Archive for August, 2011

Freescale launches first ‘base-station-on-chip’ products!

August 30, 2011 Comments off

Freescale's first “base station-on-chip” products built on QorIQ Qonverge multimode platform.

Freescale's first “base station-on-chip” products built on QorIQ Qonverge multimode platform.

Freescale Semiconductor has announced the first “base station-on-chip” products built on its QorIQ Qonverge multimode platform at the Freescale Technology Forum China in Shenzhen.

So, how are the first QorIQ Qonverge products a milestone for the wireless industry? Scott Aylor, GM, Wireless Access Division, Freescale, said: “The wireless industry is in dire need of innovative new solutions to address challenging power requirements and exploding demand for additional bandwidth. Freescale’s QorIQ Qonverge portfolio offers unprecedented scalability and software compatibility, giving customers flexibility, reduced cost and design-time savings as they move up to larger capacity systems.”

And, what exactly does the Freescale QorIQ Qonverge portfolio offer to customers? Aylor added: “Qonverge provides wireless networking equipment manufacturers a software compatible, single architecture that scales from femto and pico cell base stations, all the way up to macro cells with proven DSP and MPU technology that is already powering many of the world’s LTE and other advanced base stations. It also offers OEM’s a balanced solution, based on industry-leading MPUs and DSPs. This balanced approach allows for more efficient processing, than for example, DSP-centric approaches which assign MPU-optimal processing instead to a DSP.”

Some months ago, Picochip had introduced 2G and 3G femtocell base stations. That leads to the question: how different are Freescale’s solutions from Picochip’s?

Aylor noted: “Freescale’s Qonverge is not a point solution for a certain cell size. Instead, it is a scalable portfolio from small to large cells, all with a common architecture. Also, the DSP and MPU technology that powers Qonverge is in chips currently powering macro  base stations from virtually all the top wireless base station OEMS in the world.”

Also, Freescale had earlier announced a 4G base station on chip based on Linux. How different is this one from the earlier solution? He said: “We first announced our QorIQ Qonverge technology back in February 2011 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This announcement centers around the availability of the first three product solutions in the Qonverge family, the 9130/1/2 products, which address the femtocell and picocell markets. All of these solutions have the capability to run Linux and other operating systems.”

Solar power becoming increasingly affordable: Dr. Charlie Gay

Dr. Charlie Gay, president, Applied Solar.

Dr. Charlie Gay, president, Applied Solar.

I had the pleasure of interacting with Dr. Charlie Gay, president, Applied Solar, Applied Materials Inc., recently. He began by saying that solar power was becoming increasingly affordable.

Dr. Gay said: “Most people don’t realize that solar is already cost effective in a number of locations and applications, and as those uses of solar expand, the scale of the industry grows. As scale increases, cost declines in a highly predictable way for manufactured technologies like PV.

“In 2011, PV electricity is already cost-competitive with traditional sources of residential power in 19 countries, including Italy, Spain and the Caribbean. By 2020, this number can grow to more than 100 countries, representing 98 percent of world population; 99.7 percent of world GDP; 99.2 percent of energy related CO2 emissions; and 99.5 percent of global residential electricity consumption. Areas with plenty of sunshine, such as India, already have costs that are a fraction of what they are elsewhere in the world.

“A common rule in the solar power industry is that for each cumulative doubling of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power (the type of panel commonly seen on the roofs of homes and businesses) the price of solar modules decreases by 18 percent.”

We have now reached a critical inflection point in the cost reduction of solar. Applied continues to drive down cost is to make the manufacturing of solar panels more efficient. The reduced cost is being driven by:
• A decreased cost for silicon, a key ingredient in solar panels.
• Increased capacity in solar panel manufacturing.
• Technology innovation, i.e., ability to cut thinner wafers at higher yields w/less silicon loss.

Dr. Gay added that the cost of manufacturing solar panels is already reported by some to have fallen below $1 per watt and is capable of continued decreases due to reductions in the cost of silicon, innovative crystal growth techniques, high precision printing technologies operating at 3,000 wafers per hour and many more advances based on increased yield and scientific insights. In 2010, for example, approximately 63 gigawatts of cumulative solar PV had been installed worldwide, with 18 installed last year alone.

“Solar power is already an ideal solution for electric power during peak use times in many locations and will continue to get more cost competitive as the manufacturing learning curve continues –namely, that for each cumulative doubling of installed photovoltaic solar power the price of solar modules decreases by 18 percent.” Read more…

Freescale-Bosch launch airbag reference platform

Freescale Bosch airbag reference platform.

Freescale Bosch airbag reference platform.

Freescale and Bosch, the two automotive leaders, are jointly enabling emerging markets with reference platforms.

Freescale has a strong presence in automotive, offering MCUs and MPUs, sensors and analog. It also has a comprehensive software enablement. Bosch also has a strong presence in semiconductors and sensors, offering airbag systems, vehicle dynamics systems, engine management systems, transmission control systems, electric power steering, electric drives control, alternator electronics and IP.

The two companies have jointly introduced the airbag reference platform in India, on the sidelines of the Freescale Technology Forum 2011. It is said to be everything that you need to add your crash algorithm and make it your airbag solution.

Both the companies are leveraging their global leadership positions and system expertise to provide customers with automotive reference platforms specifically designed for emerging markets.

Airbags are ranked among the most efficient life saving passive safety applications. There is an increasing demand for mobility in emerging markets. That makes airbags necessary for reducing injuries and fatalities. Freescale and Bosch, the two global automotive leaders, are working in partnership to enable emerging market customers to provide greater occupant safety through these airbag reference platforms.

The proven design helps accelerate time to market, is affordable and scalable, based on the latest generation technology, and meets the latest automotive quality standards. It has the complete bill of materials with jointly developed firmware.

Freescale Qorivva MPC560xP MCU family
* Scalable MCU family for safety applications.
*  e200z0 Power Architecture core @ 64 MHz.
*  Scalable memory, up to 512 KB Flash.
* LQFP package.

Bosch CG1xx Airbag ASSP family
* Scalable airbag ASSP family.
* Power supply for complete ECU.
*  Up to four satellite sensor interfaces (PSI5).
*  Up to 12 firing loops integrated.
*  Up to six analog interfaces.
* Safing block + Watchdog.
• Works with Sensors from Freescale and Bosch.

Customer benefits include Safing concept proven with Freescale and Bosch sensors. There is a faster time to market using airbag system evaluation software. Some other benefits include ECU level debug and test over serial communications interfaces, fully supported application level debug and test using MCU ecosystem, and a friendly GUI.

Semicon industry at inflection point of innovation: Rich Beyer

Rich Beyer, chairman and CEO, Freescale Semiconductor, at the Freescale Technology Forum 2011, in Bangalore, India.

Rich Beyer, chairman and CEO, Freescale Semiconductor.

Rich Beyer, chairman and CEO, Freescale Semiconductor.

Prior to this year’s FTF, Freescale marked another milestone in our company’s history. We have returned to the public trading arena with our IPO on May 26.  We used the proceeds from the IPO to pay down a portion of our debt and reduce our interest expense. This will enable Freescale to continue to grow our investments in products, software, sales and customer support. We are confident, as a result, we will continue to offer you even better world class solutions.

Having publicly traded stock will also give us more flexibility than just available cash to fund potential acquisitions and future innovation investments that will reinforce our competitive differentiation moving forward. And, the IPO is a strong affirmation that Freescale is on a very successful trajectory in the eyes of the investment community! While we have changed to become a publicly traded company, we have not changed our vision or our strategic focus. Our vision remains the same: we are committed to being the leader in embedded processing solutions.

We will continue to build on our market leadership positions by focusing on our core strengths: embedded processors, applications processors, microcontrollers and DSPs; RF, analog and sensors; and the software that delivers a clear competitive advantage to our customers.

Era of connected intelligence
Over the past several years, we have entered the era of connected intelligence where embedded processing is driving the Internet of Things. In the PC era of the past, processing was centralized within a traditional computing environment. Users relied heavily on computing hardware and rigid software to perform desired tasks.

In today’s era of connected intelligence, data is ubiquitous, and we expect our electronic devices to conform to us. We want them to be social and mobile. They are aware of our surroundings, and they understand and adapt to the context in which we are using them. They are always on and they are always with us.

Semiconductor innovation
We are at an inflection point in what is driving semiconductor innovation. In the PC era, the focus was on the sheer performance of the processor. The power consumption implications were handled by a building bigger box, adding a cooling fan or using a larger battery.

In the era of Connected Intelligence, embedded processing performance needs to be balanced with power efficiency, and system capability is enabled by the intelligent integration of sensor, RF and analog interfaces and the usage of efficient, system sparing software.

The insatiable demand for connectivity will continue to push the industry for solutions that deliver more performance, improved efficiency and lower operating costs. Semiconductor innovation now is being driven by embedded processing solutions with a system-level view and developed with an application-level expertise that is critical to efficient and timely implementation. Read more…

July’s global semicon sales expectation for 2011

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

It’s that time of the month again; namely, time to preview next month’s global semiconductor sales forecast update for 2011 (and also for 2012) based upon July’s “actual” sales expectation by exercising the “look ahead” forecasting feature of the Cowan LRA Model.

Presented below is a “snap shot” of 2011’s global semiconductor sales and sales growth forecast prospects as a function of July’s “actual” sales forecast estimate range as derived via the Cowan LRA forecast model that he has developed and previously shared with you. Moreover, as part of this month’s update, Cowan has extended the model in order to include a first view of what 2012’s sale growth prospects might look like thereby providing a six quarter look ahead that allows the model to capture the cumulative four quarters of 2012.

It should be mentioned that July 2011’s “actual” global semiconductor sales number is scheduled to be released by the WSTS via its monthly HBR (Historical Billings Report) on or about Tuesday, September 6th. The monthly HBR is normally posted by the WSTS.

Source: Cowan LRA model, USA.

Source: Cowan LRA model, USA.

In advance of the upcoming WSTS’s July global semi sales formal release, Cowan has furnished an analysis using the Cowan LRA forecasting model that projects worldwide semiconductor sales for 2011 (as well as 2012 — new); namely, by providing a “look ahead” scenario for year 2011’s sales forecast range as a function of next month’s (in this case July’s) “actual” global semi sales estimates.

The output of this “look ahead” modeling analysis is captured in the scenario analysis matrix displayed in the table below. A discussion of these results is included in the paragraphs immediately the table here.

In order to facilitate the determination of this “look ahead” forecast, an extended range in possible July 2011’s “actual” sales is selected a-priori; in this particular scenario analysis, a July 2011 sales range from a low of $22.910 billion to a high of $25.910 billion, in increments of $0.250 billion, is selected as shown in the first column of the table. Read more…

NXP launches CAN partial networking solution for automotives

NXP Semiconductors N.V. has announced the first NWP ISO 11898-6 and AUTOSAR R3.2.1 compliant solution supporting CAN Partial Networking.

The stand-alone TJA1145 CAN transceiver and integrated system basis chip UJA1168 – the world’s first highly integrated solution to support CAN Partial Networking – give design engineers precision control over a vehicle’s bus communication network. By intelligently de-activating electronic control units (ECUs) that are currently not needed, engineers can significantly reduce vehicle fuel consumption and CO2 emissions without sacrificing performance or consumer experience.

Reducing CO2, improving energy efficiency
So, how will the NXP solution reduce CO2 and improve energy efficiency in vehicles? Karsten Penno, business development manager, Business Unit Automotive, NXP, said: “In current CAN networks, all ECUs are always active and consuming power when the vehicle is in use. This is the case even if the applications they control aren’t continuously required, such as seat positioning, sun roof operation, park assistance systems, etc.

“CAN Partial Networking changes this model by activating only those ECUs that are functionally required, while other ECUs remain in a low-power mode until needed. This results in significant savings in power/fuel consumption, reducing costs, wiring and CO2 emissions. CAN Partial Networking is also extremely beneficial for electric and hybrid vehicles as it helps extending their operating range and optimizing charging time. Saving potential: 0.11l fuel savings/100km and 2.6g CO2 reduction/km.”

Why not before?
Now, if the CAN Partial Networking solution is so novel, why wasn’t it thought of before?

Penno said: “Innovations like CAN Partial Networking always require a broad industry acceptance and standardization. The CAN bus system – as key component of in-vehicles networks – has been around for many years (introduced in early ’90s). However, only with the rising awareness on CO2 emissions and overall vehicle efficiency – along with growing CAN node counts – came the need for a more efficient CAN standard. NXP is innovation leader in this area and is chairs the standardizing working group within ISO.” Read more…

Fabless fables and all that! Is India listening?

August 15, 2011 1 comment

I received an interesting news alert from the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA), formerly, Fabless Semiconductor Association, which spoke about how fabless companies, only, were funded in July 2011. Well, it also led me to this feeling that each time there is any new electronics or related segment being talked about globally, it seems that the Indian semiconductor industry is slowly losing the plot! One surely hopes not!!

May I take your attention back to Pravin Desale’s speech during Mentor Graphics’ U2U conference of December 2009. He had cited some numbers during his speech, borrowing heavily from GSA. According to the GSA Dec. 2008 figures, distribution of fabless IC companies is: Canada 29, USA 606, Europe 151, Israel 61 and Asia 510 — China 222, Taiwan 196, Korea 47, Japan 16, Taiwan 16, Singapore 7, Malaysia 4, and India 2-28 (two fabless companies and 28 design services/IC providers).

Agreed that these numbers should have changed a bit, if not, a lot.

The ISA is born! Oct. 28, 2004, Bangalore, India.

The ISA is born! Oct. 28, 2004, Bangalore, India.

Now, when the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) was formed on Oct. 28, 2004, members at the that November, dwelt upon the need for fabless companies.

Somshankar Das, e4e, had said that for building fabless semiconductor companies in India, the country had a major advantage, as Indian talent was a large part of the global semiconductor industry. Some other advantages in favor of India at that time (Nov. 2004), were: local IC design service firms, who were creators of selective IP as well. Development of smart chips with embedded software was ongoing. Next, the US-funded cross border semiconductor firms were setting up development centers in India. Dr. Bobby Mitra, TI, had cited the need for microelectronics as the national agenda.

Well, where are we today? Why hasn’t the fabless semiconductor industry grown in India?  Just two months ago, I wrote on how, China’s fabless market was set to double by 2015. Is any such movement even happening in India? At least, I am not aware, in case it were!

The establishment of fabless semiconductor companies is one good way to drive the growth of the semiconductor industry in India.

I still have the  photograph of the founding members of the ISA, which is pasted above. The original participants were: Dr. Ananda, Dr. Madhu Atre, S. Uma Mahesh, Rajendra Khare, Dr. Sridhar Mitta, Dr. Anand Anandkumar, V. Veerappan, S. Janakiraman and Dr. Satya Gupta. Today, the ISA only has Dr. Satya Gupta as a representative. One hopes the others have not been left behind in the run of events following the ISA’s formation!

By the way, why am I referring to the original ISA, and fabless companies? Perhaps, there is a very deep significance!

What’s happening with global semicon industry?

August 13, 2011 1 comment

1H11/1H10 top 20 semiconductor sales leaders. Source: IC Insight, USA.

1H11/1H10 top 20 semiconductor sales leaders. Source: IC Insights, USA.

IC Insights recently released the 1H-11 top 20 semicon sales leaders. No surprises here, with Intel, Samsung, TSMC, TI and Toshiba as the top five leaders in that order. In all, 10 of the top 20 suppliers outperformed the total global semiconductor industry 1H11/1H10 growth rate of 4 percent.

The fabless companies — notably, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and so on, have registered positive growths. However, if you really look carefully, a lot of the companies thereafter have registered negative growth for the period 1H-11 over 1H-10.

What’s surprising to notice is the fact that at least seven companies — Renesas, Hynix, Micron, AMD, Infineon, Elpida and NXP have registered negative growth! This, during a period when the semiconductor industry was said to be on the rebound?  Whatever the reasons, they are all in the red!

Now, we are not spent from discussing an industry turnaround, which is perhaps there!  Also, the forecast for 2H-11 isn’t something to go overboard. IC Insights expects the 2H11/1H11 semiconductor market to grow only 6 percent, that is, a full-year 2011 semiconductor industry growth rate of 5 percent.

Closer to home, as usual, there are no Indian firms in the global top 20 list. As things stand, they may not even make it to the list, at least, for quite a while. One hopes that this situation somehow changes. Wonder, how did the India Semiconductor Association (ISA)-Frost & Sullivan study come up with a figure of 28.3 percent growth in 2010! Perhaps, I am mistaken in my calculations somewhere!!

2011 global semicon sales growth likely to trend downward for rest of year?

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

According to the WSTS’s HBR, June’s actual sales came in at $27.110 billion with the corresponding June 3MMA sales at $24.677 billion. It should be mentioned that the previous five months (January through May, respectively), experienced very slight upward sales revisions from last month’s published HBR, as highlighted in the table below:

Source: Cowan LRA model, USA.

Source: Cowan LRA model, USA.

The Cowan LRA model’s sales forecast estimates for June as determined (and shared) last month were $29.435 billion (actual) and $25.445 billion (3MMA), respectively. Thus, the model’s June MI (Momentum Indicator) came in at minus 7.9 percent. This indicates (mathematically speaking) that the semiconductor industry’s June actual sales was much lower than the model’s forecasted expectation by $2.325 billion and that, most probably, 2011’s sales growth will continue to trend downward for the rest of this year.

Plugging the latest actual June sales into the forecasting model yields the following updated sales and sales growth forecast estimates for 2011 and the first two quarters of 2012:

Source: Cowan LRA model, USA.

Source: Cowan LRA model, USA.

The key take-aways from comparing the latest versus previous month’s forecast results (from the above two tables) are highlighted here: Read more…

Growth forecast down for global semicon industry?

August 1, 2011 Comments off

There are two different sets of predictions about the global semiconductor industry. First, IC Insights lowered its growth forecast for 2011 from 10 percent to 5 percent and the 2011 IC market forecast from 10 percent to 4 percent. Following this, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), announced that global sales of semiconductors were $24.7 billion for June 2011, a 1.5 percent decrease from the prior month when sales were $25 billion and 0.5 percent decrease from a year ago.

Sales in Q2-11 were down 2 percent compared to the prior quarter. Despite these, the global semicon industry registered growth of 3.7 percent during H1-2011, noted SIA. These are indeed interesting!

Brian Toohey, president, SIA, remarked, “Despite this month’s modest contraction in sales, the industry saw a 3.7 percent increase in the first half of 2011 sales compared to the same period last year which saw record breaking growth.”

At first glance, these lower predictions could be attributed to the still-recovering Japan. IC Insights has lowered projections owing to poor performance by the global economy in the first half of 2011. On the other hand, SIA is hopeful of the inclusion of more green and smart technology in vehicles, although it is still a few years away.

Besides Japan, IC Insights has listed the Arab unrest and higher oil prices, surge of natural disasters in the US, and European debt crises and US debt ceiling deadline as the economic headwinds during H1-2011. Will those go away so soon?

While the global GDP growth during H2-2011 is not likely to go back to the levels registered during the first three quarters of 2011, it is expected that there may be some improvement.

IC Insights’  forecast also assumes that the issues mentioned will be resolved and none of those will cause any serious negative financial situation for the global economy in H2 of 2011.

Just last month, Dr. Wally Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics, said: “There is more new capacity coming into foundries by 2012. Investment in memory has been modest. However, fabless companies should find more capacity in 2012.” One hopes this holds true!

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