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Obama urges US to ‘keep going’ in clean energy!

February 13, 2013 4 comments

US president Barack Obama.

US president Barack Obama.

I was watching US president Barack Obama deliver the state of the union address. There was lot of positiveness. First, he urged the Congress to get together and pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change. He called for the nation to embrace the need for modest reforms in medical healthcare.

The USA’s first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, the US manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three years. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again. That should great news for the Americans!

Following the first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio, Obama announced the launch of three more manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Department of Defense and Energy to turn regions into global centers of high-tech jobs. He asked the Congress to help create a network of 15 hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made in America.

America, he said, was poised to control its energy future. The US has doubled the amount of renewable energy generated from sources like wind and solar — with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it. He urged the Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. He called to generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year — there’s a need to drive down costs even further! He urged the US to keep going all in on clean energy, like China. Obama added that those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

The initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing — will help entrepreneurs and small business owners expand and create new jobs. However, none of it will matter unless the US equips citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. That has to start as early as possible, he urged!

Obama has signed a new executive order that will strengthen USA’s cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect national security, jobs, and privacy. He called upon the Congress to pass legislation that would give the government a greater capacity to secure USA’s networks and deter attacks.

As Obama said during his speech, “The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next!” Can India, at least, learn?

Reliving 9/11! I am numbed!!


May 1/2 marks a great day in the democratic history of the world, and especially of America! The US forces killed wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden, the man behind the 9/11 bombings in New York, in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Paul, Micheal, Ian, Swee Heng, did you all hear that?? How do you feel about it?

I am numbed! Don’t know how to react!! All I remember is that fateful evening of September 11, 2001! Back then, I was Editor, Wireless Week, Asian Edition, which was later shut down. I had just returned from work in Singapore, and switched on the TV set, while having dinner. As usual, I had browsed to CNN to see what’s happening worldwide. Suddenly, around 9.30pm, Singapore time, there was a news flash — the Twin Towers had been hit by planes!

What followed thereafter is something that one can only imagine to witness in a movie hall!

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the event: “On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and crashed it into the northern facade of the north tower at 08:46, impacting between the 93rd and 99th floors.  Seventeen minutes later, a second team of terrorists crashed the similarly hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 into the south tower, impacting between the 77th and 85th floors.”

The next morning, I went to the office, only to be greeted by a memo, and more tragic news, that two of our colleagues were in one of the planes, probably, American Airlines Flight 11, that had crashed into the Twin Towers. The other plane that crashed into the Twin Towers was the United Airlines Flight 175. My colleagues were en route to attend the Wireless Show, to be held in Las Vegas! Little did they know that their lives would end so tragically!

Post 9/11, Reed Elsevier called off its plans for Asia, as I, and several others, were laid off!

Most of the gentlemen, whom I have named in this blog, were also asked to leave, although a bit later!

Today, the wheel seems to have turned full circle!

Categories: USA

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.

Will solar downturn lead to more mature PV industry?

April 17, 2009 Comments off

The severe downturn in the global Photovoltaic (PV) market in 2009 actually could have a positive outcome for the worldwide solar industry, yielding a more mature and orderly supply chain when growth returns, according to iSuppli Corp.

Worldwide installations of PV systems will decline to 3.5 Gigawatts (GW) in 2009, down 32 percent from 5.2GW in 2008. With the average price per solar watt declining by 12 percent in 2009, global revenue generated by PV system installations will plunge by 40.2 percent to $18.2 billion, down from $30.5 billion in 2008.

The figures present iSuppli’s forecasts of global PV installations in terms of gigawatts and revenue.

Fig 1: Global Photovoltaic System Installation Forecast in Megawatts, 2008-2013Source: iSuppli, April 2009

“For years, the PV industry enjoyed vigorous double-digit annual growth in the 40 percent range, spurring a wild-west mentality among market participants,” said Dr. Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst for iSuppli. “An ever-rising flood of market participants attempted to capitalize on this growth, all hoping to claim a 10 percent share of market revenue by throwing more production capacity into the market. This overproduction situation, along with a decline in demand, will lead to the sharp, unprecedented fall in PV industry revenue in 2009.”

However, the 2009 PV downturn, like the PC shakeout of the mid 1980s, is likely to change the current market paradigm, cutting down on industry excesses and leading to a more mature market in 2010 and beyond.

Fig 2: Global Revenues Generated by Photovoltaic Installations 2008-2013 in Millions of US DollarsSource: iSuppli, April 2009

“The number of new suppliers entering and competing in the PV supply chain will decelerate and the rate of new capacity additions will slow, bringing a better balance between supply and demand in the future,” Wicht said.

Blame it on Spain
The single event most responsible for the 2009 PV market slowdown was a sharp decline in expected PV installations in Spain. Spain accounted for 50 percent of worldwide installations in 2008. An artificial demand surge had been created in Spain as the time approached when the country’s feed-in-tariff rate was set to drop and a new cap of 500 Megawatts (MW) loomed for projects qualifying for the above-market tariff. This set a well-defined deadline for growth in the Spanish market in 2009 and 2010.

While the Spanish situation is spurring a surge in excess inventory and falling prices for solar cells and systems, this will not stimulate sufficient demand to compensate for the lost sales in 2009. Even new and upgraded incentives for solar installations from nations including the United States and Japan—and attractive investment conditions in France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece and other countries—cannot compensate for the Spanish whiplash in 2009.

The Spanish impact will continue into 2010, restraining global revenue growth to 29.2 percent for the year. Beyond Spain, the PV market is being adversely impacted by the credit crunch.

“Power production investors and commercial entities are at least partially dependent upon debt financing,” Wicht noted. “Starting in the first quarter of 2009, many large and medium solar-installation projects went on hold as they awaited a thaw in bank credit flows.”

After the fall
After 2010, the fundamental drivers of PV demand will reassert themselves, bringing a 57.8 percent increase in revenue in 2011 and similar growth rates in 2012 and 2013.

“PV remains attractive because it continues to demonstrate a favorable Return on Investment (RoI),” Wicht said. “Furthermore, government incentives in the form of above-market feed-in-tariffs and tax breaks will remain in place, making the RoI equations viable through 2012. Cost reductions will lead to attractive RoI and payback periods even without governmental help after 2012.”

Furthermore, lower system prices will open up new markets by lowering incentives and subvention costs. The lower the PV system prices are, the lower the incentives will have to be. Developing regions will be big the beneficiaries of these lower prices and thus will grow faster than the global average, Wicht said.

Source: iSuppli, USA

Obama strikes right chords for science and technology!

January 20, 2009 Comments off

Finally, the USA has Barack Obama as its 44th president! There are bound to be lots of expectations from the new president of the United States.

Very interestingly, and aptly, Obama referred to science and technology in his inaugural speech. Surely, it is not a place for any US president to detail his policy, but from what everyone heard, the new President struck the right chords.

Savor some of these extracts from his inaugural speech:

“The state of the economy calls for action—bold and swift—and we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids, and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.”

“We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.”

“We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

Wonderful! The US President clearly hinted at the role science will play during his tenure. Also, his suggestion of ‘harnessing the sun and the winds’ points to the growing importance of renewable energy, hybrid cars, and of course, solar photovoltaics.

I’ve indicated in an earlier blog post that Obama’s, “New Energy for America Plan” could have a significant impact on the US solar industry.

The plan’s provisions include:
• A federal renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires 10 percent of electricity consumed in the US to come from renewable sources by 2012.
• A $150 billion investment over 10 years in research, technologydemonstration and commercial deployment of clean energy technology.
• Extension of production tax credits for five years to encourage renewable energy production.
• A cap-and-trade system of carbon credits to provide an incentive for businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The focus on healthcare could see more attention on medical electronics — just my guess — and use it to provide affordable healthcare services.

I’d be very interested to see even more activity on hybrid cars. Closer to home we have had two great prototypes of hybrid/fuel-efficient cars last year — the Chimera, said to be India’s first plug-in hybrid car, and the Garuda.

As I am about to unwind for the day, I received a press release from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), USA, where the CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro congratulated Barack Obama on becoming the 44th President of the United States of America, saying: “On behalf of its 2,200 consumer technology member companies, CEA congratulates President Obama, our first digital president, on his inauguration.”

Indeed, Obama is the USA’s and the world’s first digital president! I’d go on to add that he’s the world’s first Web 2.0 president! For instance, the amount of activity on Facebook has been overwhelming. Oh, in case you happen to visit the White House web site, it’s brand new! The site says: “WhiteHouse.gov will be a central part of President Obama’s pledge to make his the most transparent and accountable administration in American history.”

What India brings to the table for semicon world! And, for Japan

August 24, 2008 Comments off

This semicon blog’s title has been inspired by some queries, largely from friends in Japan, who are looking at the Indian semiconductor market. The topic of great global (and Japanese) interest is: What does India bring to the table for the semicon world to go to India!

Interesting! The world has been keenly following the Indian semiconductor and fab policy, and can gather a lot of information off my blog itself! For those who’d like to know it all again in specifics, here we go again!

Indian semicon and fab policy
Around September last year, the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and IT, Government of India, came up with the Special Incentive Package Scheme (SIPS) to encourage investments for setting up semicon fabs, and other micro and nanotechnology manufacturing industries in India!

The “ecosystem units” have been clearly defined as units, other than a fab unit, for manufacture of semiconductors, displays, including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products; and assembly and test of all the above products.

What has happened since?
Lots! Initially, there were two major proposals from HSMC and SemIndia for setting up wafer IC fabs. While those haven’t really taken off yet, more investments have since happened in India.

Quite recently, the Indian semiconductor and fab policy attracted 12 major proposals, worth a whopping Rs. 93,000 crores! The Department of Information Technology (DIT), Government of India, has set up a panel of technical experts to evaluate these proposals.

Ten (10) of these proposals are for solar/PV. One is for a semiconductor wafer — from Reliance Industries worth Rs. 18,521 crores, and another for TFT LCD flat panels — from Videocon Industries, worth Rs. 8,000 crores.

The 10 proposals for solar/PV are from: KSK Surya (Rs. 3,211 crores), Lanco Solar (Rs. 12,938 crores), PV Technologies India (Rs. 6,000 crores), Phoenix Solar India (Rs. 1,200 crores), Reliance Industries (Rs. 11,631 crores), Signet Solar Inc. (Rs. 9,672 crores), Solar Semiconductor (Rs. 11,821 crores), TF Solar Power (Rs. 2,348 crores), Tata BP Solar India (Rs. 1,692.80 crores), and Titan Energy System (Rs. 5,880.58 crores). This is as far the latest developments are concerned!

Solar fabs have also been announced earlier by leading firms such as Videocon, Reliance and Moser Baer, etc. (Two of them are figuring here again!) There are also talks about developing solar farms in India, which is good.

What are India’s strengths?
The clear strengths of the Indian semiconductor industry are embedded and design services! We are NOT YET into product development, but one sincerely hopes that it gathers pace.

The market drivers in India are mobile phone services, IT services/BPO, automobiles and IT hardware. India is also very strong in design tools, system architecture and VLSI design, has quite strong IP protection laws, and is reasonably strong in concept/innovation in semiconductors.

Testing and packaging are in a nascent stage. India will certainly have more of ATMP facilities. Nearly every single semicon giant has an India presence! That should indicate the amount of interest the outside world has on India. In fact, I am told, some key decisions are now made out of the Bangalore based outfits!

Electronics manufacturing
In the electronics manufacturing domain, India’s strength lies in hardware, embedded software and industrial design, OEMs, component distribution (includes semiconductor and box build), and end user/distribution channel, as well as more than moderate strength in product design and manufacturing (ODM, EMS).

India is likely to witness $363 billion of equipment consumption and $155 billion of domestic production by 2015. India’s electronic equipment consumption in 2005 was 1.8 percent. It is likely to grow to 5.5 percent in 2010 and 11 percent in 2015, as per a joint study conducted by the ISA and Frost & Sullivan.

The Indian semiconductor TAM (total available market) revenue is likely to grow by 2.5 times while the TM (total market) is likely to double revenues in 2009. The TAM is likely to grow at a CAGR of 35.8 percent and the TM is likely to grow at a CAGR of 26.7 percent, respectively, during the period 2006-09.

Telecom, and IT and office automation are the leading segments in TM and TAM. Consumer segment occupies the third fastest growing area in the TM, and the industrial segment is the third fastest growing area in the TAM.

The major semiconductor categories of interest include microprocessors, analog, memory, discretes and ASICs, while the major end use products include mobile handsets, BTS, desktops, notebooks, set-top boxes and CRT TVs.

India, the embedded superstar!
India’s embedded design industry has been going from strength to strength. An IDC-ISA report forecasts the revenues from India’s VLSI, board design and embedded software industry to grow to $10.96bn by 2010 from the current $6.08bn in 2007.

India is also focusing on moving up the semiconductor value chain. It is emphasizing on end-to-end product development, investing in IP development, developing India specific products, and partnering with OEMs to understand the market needs. Also, be aware that several leading EMS firms are present in India as well.

What should investors do?
Certainly, invest in India! The Indian semicon policy clearly defines the “ecosystem units.” Global manufacturers of displays, including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; including SSDs, solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products, should certainly look at investing in India, and consider manufacturing here!

Lots of solar fabs are likely to come up, so there will be a great demand for solar related equipment, chemicals, testing, etc. We hope that one wafer IC fab comes up as well, so there will be opportunity for semicon equipment manufacturers. However, do be prepared to wait as things may not move as fast as some may expect.

There is lot of opportunity for fabless companies and in ATMP as well. There are several Indian firms, small ones, who may be interested in partnering. Some trading companies may find India of interest, especially in the solar/PV and ATMP segments.

Keep an eye on the IT/semicon policies some states, especially, Karnataka have in store. A host of opportunities could become available, once Karnataka comes up with a policy. More states may follow suit!

Well, do contact me in case you need further assistance!

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