25th May 2010

UMC seeks funds

Once the number 2 pure-play foundry in the world, UMC now lags behind TSMC, Samsung and GlobalFoundries in process technology.

The Taiwanese foundry is open to involvement from any strategic partner through private placement of 10% of its total shares or about $400 million for capacity expansion.. TI, ASML and GlobalFoundries are among the potential investors for the placement. GlobalFoundries has a major fab under construction in NY and is eager to add capacity; which can be achieved if it taps UMC. In fact, earlier in the year, it was rumored that ATIC approached UMC with a view to take a stake in it and secure additional production capacity.  A strategic partnership between the two would allow them to better compete with market leader TSMC.
 

Only the big can survive in this foundry biz. Consolidation will happen. The question is when and who will be the last few standing.

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Foundry | 0 Comments

11th May 2010

ARM’s foray into the server market

Coming close on the heels of ARM’s CEO, Warren East’s remark that ARM based servers will be out in the market in the next 12 months,  comes news from Marvell – the fabless company aims to supply silicon for ARM-based servers with 40-nm multi core processors that it will ship this year. As per EE Times, Marvell and ARM are working with “multiple Tier 1 companies” to build larger trial deployments to validate ARM as a server platform. Separately, Marvell has opened up its dual-core architecture, drivers and board support package so partners can create server software needed to support the new market initiative”

Opinions about ARM’s foray into server market making a dent in Intel’s server biz vary. ARM’s marketing chief, Ian Drew recently pointed out that “We’re an [intellectual property] company — we learned in last two years that we don’t know everything about everything. On the servers, it will take longer than we imagine because it’s a much more complex problem [than smartbooks or phones]”. ARM is running one of its websites (for the ARM Linux Internet Platform) on a cluster of ARM based chips, part of a handful of experiments to test out the viability of using its chip architecture in severs. They are Marvel based.
 

The server market, long dominated by Intel, has lately seen increasing power concerns. Google’s recent acquisition, Agnilux, was rumored to be making servers with ARM architecture. TI is researching the use of DSPs in servers. Intel’s best hope can lie in working along with companies using its low power Atom chips to build power efficient servers.
 

“East wasn’t willing to name the chip foundries that ARM is working with, however he said that information should tip up in the next 12 months.” Now if one of these foundries happens to be GlobalFoundries, it’d be interesting to see how the server market pans out – Intel’s long term rival, AMD and Global Foundries share the same parent company.

posted in Semiconductor, Business, IP | 0 Comments

10th May 2010

What’s happening on the 450mm wafer front?

Speaking at the International Electronic s Forum 2010 early this month, TSMC’s CTO, Jack Sun, said that he believed a move to 450mm wafers is important for cost reduction and that is going to happen; he reckons middle of this decade. 

The three biggest capex spenders -TSMC, Samsung and Intel want 450mm. But none have contributed substantial funding – an estimated $25bn - $30bn R&D investment by suppliers. 300mm was funded by the equipment suppliers. The same may not be expected this time as the fact whether the suppliers have recouped their investments is still uncertain. Plus they have their other expensive baggage – transition to new process nodes, TSVs, materials etc. 

Now come to the equipment makers. To improve their competetiveness and therefore increase their chances to be selected by the tier 1 semiconductor companies in their future 450-mm operations, the European semiconductor equipment and materials makers support the move to 450mm. However, large non-European semiconductor equipment manufacturers, including Applied, Novellus, Lam, TEL and others, have publicly slammed the idea of the 450-mm wafer transition  

Prior to 2002 (before 300mm wafers actually took off), semiconductor and equipment revenues were more or less aligned. However, post 2002, semiconductor revenues have continued to diverge from equipment revenues, and the ratio of equipment to semiconductor revenues is at an all time low - a divergence attributed largely to the impact of 300mm wafers. 

So the question remains: Who funds the 450 mm, if at all??    

 

posted in Semiconductor, Foundry | 0 Comments

7th May 2010

Analysts bump up their forecasts with “blowout” Q1

Q1 has been good for the semiconductor industry. Very good, especially w.r.t the dismal 2009.

With Q1 results ranging from knock out to good and promising, industry analysts (iSuppli, Future Horizons etc.) are also revising up their forecasts. The average forecast points north of 30. iSuppli noted that even though semicon revenues typically declines in the first quarter (compared to forth quarter of previous year), Q1’ 2010 saw chip sales up 1..1% compared with Q4 ’09.  Malcolm Penn of Future Horizons has been quite bullish. While cautioning about the potential for a second dip in the general economy, he maintained that only a monumental disaster of a scale similar to the banking crisis of 2008 could now derail the chip market recovery.

However, companies are still treading warily and hesitant to ramp up capacities – there is not much sign of the supply chain easing up.

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Forecasts | 1 Comment

6th May 2010

Shortages hit LCD Driver IC

Close on the heels of analog chip shortages, comes the LCD driver IC one.
While there is a high demand for LCDs (used in notebooks, desktop PCs and cellular phones), chip makers are reluctant to add capacity – the older, high voltage and older technologies used for making them are considered unprofitable.
Companies are going in for alternate options – Samsung and Toshiba has paired up with Toshiba to start production of a “common-type” driver for 256-color super-twisted nematic LCD drivers and Samsung to produce the complementary “segment-type” driver. NEC, a leading driver supplier, is outsourcing to Sanyo Electric.   

posted in Semiconductor, Product, Business | 0 Comments

6th May 2010

Analog IC market - a sellers market for 2010

The tight supply of analog ICs seems set to continue. The current demand is growing faster than the capacity ramp ups and quite a few analog vendors are turning away business. 

Analog chip makers are struggling with part shortages and extended lead times. Further investments for capacity ramp-up, optimizing fab outputs etc. are taking place in an uncertain backdrop of a “relatively accurate picture of actual demand”.  TI is expanding its 300mm analog fab – though, after off-loading its wireless products, it has to expand capacity for analog significantly in order to maintain growth momentum. Maxim is taking several actions – optimizing existing production lines and increasing loading to foundry partner, Epson.  The analog IC market in particular looks to be a seller’s market for the entire 2010!   

 

posted in Business, Analog | 0 Comments

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