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Round-up 2013: Best of semiconductors, electronics and solar

December 31, 2013 Comments off

Virtex UltraScale device.

Virtex UltraScale device.

Friends, here’s a review of 2013! There have been the usual hits and misses, globally, while in India, the electronics and semiconductor industries really need to do a lot more! Enjoy, and here’s wishing everyone a Very Happy and Prosperous 2014! Be safe and stay safe!!

DEC. 2013
What does it take to create Silicon Valley!

How’s global semicon industry performing in sub-20nm era?

Xilinx announces 20nm All Programmable UltraSCALE portfolio

Dr. Wally Rhines: Watch out for 14/16nm technologies in 2014!

Outlook 2014: Xilinx bets big on 28nm

NOV. 2013
Indian electronics scenario still dull: Leaptech

Connecting intelligence today for connected world: ARM

India poses huge opportunity for DLP: TI

SEMICON Europa 2013: Where does Europe stand in 450mm path?

OCT. 2013
Apple’s done it again, wth iPad Air!

IEF 2013: New markets and opportunities in sub-20nm era!

SEPT. 2013
ST intros STM32F4 series high-performance Cortex-M4 MCUs

Great, India’s having fabs! But, is the tech choice right?

G450C

G450C

Now, India to have two semicon fabs!

Higher levels of abstraction growth area for EDA

AUG. 2013
Moore’s Law could come to an end within next decade: POET

What’s happening with 450mm: G450C update and status

300mm is the new 200mm!

JULY 2013
Xilinx tapes-out first UltraScale ASIC-class programmable architecture

JUNE 2013
EC’s goal: Reach 20 percent share in chip manufacturing by 2020!
Read more…

What does it take to create Silicon Valley!

December 29, 2013 1 comment

I was pointed out to a piece of news on TV, where a ruling chief minister of an Indian state apparently announced that he could make a particular state of India another Silicon Valley! Interesting!!

First, what’s the secret behind Silicon Valley? Well, I am not even qualified enough to state that! However, all I can say is: it is probably a desire to do something very different, and to make the world a better place – that’s possibly the biggest driver in all the entrepreneurs that have come to and out of Silicon Valley in the USA.

If you looked up Wikipedia, it says that the term Silicon Valley originally referred to the region’s large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers, but eventually, came to refer to all high-tech businesses in the area, and is now generally used as a metonym for the American high-technology sector.

So, where exactly is India’s high-tech sector? How many Indian state governments have even tried to foster such a sector? Ok, even if the state governments tried to foster, where are the entrepreneurs? Ok, an even easier one: how many school dropouts from India or even smal-time entrepreneurs have even made a foray into high-tech?

Right, so where are the silicon chip innovators from India? Sorry, I dd not even hear a word that you said? Can you speak out a little louder? It seems there are none! Rather, there has been very little to no development in India, barring the work that is done by the MNCs. Correct?
hsinchuOne friend told me that Bangalore is a place that can be Silicon Valley. Really? How?? With the presence of MNCs, he said! Well, Silicon Valley in the US does not have MNCs from other countries, are there? Let’s see! Some companies with bases in Silicon Valley, listed on Wikipedia, include Adobe, AMD, Apple, Applied Materials, Cisco, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, Juniper, KLA-Tencor, LSI, Marvell, Maxim, Nvidia, SanDisk, Xilinx, etc.

Now, most of these firms have setups in Bangalore, but isn’t that part of the companies’ expansion plans? Also, I have emails and requests from a whole lot of youngsters asking me: ‘Sir, please advice me which company should I join?’ Very, very few have asked me: ‘Sir, I have this idea. Is it worth exploring?’

Let’s face the truth. We, as a nation, so far, have not been one to take up challenges and do something new. The ones who do, or are inclined to do so, are working in one of the many MNCs – either in India or overseas.

So, how many budding entrepreneurs are there in India, who are willing to take the risk and plunge into serious R&D?

It really takes a lot to even conceive a Silicon Valley. It takes people of great vision to build something of a Silicon Valley, and not the presence of MNCs.

Just look at Hsinchu, in Taiwan, or even Shenzhen, in China. Specifically, look up Shenzhen Hi-Tech Industrial Park and the Hsinchu Science Park to get some ideas.

TSMC on 450mm transition: Lithography key!

October 3, 2012 1 comment

Dr. C.S. Yoo, TSMC.

Dr. C.S. Yoo, TSMC.

TSMC unveiled its schedule for 450mm mass production at the recently held SEMICON Taiwan 2012 450mm Supply Chain Forum. Focusing on lithography as the key, Dr. C.S. Yoo, senior director of the 450mm program at TSMC, noted that IC makers and equipment suppliers should fully leverage the G450C. They need to work and innovate to make the 450mm transition a great success.

TSMC has always been in the relentless pursuit of technology innovation. It has been part of all of the computing waves that have driven the market growth. Right now, mobile computing is the leading market driver. TSMC has been helping the industry produce comprehensive, powerful mobile computing devices.

The future growth drivers and trends include mobile computing, cloud computing and smart devices. However, technical and economic challenges also lie ahead. TSMC has been pushing the lithography roadmap. 28nm is said to be the limit of conventional single-patterning lithography. TSMC has innovations to extend immersion to 20nm. The next-generation lithography (NGL) is being preferred beyond 20nm. Also, EUV and multiple-e-beam concept and feasibility has been proven. The more than 10x throughput gap requires collaborative innovation and funding.

TSMC continues to invest in R&D for transistor architecture trends. There is increasing technology complexity, as reflected by mask layers increase. The technology shrink also leads to design complexity.

There are challenges such as intrinsic wafer cost parity and uncertain technology migration ROI. TSMC’s mission is to be the trusted technology and capacity provider for the global logic IC industry for years to come. TSMC already has capacity leadership. TSMC’s total 12″ cleanroom space will equal more than 32 World Cup football fields by the end of this year..

TSMC customers’ expectations include the offer of leading-edge technology, continue to expand capacity, enable faster time to market, faster technology ramp up, faster manufacturing cycle times, and lower cost /die. To bridge the cost and productivity gap, TSMC no longer maintains cost/transistor trend by 2018 due to the slowing pace of technology shrink, and increasing technology complexity.
Read more…

What’s this EoI got to do with semiconductor fabs in India?


Last week, I was alerted to a news on a local daily, which simply read: Government invites EoI for semiconductor fabs! With all due respect, what is the need for an Expression of Interest (EoI) in the first place? At least, I fail to understand!!

Having spent most of my life in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, I’ve seen plenty of fabs come up in the past decade, and before. Why? In the 1990s, no one used to even give a second look at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), which [I don’t know if many are aware] started operations in 1987.

Back in the mid- to late-1990s, I had the pleasure of attending several trade shows at the Taipei World Trade Center (TWTC), Taiwan. In fact, I tracked the rise of the Taiwanese and Chinese companies in telecoms and semiconductors. Back then, no one even noticed TSMC, as well as the Chinese backed Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC). However, the art of manufacturing, which had found its bearings in Taiwan, were steadily shifting to China. I even remember visiting Huawei in the middle of 2000, and later ZTE.

By 2000, many of the Taiwanese firms had moved their operations to China for managing cheaper labor costs. Today, China has assumed gigantic proportions, hasn’t it? Today, even TSMC is in the list of top 10 global semiconductor companies. I had even written a post congratulating TSMC for making it to the top 10 R&D spenders during 2010.

What exactly does this EoI from the government of India set out to achieve? Well, for starters, the EoI should come from the technology companies on whether they are interested to start a fab in India. By the way, do you know what happened to the SIPS or the Indian semiconductor policy announced in 2007? It sank without a trace! A Karnataka Semicon Policy was unveiled with great fanfare last year. The result? No takers!! Read more…

Tablets likely to transform ICT industry landscape: Computex 2011

June 1, 2011 Comments off

Stephen Su, general director of IEK, Taiwan.

Stephen Su, general director of IEK, Taiwan.

According to Stephen Su, general director of IEK (Industrial Economics & Knowledge Center), Taiwan, tablets are likely to transform the ICT industry. He was delivering a keynote at the Computex 2011 pre-show conference being held in the city’s well known Taipei World Trade Center (TWTC).

Tablets are now said to be moving from ‘experience’ to ‘industry.’  Tablets will provide more innovative user-interface experiences as well. More cost will be spent on the user interface on tablets, as far as BoM is concerned, he added.

Further, tablets are likely to change the transactional model of the ICT industry, and will emerge as the new ‘service platform’  for the integration of ICT and the other industries as well.

In this scenario, Taiwan is now well poised to once more play a leading role among mobile devices. The country not only has leading mobile device manufacturing capabilities, it can also supply most of the required electronic components, said Su.

The next step will be to strengthen the technology of key components, terminal design, application platform and service innovation. In future, Taiwan could go on to become te leading development and innovation center in the world, he added.

Earlier, he said that there was a cross-over evolution among mobile devices. In smartphone usage, messaging and apps had overtaken voice. As for non-voice usage, heavy media content was currently being accessed regularly on the Apple iPad than the iPhone.

The iPad users are said to be spending more time with media content other devices. The users’ response has shown that the iPad truly affects the usage of other devices, besides smartphones. Smartphones will soon impact the growth of mobile phones, PMPs and PNDs. However, the tablet will mostly affect the netbook and e-reader, while gradually impacting the notebook, Su noted.

Consequently, there has been a transition in the mobile device industry —  from product to the ecosystem. More companies are now creating their own ecosystems, such as Apple, RIM (Blackberry), Nokia Ovi, Samsung, etc.

Three types of smartphone platforms — closed, hybrid and open — are shaping up for the ecosystem based competition. Innovative applications are said to be leading the development of key components.

Mobile devices are now focusing more on the experience, than on the product. Cloud services are being offered  around the clock for experience offering.

As a result, tablets are likely to transform the ICT industry, noted Su, as it is now moving from ‘experience’ to ‘industry.’

Clearly, mixed signals in OEM semiconductor design activities!

July 12, 2009 Comments off

Friends, here is the full report on iSuppli’s recent activity titled “Mixed Signals in OEM Design Activities”.

Min-Sun Moon, senior analyst, Semiconductor Spend and Design, iSuppli, discussed how the “values” of design activities are discerned globally and how design decisions are made by a given country.

This report should be of particular interest to the Indian semiconductor design industry as it is apparent there is considerable scope for growth and development.

It is very well documented that everyone has been hit hard by the economic downturn. The electronic OEMs are no exception. They have also reduced shipments. The average selling prices (ASPs) of semiconductor devices have dropped dramatically as well.

Top six design influencing countries
As per iSuppli’s Design Activity Tool, the top six countries leading in the design influence are as follow: USA, Japan, China/Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Germany. The United States retains the no. 1 position, followed by Japan and China.

The dramatic changes in ASPs of chips and products meant an almost about 5 percent drop in semiconductor spend in 2008, and above 21 percent drop in semiconductor spend by the top OEMs in 2009. Hence, design activities by top OEMs dropped significantly.

The USA apparently has been going through a tough period, and it does not seem to have a bright future in 2009-10 due to drop in design spends. However, in 2010, it should post about 9-10 percent growth. The top design influencers in the USA include HP, Dell, Apple and Motorola.

China seizes opportunity
According to Moon, Japan retained the second position. However, China has seized the opportunity during the recession. It has some growth compared to other countries who have had negative growth this year.

China still remains one of the most attractive markets for OEMs to enter. Many top OEM have either opened or expanded R&D centers in China in the last few years.

However, because of the recession, the expansion by OEMs slowed down in China during 2009. Nevertheless, the Chinese market continues to grow. In the next few years, China will grow and the other countries will have some positive growth as well, but their growth will be slower than that of China.

China has also been showing interesting signs. Some Chinese companies are trying to enter new markets, such as automotive.

China is currently the third largest country in terms of design influence. The design share is about 10 percent in 2009. China could get close to Japan and the USA, but it will not happen in the near future though.

Top five countries in 2009
In 2009, the top five countries by design influence spend share are as follows: USA — 31 percent, Japan — 25 percent, China/Hong Kong — 10 percent, Taiwan — 8 percent, South Korea — 7 percent, and the Rest of the World — 19 percent.

Mixed signals are apparent in the design activities by country. For instance, this year, the USA has been losing market share. A large percent of design activities are moving to the Asia Pacific region. Some business in the USA is being continued or reduced — and being moved to other regions — in order to maintain the business and lower the cost of operations.

Japan’s design spend share increased from 22 percent (approximately $40 bn in 2008) to 25 percent in 2009. Japan is bringing a lot of design activities back home.

Taiwan used to be third largest in the design influence, but has now dropped to the fourth position, with share in design spend reaching 8 percent in 2009. China also contributed to the changes here. However, it is still better than others as some OEMs are still outsourcing to some ODMs located in Taiwan.

Identifying targets by regions
iSuppli gave examples of designing with sensors and actuators, and LEDs, as these are very popular currently.

According to Moon, designs using sensors and actuators have been more than 30 percent in the USA, while Japan has more than 25 percent. It is over 20 percent in Europe, while such designs have been less in Asia Pacific — above 15 percent.

The biggest influencers for sensors and actuators in the USA are said to be Apple, HP and TRW Automotive.

For LEDs, more use has been happening in Japan — over 30 percent. As an example, there are more LED TV design activities in Japan. The biggest influencers for LEDs in Japan are Canon and Sony.

Changes due to M&A
Another trend visible in the design spend share has been the changes due to mergers and acquisitions.

As an example, we have the Mitac Group, which acquired Magellan’s consumer products division. In 2008, Mitac Group had 78 percent spend in Taiwan, and 18 percent in the USA. After acquiring Magellan, Taiwan’s design spend share became 57 percent and USA’s became 13 percent. On the other hand, France’s share grew to 17 percent and Russia’s to 7 percent. This indicates that country-wise, budgets do get changed. This is just one example.

These are indeed very interesting numbers and facts, and as mentioned earlier, India has a considerable opportunity as an influencer in the semiconductor design spend going forward.

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! 😉

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