LED lights, electric cars, cycle rickshaw, mobile phone components and certain medical equipment. Read more…

NI DAQ workshop: Sun tracker suitable for Indian (and global) solar/PV industry

February 25, 2010 5 comments

It was a pleasure to attend National Instruments’ Data Acquisition Showcase & Workshop in Bangalore. On display were a complete family of data acquisition (DAQ) products for desktop, portable, industrial and embedded applications.

There were several live demonstrations on systems with acquisition from various sensor types with in-built signal condition on different buses and form factors, building management system, sun tracker demo, and high speed audio recorder. There are much more applications and demos, but I shall only touch upon a few here.

National Instruments' Sun tracker demo at its DAQ workshop.

National Instruments' Sun tracker demo at its DAQ showcase and workshop.

First, I quite liked the Sun Tracker demo (see picture here). This solution should be of considerable interest for folks in the solar photovoltaics (PV) space, especially in India. A solar tracker is a device for orienting a daylight reflector, solar PV panel or concentrating solar reflector or lens toward the sun. The sun’s position in the sky varies with the seasons and times of the day.

Solar powered equipment works best when pointed at or near the sun. A solar tracker can increase the effectiveness of such equipment over any fixed position, at the cost of additional system complexity.

NI’s multisensor DAQ demo actually highlighted the company’s ability in making measurements from various types of sensors using NI hardware, without the need of any third party signalling, and then implementing test cases on this data in LabVIEW. The company’s high speed audio recorder is a DAQ device that acquires sound signals at very high speeds and stores the acquired data by streaming to a RAID array at over 100 MB/s.

NI’s automated test demo hgihlighted the ability of NI hardware to automatically carry out multiple tests of various types on different products without any human intervention. The company’s building management system (BMS) is actually a complete facility monitoring and control system, which takes care of lighting, automated motion detection, temperature monitoring, attendance system, power consumption monitoring, etc.

Earlier, field applications engineer, Denver D’Souza made a presentation of NI’s DAQ portfolio, aptly titled “Acquire Everything. No Constraints.” Practically, any signal can be acquired from anywhere. Such a system also needs to be scalable, in terms of hardware and software, and flexible. The system should be able to acquire data from diverse bus and form factors as well.

Several examples of applications were highlighted. A few of those are: for harsh industrial environment — NUCOR refining steel recycling using NI’s platform; embedded data acquisiition — CERN using NI’s R series data acquisition to control the world’s largest particle accelerator; and academia — the University of Manipal, India, using high performance electronics for a formula race car.

Finally, may I also take this opportunity to thank Jayaram Pillai, MD, India, Russia & Arabia, NI, as well as Ramya Nair and Nandini Subramanya for their hospitality, and to Denver for a most enlightening presentation.

Xilinx to build next-gen FPGAs on 28nm high-k metal gate

February 22, 2010 Comments off

Xilinx intros world’s first ultra-high-end FPGA based on 28nm high-k metal gate.

Xilinx intros world’s first ultra-high-end FPGA based on 28nm high-k metal gate.

Xilinx Inc. has announced the foundation for a next-generation of Xilinx programmable platforms that will give system designers FPGAs that consume half the power at twice the capacity than previously possible for addressing the Programmable Imperative.

Xilinx’s architecture for next-generation FPGA products will be built on 28nm high-k metal gate (HKMG), high-performance, low-power process at TSMC and Samsung.

According to Suresh  Menon, vice president, product development, Programmable Platforms Development, features of the next-generation FPGAs include:

* Reducing total power consumption enables customers to meet system integration and high-performance targets within their power budgets.
* Scalable unified architecture reduces customers’ investment developing and deploying products.
* Xilinx maximizes the value of 28nm with high-performance, low-power process to accelerate platforms for addressing the programmable imperative.

He highlighted some industry challenges. These include the decline ASICs — with development costs, risk and complexity, and time to market being 2x per node, leading to ASIC starts being 50 percent less per node and the ASIC business at -5 percent per year. The ASSP business model is also challenged. While it has grown at 22 percent CAGR from 2004-2009, the operating margins have declined by 27 percent, thus making tier 2 unsustainable.

Menon cited some examples addressing the programmable imperative — wireless communications, wired communications, industrial scientific and medical (ISM), automotive, consumer, and aerospace and defense.

Lower power initiatives are universal. The challenge is to lower the total power consumption, This has to be achieved without giving up on performance or differentiation. Some examples include: green base stations to reduce carbon footprint, eco-friendly server complexes and communication hubs, automotive power restricted environment, and size, weight, and power requirements in defense.

Consumer demand is also driving network bandwidth. A challenge would be enable 1Terabit switch fabric and 400+Gbps line cards. This could been addressed by providing support for 1+Tbps full-duplex bandwidth for high-end switch fabric, enabling high-performance, non-blocking capability with flexibility to integrate QoS security, etc., and extending support for 40G, 100G, 200G, and 400G line cards.

Menon said, “We are delivering lower power through technology innovation, enabling the lowest power, high performance FPGA.”  This is being done as follows:

* Reduce static power consumption by 50 percent.
– 28nm high-K metal gate high-performance, low power process reduces static power compared to 28nm high performance process.
* Lower dynamic power consumption using architectural innovations.
– Transistor choice and multi-gate oxide techniques reduce dynamic power consumption despite trends.
* Enable additional 20 percent power reduction using advanced tool innovations.
– Clock gating technology.
– Fifth generation partial reconfiguration. Read more…

Categories: 28nm, FPGA market, FPGAs, HKMG, Xilinx

The Phantom of the Opera returns with Christine in “Love Never Dies”!

February 21, 2010 3 comments

Do you or did you love that fantastic musical extravaganza “The Phantom of the Opera”? If yes, there is good news ahead for all you Phantom lovers!

The Phantom will continue his adventure of proving that his love for Christine was true — in a new musical appropriately titled — “Love Never Dies.”

According to wikipedia, “Love Never Dies is a musical with a book and lyrics by Glenn Slater and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. A sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, it will be directed by Jack O’Brien and is scheduled to open at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End on 22 February 2010 (tomorrow?), on Broadway on 11 November 2010, and in Australia in 2011. It will be the first time a musical sequel is staged in the West End.

Sierra Boggess is said to have been cast as Christine Daaé, and Ramin Karimloo, will portray the Phantom in Love Never Dies!

Now, I don’t have the exact details. but as per the official website, Andrew Lloyd Webber is bringing back the principal characters of “The Phantom of the Opera” in “Love Never Dies.”

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant! Couldn’t get better than this! Thank you, Andrew Lloyd Webber!!

I never really liked to see the mysterious Phantom lose Christine in the end in the original plot, nor did I think highly of Christine’s character as a woman for giving up on the Phantom at the end for Raoul. And, I hope that several ‘Phantom’ lovers will agree with me in this assessment.

The storyline of ‘Love Never Dies” goes something like this. And well, I have taken it from the official website.

About a decade after the Phantom’s mysterious disappearance from the Paris Opera House, Christine Daaé accepts an offer to visit and perform in America at New York’s fabulous new playground of the world – Coney Island. She arrives in New York along with her husband Raoul and their son, Gustave. However, she is not aware of the identity of who actually invited her to America. She discovers all this and more in “Love Never Dies.”

According to the official website, “This brand-new show is a roller coaster ride of obsession and intrigue…in which music and memory can play cruel tricks… and The Phantom sets out to prove that, indeed, LOVE NEVER DIES.”

Besides the musical starring Michael Crawford as the Phantom and Sarah Brightman as Christine, I have had the pleasure of watching the 2004 movie (at least several times), starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rosum, and was very fortunate to see a live performance of the breathtaking “Phantom — The Vegas Spectacular” in Las Vegas, thanks to my friends at Symantec. And well, I love the title song!

Now, I simply can’t wait to see or at least, listen to the audio/music of “Love Never Dies!” I do hope that the Phantom gets Christine this time, or perhaps, this musical has a much happier ending, which will make Phantom’s fans, such as I, happier.

Finally, readers, I hope I have the liberty of writing about something else which is close to my heart, besides semiconductors, telecom, solar PV. My sincere wish that you enjoy this post too.

PS: I read a news on Mail Online that Sierra Boggess had to withdraw from a final dress rehearsal as she fell ill with a fever. Her understudy, Celia Graham, stepped into Boggess’s shoes. Okay, tomorrow is Feb. 22nd, the D-Day for “Love Never Dies”!

Indian electronics and semiconductor industries: Time to answer tough questions and find solutions

February 20, 2010 4 comments

Another year and yet another union budget is close at hand! I’ve been receiving mails left, right and center from enthusiastic friends in the PR community who are trying to push their clients’ expectations on the budget.

Hold it for a moment! The IT sector alone does not make up India! Neither does semiconductor or VLSI or embedded! So, I am wondering — will all of those recommendations even get a look in? Solar PV probably would probably figure somewhere in the budget as it now has its own ministry — the MNRE. I’ll be very surprised, if solar PV is missing in this year’s budget.

Right, let me focus a bit on semiconductors and electronics. The rest will all fall in place if these two sectors are really paid greater attention.

The Indian semiconductor policy was announced back in 2007. Barring investments in solar PV, it has really not seen much movement. We did start a ‘national movement for fabs’ back in 2007-08, but all that seems to have fizzled out for now. As for solar PV, the National Solar Mission (NSM) was formally launched by the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, last month. This month, the Karnataka State Government has announced its own semiconductor policy at the recently held ISA Vision Summit 2010. So, we already have some notable policies in place.

Now, the Indian electronics industry seems to be looking at a $350-$400 billion opportunity by 2020 as far as the electronics consumption is concerned. As per available statistics, the current consumption stands at about $40-$45 billion. I am told, we have not made a very good use of the existing opportunity in the sense that only 3 percent of this $40 billion consumption of electronics goods is actually produced in India. How are we ever going to hit the so-called huge opportunity in front of us if we don’t start now? And most importantly, where exactly do we start from?

Policies are supposed to play the role of guiding lights. In the end, it is up to the industry to deliver, of course, with government support. It is for the industry to come up with roadmaps as to how it will reach a specific target during the time period marked in such policies. The real onus will be upon the industry — and how its ‘actual effectiveness’ is perceived, based on its local success — in the global markets, to attract newer investments.

Not for a moment should anyone confuse IT/ITeS with electronics manufacturing and semiconductors. IT/ITeS has its own success story! Nor for that matter should anyone feel that since we are strong in design services, we will have an easy path ahead.

IT/ITeS, and also satellite TV and telecom, have largely grown on their own strengths. Most importantly, all of them started back in the 1990s. Of course, the industry associations and regulations have had their roles to play. But, make no mistake. It will be a very different story as far as local electronics manufacturing, components and semiconductors are concerned.

Thoughts on the budget
Here are some thoughts on what the union budget should try to answer, if it will.

What steps will be taken to promote domestic electronics manufacturing in the country? What steps will be taken to boost the growth of electronic components in India? Time and again, I’ve noticed that electronic components are not even on anyone’s wish list! How can you even think of developing an ecosystem that fosters electronics manufacturing in the absence of a strong components ecosystem?

Next, what steps will be taken to develop the local markets? Rather, who’s responsibility should it be to develop the local markets — for local manufacturers? Are the local manufacturers ready enough to take on the global giants? How will they be protected? If not, what steps would likely be taken to make them self sufficient and globally competitive? How much money is India actually going to spend on semiconductor and electronics R&D? More importantly, will that R&D be on really cutting edge technologies?

Now, I really want to play some part in making certain things happen! That’s one of the many reasons why I was very pleased to meet Dongbu recently. I even went ahead and requested an X-Fab associate to find out whether this company would be keen on visiting and exploring the Indian market.

I am glad that the UKTI has made some efforts to connect UK based firms with those in India. However, these are early days, and much more needs to happen. I am trying to connect some companies here as well. It excited me even more to see Indian start-ups at Technovation 2010, and later, the industry experts encouraging engineering students to consider entrepreneurship as a career.

An acquaintance mentioned to me some time ago that we don’t even have enough and well,  trustworthy third-party statistics on the various segments! Much as I’d like to provide such statistics, I am merely an individual with limitations who can only do a very little bit, as I am neither an association, nor part of any media outlet. Nevertheless, I still try to do whatever little I can manage!

Coming back to the budget, this is the right time to answer tough questions and find meaningful, long term solutions.

One would be keen to know how the local market and manufacturing segments will get developed over the years. Or what kinds of efforts will be made to revive the electronic components industry. What kinds of high-tech R&D efforts will be made in the semiconductor and electronics domains, etc.?

Once such tough questions have been properly addressed, all sops, incentives and other tax breaks — of any kind — will look brilliant to the world, and attract the necessary investments.

I really would like to see the Indian electronics manufacturing and semiconductor industries, along with electronics components, to take off! I hope I made some sense!

Reputation based security protects you from malware

February 16, 2010 Comments off

(L-R): Shantanu Ghosh, VP, India Product Operations, Symantec and Joe Pasqua, VP, Research, Symantec.

(L-R): Shantanu Ghosh, VP, India Product Operations, Symantec and Joe Pasqua, VP, Research, Symantec.

Information is everything in today’s connected world! According to Joe Pasqua, VP, Research, Symantec Corp., there are 487 exabytes of data globally, growing at 51 percent annually.

Speaking about the innovative work being done at Symantec Research Labs, he said, it was the Labs’ endeavor to bring together technologies and products in new and interesting ways and help solve problems. “We have a customer centric approach to innovation,” he said.

Symantec Research Labs develops cutting edge technologies to solve real-world customer challenges in security, storage and systems management. It does core research, advanced concepts and collaboratve research.

According to Pasqua, reputation based security changes the manner in which you can protect yourself from malware. It was noticed a number of years ago that there were more of malware. “So, we decided to create a reputation score for every piece of software.”

Symantec Research Labs has an extensive and successful track record. These include core security technologies such as reputation-based security and Browser Defender. Other areas include consumer cloud services, infrastructure software, etc. Pasqua provided a sneak peak of the Symantec Mobile Reputation Security (SMRS) research prototype as well.

More details in a while.

Categories: malware, Security, Symantec
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