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Excerpts from Future Horizons’ International Electronics Forum 2009 @ Geneva

October 18, 2009 1 comment

Here are excerpts of some key presentations made on day 1 at the recently held International Electronics Forum 2009 (IEF 2009), in Geneva, Switzerland, from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, which was held under the auspices of the Geneva Chancellerie D’Etat & Istitut Carnot CEA LETI. I hope to be presenting full reports as well.

May I also take this opportunity to thank Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, as well as Gemma Fabian.

“Powering Out Of Recession With Innovation”’ — Maria Marced, President, Europe, TSMC

Maria Marced emphasised both investment and collaboration as a way forward for the semiconductor industry to recover from this recession. Based on the fact that every known recession has been followed by a strong recovery in demand the Taiwanese wafer foundry TSMC is expected to increase its earlier projected dollar investment plans substantially. Its new manufacturing GigaFab (Fab12-Phase4) will eventually be able to supply 150,000 wafers per month.

It will also being investing in people and will be adding 30 percent more R&D engineers to its existing 1200 worldwide and will also be adding 15 percent to its existing design technology engineers.

Maria stressed that it is innovation in our products and continued R&D that will improve semiconductor company margins. R&D costs and time-to-market can be reduced by processing equipment suppliers, IDMs and fabless companies collaborating with foundries for future success in finer geometries. TSMC has already announced that it has set up a development laboratory in a partnership with IMEC of Louvain, Belgium.

There were some questions about possible overcapacity as some plants in China were coming on line, but Maria thought differently as TSMC was already running at 90-95 percent of capacity today. There even could be a shortage of processed wafers in 2010.

“Feeding The World’s Insatiable Appetite For Memory – New Technologies, New Markets, New Applications” — Brian Harrison, President & CEO, Numonyx

Brian Harrison of Numonyx, a memory company jointly owned by STMicroelectronics and Intel, made a robust case for its latest technology Phase-Change Memory (PCM). Describing the history of non-volatile memory Brian showed its dramatic growth driven by both a continuously reduced cost-per-bit and new applications that needed its ability to support firmware that could be updated ‘down the wire’ or ‘across radio networks’.

The industries’ most recent entrant, PCM, is claimed to be a disruptive technology that will enable the next wave of innovation. In the right application it will replace both DRAM and flash memories — replacing these because of either speed, size, retention reliability or lower energy or a combination of all virtues.

Numonyx is already sampling 128Mbit 90nm product and has cost reduction 45nm process in development that is aimed at 1Gbit products. Samsung is also working on products in this field. The two companies are collaborating on package and interface standards.

“Agile Customer Support-Models For ‘More Moore” — Jean-Marc Chery, Executive VP & CTO, STMicroelectronics

Finer and finer geometries are still possible and there seems no immediate end, to the progress of process development. Jean-Marc needs a variety of processes to cater for broad application markets, that include automotive, industrial, medical and radio, so STMicroelectronics needs to maintain leads in low-power CMOS, smart power, analogue, discretes and MEMs markets.

To maintain this present agile supply chain and fund future development the company believes in growth in its own fabs in Crolles, Agrate, Tours and Catania, which gives it a key competitive differentiator. It then leverages these internal resources to deliver its business units the best price and foundry-like supply by using multiple sources.

As an example, STMicroelectronics joins European development programmes and works closely with laboratories such as CEA/LETI and other European institutes and universities. It is also involved in process development with the International Semiconductor Development Alliance (ISDA) which involves AMD, Chartered Semiconductor, IBM, Infineon, NEC, Samsung, and Toshiba. A 28nm CMOS process is being developed, which will be ready for volume production in 2010 at four sites.

What matters to Jean-Marc is keeping the ability to produce silicon subsystems for its chosen markets and this can be done either on-chip or by using 3-D integration techniques, such as stacking RF chips on top of digital CMOS within a single package. He finds these technologies important to keep in-house rather than going to an open-market foundry, although he does not rule out joint manufacturing plants with ISDA members. Read more…

Top NAND suppliers of the world: DRAMeXchange

February 8, 2009 Comments off

DRAMeXchange has recently released its rankings for the top NAND suppliers of the world. I am producing bits of that report here, for the benefit of those interested in NAND and the memory market.

Be aware, that this segment has been hit particularly bad. We have heard of Qimonda’s problems, as well as Spansion’s. They are trying to battle it out, gamefully, and best wishes to them.

The global semiconductor industry needs the flash memory segment to recover, and fast, to bring the health back in the industry, as well as the missing buzz!

Getting back to DRAMeXchange’s report, NAND Flash brand companies released their total revenue of 2008. Samsung’s annual revenue was $4.614 billion and it gained 40.4 percent market share, to maintain the number 1. position.

According to DRAMeXchange, the annual revenue of Toshiba was $3.25 billion, and its market share was 28.1 percent at the number 2 position. Its market share increased 3.1 percent compared to 2007.

Hynix’s annual revenue was $1.727 billion, with 15.1 percent market share. Though it stayed at the number 3 position, its market share declined 4.1 percent, compared to 2007.

Micron’s annual revenue was $897 million. It had a 7.9 percent market share, which enjoyed a 1.8 percent increase when compared to 2007. Micron was number 4. Intel was at number 5. Its annual revenue was $660 million with 5.8 percent market share, which increased 2.1 percent, compared to 2007.

Numonyx’s (STMicro) 2008 annual revenue was $295 million. It was at number 6 position with the market share of 2.6 percent, which remained the same as 2007.

According to DRAMeXchange, the 4Q08 total revenue of worldwide NAND Flash brand companies was $2.227 billion, which dropped 19.3 percent from $2.761 billion in 3Q08. Under the continuing impact of global recession and the influence of declining worldwide consumer confidence, the 4Q08 revenue of NAND Flash brand companies showed signs of decreasing.

The overall demand and expenditure for consumer electronics declined. Although bit growth in 4Q08 increased 18 percent QoQ, the overall average selling price (ASP) dropped 32 percent QoQ, says DRAMeXchange. A big thanks to DRAMeXchange.

NAND update: Market likely to recover in H2-09

August 20, 2008 Comments off

iSuppli’s recently published a report on the current NAND market conditions, which highlighted that Micron had managed to buck the weak NAND market conditions, and was actually closing the gap with Hynix in Q2 2008.

To find out more about the global NAND Flash market scenario, I managed to discuss the health of the NAND market conditions, performance of certain companies, and the possible impact of SSDs on the NAND market, in depth with Nam Hyung Kim, Director & Chief Analyst, Memory, for the market research firm, iSuppli Corp., El Segundo, Calif., USA.

I would also like to thank Jonathan Cassell, Editorial Director and Manager, Public Relations, iSuppli, for helping me out a lot! Without his assistance, this would not have been possible! Many thanks.

Now on to iSuppli and the NAND update. First up, NAND continues to be weak. How much longer, before we can see some sort of recovery?

Nam Hyung Kim says that the NAND market conditions will depend on the suppliers’ manufacturing capacity plans and on the global economy. The health of the NAND flash market is largely determined by consumer spending, since more than 85 percent of demand for the memory is generated by consumer-electronics-type products like digital still cameras, mobile handsets and flash storage devices.

“Market conditions won’t improve much this quarter. However, iSuppli Corp. does expect NAND prices to stabilize to some degree during the fourth quarter due to a slowdown in certain suppliers’ capacity expansion plans. A major recovery is expected in the second half of 2009,” he says.

So, what’s the reason for Micron to have done better in a weak market scenario?

According to Kim, Micron is doing well based on market share and sales growth—but not in terms of profitability. Micron has been expanding its market share by ramping up production aggressively. The company joined the flash market later than its competitors and is trying to catch up. In the memory world, a supplier needs to have critical scale. Without scale, the company won’t be competitive. Thus, Micron is increasing its scale—i.e., its volume—to be more like the size of the top-three suppliers at this moment.

If Micron has been aggressive, why haven’t the others? Possibly, the others could have also planned or migrate to 34nm! However, except for Samsung, all of the suppliers are losing money in their NAND businesses now.

“Each supplier has a different product mix and strategy, so being aggressive during tough times is not a suitable approach for certain firms. Others also plan to migrate their process to sub 40 nanometers. However, Micron will be the first one that produces 34nm products this year,” adds Kim.

iSuppli has now cut its 2008 NAND annual flash revenue growth forecast from 9 percent to virtually zero. When the slowdown had already been predicted during the end of last year, what was the need to cut predictions?

Kim agrees that this is indeed the second cut this year. “We cut our forecast early this year to 9 percent, which was a dramatic reduction from the more than 20 percent growth forecast previously. I believe, we were the first research firm that cut the market growth dramatically this year, followed by other research firms.

“The NAND flash market is relatively new and has lots of growth potential. However, oversupply issues, along with weak consumer spending, prompted us to cut the growth outlook further this time.”

Coming to the subject of solid-state drives, what are the chances of SSDs in helping with a turnaround in the NAND market? Or, are they (SSDs) hyped?

“I should not say SSDs (solid-state drives) are overhyped,” adds Kim. “There are lots of issues that the industry must overcome when bringing SSD technology to the real world. Hard disk drives (HDDs) have been used in PCs for more than 30 years, so the movement to SSD technology won’t be very rapid.”

iSuppli had predicted that SSDs would not impact the market this year or next year. The real prime time for SSD adoption will be in 2010. There are many optimization problems associated with SSDs, which is typical at an early stage in the technology industry. By 2011, iSuppli believes SSDs will be the number one NAND flash market driver in terms of dollar value.

iSuppli also believes that the global NAND flash per-megabit average selling price (ASP) will decline by about 60 percent in 2008, compared to its previous forecast of a 56 percent decline. On quizzing, he says, “As mentioned, the NAND flash market, even in third-quarter, holiday season, won’t have a turn around, which brings the ASP down to the 60 percent level.”

When NAND is taken out of the equation, how does the semiconductor industry look like? iSuppli believes that the 2009 global semiconductor market growth will be higher than that of this year. The semiconductor market is also cyclical, so it will be impacted by global GDP growth this year.

Finally, how does the research firm forsee Nymonyx (there was an article saying it will conquer NAND Flash)?

According to Kim, Numonyx is still a major NOR flash supplier with limited NAND flash market share. Unlike Intel, Numonyx’s focus is on mobile applications. Its joint-venture partner, Hynix, is scaling down its NAND flash production at this time and is focusing on DRAM production.

iSuppli doesn’t expect Numonyx to be a formidable competitor in the NAND flash memory market during the near term.

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