28th April 2014

Mobility and IoT - and its impact on the semiconductor industry

I attended the Semicon 2014 last week here in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands – after a self-imposed hiatus of a few years. I attribute the hiatus to Semi charging people to attend its industry tracks. I do realize that they too have to make a bit of money to sustain but then it is always tough to pay for an event once you get used to participating in them for free for some years! Anyhow, as I was chairing a session on the Fabless/IDM Technology Challenges track in this year’s event, I had free access to all its tracks and especially the market trends as well as the networking cocktail event held on the first day. The market trend has always been a big crowd puller for Semi and this year was no exception.


Anyhow, let me talk here about the Fabless/IDM track. This was co-organized by SSIA (Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association) of which I happen to be an executive committee member, along with Semi.

The theme of this track was “Mobility and IoT - and its impact on the semiconductor industry “. The growth has been quite rapid in this space especially now in the IoT one. The potential market is huge, is fragmented and with low barriers to entry and no major competitors/players (as yet) – a conducive backdrop on Porter’s five competitive forces shaping industry competition. Unlike the smartphone market which has evolved into a cut throat biz dominated by vertically integrated players, the IoT looks set to provide a refreshing levelling impetus.

We are looking into some exciting and innovating market opportunities in this space, especially on the IoT front. Apart from the potentially high growth applications markets that this opens up for the semiconductor industry, the underlying fabric of our industry is also seeing transformation at various levels including the increasing inter dependency and synergy across the various entities in this eco system. These emerging application markets and morphing industry ecosystem bring along several interesting visions and opportunities as well as new challenges. So it was with a lot of excitement and quest for knowing more on this aspect that I was looking forward to chairing this session and especially more to moderating the panel discussion following the presentations. And of course, the great speakers and the panellist line-up fuelled this up.

The speakers included Vincent Tong, SVP, New Product Introductions and Worldwide Quality & Asia Pacific Executive Leader, Xilinx, Greg Turetzky, Strategic Business Development Manager, Wireless Communication Systems Group, Intel, Jennifer Teo, VP of Manufacturing and GM, Silicon Labs International and Giuseppe Miano, VP Asia Operations and MD, Broadcom, Singapore. Vincent’s talk dwelled on IoT requiring advanced SoC with differentiation as a key i.e. differentiation with intelligence and flexibility and hence programmability. Greg spoke about ubiquitous location for all mobile platforms, the opportunities and the challenges. The market opportunities have expanded from GPS to GNSS and now to location with the latter being the next big opportunity – always located and with context. Jennifer talked about how IoT is being a game changer and dwelt on the technologies required for the “things”. Giuseppe spoke about the 3rd wave of wireless connectivity – from connecting to consumption to sensing (and controlling). Have added another acronym to my vocab – BYOW (Bring your own wearable) – and must say I find that cool! He also spoke about the favourable market dynamics driving the growth as well as the aspects that need to start being considered especially on the manufacturing, logistics and suppliers side.

The panel discussion following these talks centred on “Harnessing the power of Mobility and IoT – perspectives from the semiconductor industry”. The panellists included the earlier speakers and
Subramani Kengeri, VP, Advanced Technology Architecture, GlobalFoundries and Francis Puno, Chairman SEA Work Group of Continua Health Alliance.


With stake holders from across the value-chain – IDM, fabless, foundry, application – the panel stirred up a lively and insightful debate. While the insights were quite forthcoming on my questions regarding the technical and even the ecosystem enablers, there was almost a conspiratorial silence from the panel on my query about the biz models they anticipated to develop or emerge with IoT applications. As they said, everyone is holding their cards close to their chest!

It was an insightful and a highly engaging session where all the speakers and panelists spoke passionately about this industry. And that is always heartening!


posted in Semiconductor, Business, Fabless, Industry Events, Ecosystem, Market trend, Internet of Things, IoT, IDM | 0 Comments

1st April 2013

My analyst series - Qualcomm (QCOM)

Another one on Qualcomm (QCOM)

Lead in mobile integrated chipset and wireless – Snapdragon series, wireless technology patents/licensing
Announced CMOS Power Amplifiers alternative to GaAs PAs for mid-high tiered 3G/4G smartphones

China market focus
- Well positioned to ride on China Mobile’s LTE wave (China Mobile announced spending $6.7b in 4G tech this year)
QCOM chips were in 14 of the 31 terminals selected for trial by China Mobile in Dec ’12 - nearest rival with 4 was Sequans.
- Biz model with local mobile chipset design companies and the system/handset manufacturers for licensing royalties

Major Revenue segments – licensing and sales
While in the last couple of years, QTL’s revenues were higher than that of QCT, QCOM is looking at double digits growth for both biz segments and QCT’s growth to be substantially higher than that of QTL.

Strong focus & investment in R&D
R&D in Q1 fiscal 2013 was 1.1B (18% of revenues)

Vertical integration for mobile eco-system
- Accelerating the commercialization of its Pixtronix MEMS displays using Sharp’s IGZO tech – Note however that the deadline for giving Sharp the 2nd half of $120m investment from QCOM has been extended now to June (due to some specs conditions not being met by Sharp)
- Ride on Internet of Things: Amongst others - Alljoyn and FlashLinq
- Moving beyond devices into wireless backhaul – DesignArt acquisition last year

Strong Financials
- Q1 ’13 earnings: $6b quarterly revenues (a 29% y-o-y increase), $1.91b profit (36% increase over previous year)
- Full-year revenue guidance to a range of $23.4 billion to $24.4 billion from its previous target of $23 billion to $24 billion.

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Fabless, 3G, Qualcomm, Ecosystem, Internet of Things, IoT, chip, connectivity, Mobile, 4G | 0 Comments

3rd July 2012

Fab Power

Looks like the scaling down road for fabless – foundry model is getting bumpier. First the high cost of setting up new fabs made the earlier IDMs get into the fab lite model – i.e. depend upon the pure play foundries for the basic process capacity and do the specialized process add-ons in-house to get the competitive advantage. The fabless companies too coupled with pure-play foundries and gained prominence. The industry seemed to have found a way out (at least temperoraliy) of the high cost challenges of scaling down coupled with the issues of designing multimillion gates chips with increasing features and decreasing time to market window.

But now the speed breakers on this road are getting frequent and higher. Take the last couple of examples. FD-SOI is one of the new transistor architectures thrown up by ST/ST-Ericsson for scaling down 28nm and below. The process is reported to give a 35% power performance gain and that too by a simpler process transition from the typical CMOS. But ST lacks the capacity and hence is exploring options with GlobalFoundries. The latter is reportedly insisting that it will use ST’s process to make parts for all other parties too, in exchange for this extra capacity – leading to ST/ST-E potentially losing on a big competitive edge of sole access to a proprietary process through its FD-SOI process.

The second recent example is of Qualcomm. The world’s largest fabless company uses TSMC‘s 28nm process to manufacture its Snapdragon S4. And the world’s largest pure play foundry has had yield/capacity issues on this node.

TSMC’s 28nm foundry capacity woes have put a dampener in the presently exclusive run of Qualcomm – the sole (at least presently) provider of integrated multimode 3G/4G LTE baseband chips. And it ripples further down the chain causing distress to LTE smartphone vendors. Shortage is not expected to cease before Q4’12. Qualcomm is now planning a 23 per cent increase in operating expenses this year and looking for alternative (apart from TSMC) suppliers. It’s CEO Paul Jacobs’s recent visit to Samsung, reportedly for discussions that included semiconductor supply as well as his comment of not ruling out owning the means of chip production has led to a lot of water cooler speculation.

Incidentally TSMC’s sales hit an all-time high (9.1% annual revenue growth) in April’12 – with much of the strong growth attributed by 28nm demand!

So where does this leave the fabless-foundry model? And how does this affect the IDMs?

One thing for sure is that the model will need to be tweaked in order to stand up to the sub 28nm/20nm challenges. Some pointers:

• Cost advantage of scaling down is diminishing for the foundries. The cost-per-transistor has been about 29% per node leading to cheaper scaled down chips. 28nm and sub has seen that levelling off for the foundries. Intel still has a big (at least a couple of years) lead in the process race. If the fabless companies do not see a steady decline in the cost-per-transistor in their foundries’ scaling, it certainly puts a spoke in their continuing down on the scaling path with this model.

• The prohibitive high cost of setting up a new fab and the related R&D and yield challenges just does not make sense for a fabless company, even Qualcomm, to start one. Owning a pre-planned and negotiated capacity or even production means with an existing foundry – yes but a fab from scratch, no, that doesn’t appear to be a viable option.

• With the increasing yield issues at smaller geometries pitched along with capacity shortage and uncertain market demand, a stronger vertical integration of supply chain may become the order of the day to sustain the fabless model – one which accounted for $64.9 billion in 2011. While expecting to resolve 28nm capacity shortage by Q4, TSMC has raised this year’s capex 42% to USD 8.5 billion to ride the market opportunities.

• Rewinding to one of my earlier blog posts (Jan 2008), I had cited a remark by Infineon’s CEO, Ziebart in an interview to EE Times’ rick Merritt, “The major thing giving semiconductor makers a competitive advantage has evaporated. Today everyone has access to the same process technology at roughly the same time. This access used to be what differentiated the best from the worst semiconductor companies, but now it has evaporated, What’s replacing process technology as a differentiator is systems know how, and it must be specific to a market area”. My comment to that, as also mentioned in the same post, was: Yes, the differentiator has moved from process technology; but it is due to access to the process techno. This access has become cost prohibitive for any single semiconductor company (perhaps leaving aside a couple with really deep pockets) and hence the scramble to find an alternate place in the value chain to survive.
That access to the process techno is now morphing, if not under threat.

• GlobalFoundties’ SVP Mojy Chian mentioned that “New challenges at 20nm and beyond will require deep, IDM-like collaboration to accelerate the time-to-market”. Now, does this mean that foundries will transition towards virtual IDMs?
Rewind to another earlier blog post (Dec 2007): “Over the last couple of years, we have seen IDMs going towards fablite and fabless models, and the emerging dominance of the original pure play foundries. I say “original” as lately these foundries are paving their way into newer territories like climbing up the design support value chain by increasing their IP portfolio, collaborating with EDA vendors for providing yield related data/information to the designers and reference design flows, and others – just short of coming up with their own ASSPs. So will we see the re-emergence of real IDMs albeit in the form of a morphed foundry??
IDMs, foundries, fabless… they are all morphing from their original identities and are reshaping the industry with their redefined (work in progress) grey and diffused boundaries

However, one thing stands tall amidst all this and that is “The “Fab power’ is increasingly getting honed into the semiconductor eco-system lately.” Fab matters

posted in Semiconductor, Process, Business, Foundry, Fabless, Technology, Samsung, Qualcomm, Intel, Ecosystem, chip design | 0 Comments

25th June 2012

Mediatek’s offer to buy MStar

Two compatriots for long at loggerheads have decided to join forces and take on the competition. News about Taiwanese chip designer MediaTek’s offer to buy rival MStar has created quite a buzz and water cooler speculation…. and of course the stock market. MStar was up 6.85 percent (maximum allowed in a session), while MediaTek gained 2.37 percent today.

My two cents’ worth addition to the buzz …..
- This acquisition will create the world’s fourth largest chip designer with total annual sales of US$4.2 billion in 2011

- The combined entity will have an almost 70% market share (a monopoly position??) in the TV SoC biz (DisplaySearch’s Q4’11 data put the two companies’ combined market share as 68.8%).

- Combined R&D resources and not looking over the shoulder for price cutting competition from the previous arch rivals can potentially sharpen the focus and product offering

- On the mobile phones arena: High end 3G smartphone chips along side the 2G ones for feature phones will consolidate & expand MediaTek’s mobile phone chip offering, especially in the emerging markets – more so in China where it has seen its once dominant position threatened by Spreadtrum and the likes (incidentally, MediaTek recently lost a TDSCDMA/WCDMA 3G chip socket in Samsung smartphone to Spreadtrum)

- And most importantly, it positions MediaTek well in an increasingly connected device market. With the growing convergence across platforms – TV, mobile phones, tablets/computing devices – it is crucial to integrate the relevant technologies across them so as to optimally and cost effectively leverage the same across the various platforms (Qualcomm announced a new Snapdragon for smart TVs and set top boxes in CES early this year and then at Computex later, it demonstrated its Smart TV reference platform with its quad-core Snapdragon S4 APQ8064 and MPQ8064 playing games and slinging TV frames. In E3 ’12 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), Samsung’s Smart TV included access to Nvidia’s new cloud gaming platform, GeForce Grid. Marvell too showcased its total solutions across Smart TVs, cloud computing and connectivity at Mobile World Congress)

- Concern: Talent retention/Integration of the combined work force. With almost 80% of MStar’s engineers doing the same work as folks at MediaTek, how will the parent entity avoid overlapping resources and address the potential loss (if not exodus) of talent?

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Communciation, Fabless, Industry Events, Mergers & Acquistions, 3G, MIDs, Samsung, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Spreadtrum, MStar | 0 Comments

25th October 2011

Could TSMC be your next chip design cloud owner?

In a 2009 technical report, ”The Clouds: A Berkeley view of cloud computing”, the authors cite “Cloud Computing is likely to have the same impact on software that foundries have had on the hardware industry”. The underlying logic being the high cost of semiconductor fabrication line leading to the rise of semiconductor fabs and these in turn “enabling” fabless semiconductor design companies whose value is in innovative chip design.

A week back, I moderated a panel discussion on cloud computing in the IC design world, especially on accelerating time to market. While issues on security – a challenge which is stacked right on top of the “barriers to entry”, were defended and discussed quite animatedly, Surprisingly, it was the “cloud ownership” aspect which evoked only some tepid responses.

Now from where I stand, I see cloud ownership as a vital component of chip design security in the cloud. After all, if I were to place my company’s most precious assets –i.e. my chip design database – on a cloud, I will definitely like to know as to who owns the cloud. And this is on top of my regular apprehensions about my data security, back up and related aspects.

Let me clarify - I am not talking here about the infra structure provider e.g. Amazon and the likes. Rather it is the cloud framework/database owner. The framework here includes components of the existing physical eco-system integrated together – design database, EDA tools, user interface etc. – without which cloud computing will just service individual IC design tasks i.e. storage and processing power requirements; something which on its own is not exactly fully leveraging this powerful biz paradigm shift aka cloud computing.

So again – who will own the chip design cloud? Will it be the foundries (also cited as “natural design aggregators”), the EDA vendors, the fabless design companies or yet another entity? The reply gleaned from most of the stormy discussions elsewhere in the nimbus zone gravitates towards foundry.

Which brings me back to the where I started this post – Riding on cloud computing, foundries may turn out to influence the hardware industry in more ways than one. And who else is better equipped to lead the way here than TSMC??

posted in Semiconductor, EDA, Business, Foundry, Fabless | 0 Comments

26th July 2011

MStar & Mediatek vying for Nokia’s 2G biz??

What happens when two local companies fight for the same pie? And when that pie has a component from a “once market leader, now floundering handset maker”? And when one of the pie contestants is also gnawing the market share of this “once market leader, now floundering handset maker”?

Well, speculations abound!

MStar and Mediatek,the two Taiwanese chip makers for mobile handsets are vying for Nokia’s 2G phones’ biz - a volume estimated to be around 285 million in 2013.

Mediatek made its prolific rise in handset chip biz by supplying chips to the shanzai/white box handset makers in China. By doing so, it eroded Nokia’s market share in that segment (of course, the other end of the spectrum was eroded by Apple, Samsung and the likes!)

MStar steered clear from this segment and has supplied customized chips to Samsung and LG for higher end mobile phones. Perhaps, these will steer Nokia’s biz towards them…

Lately Mediatek has been shedding it’s “shanzai market” tag and moving up the value chain – Spreadtrum may have a lot to do behind this move!

Interesting times ahead for these sparring compatriots!

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Communciation, Fabless | 0 Comments

22nd July 2011

Spreadtrum acquires Telegent - Deja-vu??

Spreadtrum Communications, the fabless developer of baseband and RF chips recently announced its acquisition of Telegent Systems, a developer of software and silicon for the reception of live broadcast television signals.

While trolling the net, I saw this article that gives a quirky feeling of déjà vu. The article’s contents basically go on these lines….

In 2007, the US Wi-Fi provider and GPS manufacturer, SiRF bought Centrality, a company with navigation & multimedia experience. Later, SiRF itself got acquired by CSR. In hindsight, industry analysts viewed the Centrality purchase as a bad move.

Now the money/invested parties part …Centrality’s major investors included Walden International and it had a NEA (New Enterprises Association) principle on its BoD. An NEA principle was also on the SiRF’s board. Baseline appeared to be - sell the company to a public company and for enough cash that would return the VC capital and perhaps a large profit at the same time for the investors.

Move on to today…

Spreadtrum buys Telegent. Telegent shot into fame (and profits) with its analog broadcast TV. Since then, it moved to mixed signal and then to digital – a realm with intense price competition and very low margins.

Telegent’s investors include New Enterprise Associates and Walden International. Telegent’s CFO was once SiRF’s CFO. Spreadtrum has an NEA principle on Board….. you get the drift?

Will Spreadtrum do a SiRF???

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Communciation, Fabless, Mergers & Acquistions | 0 Comments

8th February 2008

Denali software moves to become fabless IC IP provider

Denali Software is on the trend of IP providers morphing to provide a complete solution/platform instead of standalone IP blocks. Starting with an offering of memory modules, then adding on semiconductor-related memory IPs to its portfolio, it has now introduced FlashPoint -  a full PCI Express interface platform. The platform includes a complete hardware design ready for fabrication plus a complete software stack and all necessary drivers.

From offering all the separate IP components and related software & firmware needed, a platform for PCI Express seems a natural progression - all the more logical and practical to survive the wave of consolidation.

posted in IP, Fabless | 0 Comments

26th December 2007

SoC yield management – an emerging issue that could reshape the industry?

Read this interesting commentary by EDN’s Ron Wilson on Verigy’s acquisition of Inovys. While relating the ATE vendor’s acquisition as more towards acquiring Inovys’ failure localizing software, Ron has brought about an interesting emerging industry aspect

With “Time to entitled yield” becoming a critical metric especially for 65nm and below, it is doubtful if the existing distributed manufacturing model used between fabless companies and their foundry partners will suffice.  A closer loop is required which will cross the existing collaboration and contractual working relationships.And this leads to Ron’s observation – will we gradually see re-integration of design, test and failure analysis functions into real IDMs? 

Over the last couple of years, we have seen IDMs going towards fablite and fabless models, and the emerging dominance of the original pure play foundries. I say “original” as lately these foundries are paving their way into newer territories like climbing up the design support value chain by increasing their IP portfolio, collaborating with EDA vendors for providing yield related data/information to the designers and reference design flows,  and others – just short of coming up with their own ASSPs. 

So will we see the re-emergence of real IDMs albeit in the form of a morphed foundry??

posted in Business, Foundry, Fabless | 0 Comments

6th December 2007

Fab lite diet for analogs?

Over the last few years, we have been seeing IDMs outsourcing their digital production needs to the foundries. Now looks like, a similar path may be taken by the big analog IDMs too – or at least “their interest level in outsourcing has dramatically increased”, as per Thomas Hartung, VP of Sales & marketing for X-Fab.

Read a couple of interesting articles which highlight this potential move; here are few points from them which I’d like to share:

For years, analog IDMs have manufactured the bulk of their products in-house, shipping only a small percentage to foundries, for a number of reasons.

-    Many analog products do not require leading-edge fabs or processes. -    Most analog ICs have relatively small die sizes and wafer volumes are hence low as compared to their digital counterparts ; this does not work well with outside foundries-    Analog products generally have longer life cycles and can be made cheaply in older fabs for several years.

-    The real money makers in analog sell in modest volumes year after year; something that works for an internal fab but not at an expensive foundry.

-    And analog vendors insist fabs still give them a competitive edge as they work on the edges of highly optimized, internally developed processes

This doesn’t mean foundries have no role in the analog IC world. Foundries can effectively support fabless vendors of ICs that have considerable digital content but only modest analog content and that don’t push the envelope of analog performance. On the other hand, the specialized foundries are trying to get these analog IDMs look more towards outsourcing their production needs to them. Hans-Jurgen Straub, CEO, X-Fab Group, says that analog IDMs should focus on product innovation rather than on process innovation. Besides pushing its own analog & mixed signal processes, Germany’s X-Fab has also been acquiring fabs from various IDMs.(a US fab from TI in 1999, a UK fab from Zarlink semiconductor in 2002,  last year acquisition of Malaysia’s 1st Silicon and then ZMD AG’s wafer processing subsidiary early this year).

So, it is to be seen whether the analog IDMs will beat the same path as digital IDMs or continue in the old fashioned way  

posted in Business, Foundry, Fabless, Analog | 0 Comments

27th August 2007

Qualcomm gets into iSuppli’s top 10 chip suppliers list

Despite its woes (in June, Broadcom won a patent-infringement case against Qualcomm before the U.S. International Trade Commission. The import ban, coupled with a separate injunction in a federal court could cost Qualcomm $2.4 billion over five years. In addition, Nokia has recently asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to slap Qualcomm with an import ban on semiconductors that allegedly violate Nokia patents),  Qualcomm has become the first fabless company to figure in iSuppli’s top 10 chip suppliers ranking.


While this does give credence to the increasing strength of the fabless design model, it is to be seen how Qualcomm fares in retaining the competitive edge in the unfolding litigation saga.

posted in Fabless | 0 Comments

3rd December 2006

Fabless Qualcomm zooms to next node

Qualcomm, with its IFM (Integrated Fabless Manufacturing) strategy is quietly but steadily decreasing the gap between itself and IDMs in new process adoption time. The world’s largest fabless design company is leading the way in how the fabless design community needs to overcome the DSM hurdles of the widening gaps between IC design and manufacturing flows.

While not exactly striving to be process experts, Qualcomm has formed a virtual manufacturing organization including its VLSI Technology organization and DFX unit which has helped it to understand, appreciate and thus resolve a host of complex and costly issues. The results, closing of the technology gap with the IDMs, are the proof.
They are cautious enough, though, as to not necessarily be the first ones to ship out a new product on a new technology node.

With Paul Jacobs’ strategy of making people understand that Qualcomm is a wireless technology company and not just a CDMA company, it needs all the efforts and results to zoom to the next node in a competitive manner.

posted in Business, Fabless | 0 Comments

9th November 2006

Taiwan’s design houses continue to attract buyouts

Atheros recently picked up Attansic Technology, a designer of Ethernet chips in Taiwan for its Gigabit Ethernet technology for 802.11n market. Attansic is a subsidiary of Asustek. Craig Barratt, CEO of Atheros said, “there has really been tremendous growth in companies in Taiwan doing pretty impressive R&D, creative engineering and product development.”

Moving to India – India needs to include IPs and technology know-how into their growing expertise portfolio. As I mentioned in an earlier post, product know-how is essential for the differentiating factor. With its relatively better copyright rules as compared to China for example, if the Indian companies can supplement their design skills and embedded software expertise with the product & technology know-how, they can raise the stakes higher.

There are some examples like Wipro, Tejas Networks etc. but it’ll be good to see this list grow.

posted in Business, Fabless | 0 Comments

9th June 2006

IC Design Houses survey by EE Times Asia (Taiwan, China)

A snapshot analysis from IC Design Houses Survey 2006 (China and Taiwan) report done by EE Times

A. Revenues
a. 2005 revenues (expected)
Average 5.4 M$ in China, 9.2 M$ in Taiwan
15 M$ and above–19 %,1-2.9 M$ - 19%,less than 250 K$ and 3-6.9M-17%
Broadly uniformly distributed
15 M$ and above – 37%, less than 250 K$ - 16%, 7-10.9 M$ and
11 – 14.9 M$ - 11%
Taiwan has extremes; 15M$ category followed by b. 2006 revenues (forecasted)
15 M$ and above – 28% (a big jump from ’05)
15 M$ and above – 53% (a big jump with a marginal increase in the lower categories)
Basically, there is a broad and uniform representation by design houses in China for all categories – small to big. This is a reflection of several design houses appearing on China’s microelectronics landscape in the last few years. Taiwan, on the other hand, being more mature in this area has most of its design houses represented in the 15M$ category and then several smaller ones.

B. Applications
- Taiwan is predominantly desktop and Laptop computers followed by
handhelds and other consumer electronics.
- China has a more even spread across handhelds/PDAs, wireless consumers,
Cellular Wireless equipment & other telecom.
- Cellular/Wireless is more than LAN/WAN equipment in China; it’s the
reverse in Taiwan.
- China also has a higher percentage in Automotives which is a growing market

C. Main difficulties when contracting foundries
China: Cycle time (54%) and cost (49%)
Taiwan: Cost (68%) and cycle time (45%)
Taiwan’s main application being Computing and Consumer Electronics which is a highly cost competitive market reflects this.

D. Design
ASICs (66%), SoC (59%), Standard IC (29%), ASSP (8%) PLD/FPGA (17%)
ASICs (61%), SoC (53%), Standard IC (28%), ASSP (19%), PLD/FPGA (7%)

- Analog/Mixed signal designs to decrease in China while there is a
slight increase in Taiwan.
- China & Taiwan – Percentage of Digital ASICs as well as DSPs to
decrease, SoC will be more or less constant.
- Taiwan has more ASSPs, an indicator of the Consumer Electronics market
with consumer focused system designs that can be rapidly configured.
- Fewer newer designs are expected in 2006 but as revenues are
expected to increase, this may indicate more revenue/design in ’06
as compared from ‘05

b. Technology/Process
Average of 10 (Taiwan) and 8 (China) design projects in ’05 with
Digital design (Taiwan/China)
0.13um (11%/ 14%), 0.18um (48%/46%), 0.25u (11%/12%), 0.35u (15%/16%), 0.5-1.5u (15%/12%)
Analog design (Taiwan/China)
0.13um (2%/10%), 0.18um (32%/24%), 0.25u (11%/15%), 0.35u (22%/16%), 0.5-1.5u (24%/25%)

- 0.18um is the most frequently used technology in both countries.
- China has more designs in 0.13um both in analog and digital as compared
to Taiwan.
- Digital designs have more or less jumped from 0.35um to 0.18um with not
many in 0.25um. Analog/Mixed Signal designs are mostly in 0.5u and
above and in 0.18um

c. Gate Count in ASIC designs
Taiwan: 3 major blocks – Less than 50K, 100k to 299k and 1 to 2.49M
China: More evenly spread. Bigger blocks are – 50k-99K, 500k to 999k,
1 to 2.49M gates

d. Challenges (Taiwan/China)
i. Reduction of design cycle time (60% / 60%)
Cycle time also figured highest for China under difficulties with foundries i.e. China’s biggest challenge is cycle time for both foundries as well as design cycle time while Taiwan has cost of foundries and design cycle time
ii. Reduction of design cost (51% / 46%)
iii. IP availability (23% / 23%)
iv. IP verification (18% / 16%)
v. DFT (5%/11%)
DFT figures higher in China. Can be attributed to higher gate complexity designs and types of designs (major applications - telecom equipment).
vi. Power Management (19% / 11%)
Power Management figures high in Taiwan after IP verification. This relates to the fact that Taiwan does a large chunk of designs for Consumer Electronics where power management is a major concern
vii. DFM (4%/ 1 %)
DFM figures higher in Taiwan. This may be attributed to the fact that the world’s top 2 foundries are from Taiwan. However, DFM is gaining momentum in sub micron technologies. So China with more designs moving to 0.13um as compared to Taiwan should have an equal if not higher figure for DFM under design challenges
viii. Design Iteration (5%/ 2%)
ix. Timing closure (5% / 2%)

E. Regional perspectives
IC design houses offer mostly Full system design followed by IP services. IP services is slightly higher in Taiwan w.r.t China (IP protection in China is a major concern and this reflected in the IP services numbers)

posted in Fabless, Survey | 0 Comments

19th October 2005

Design trends & EDA tools : China & Taiwan

I recently read the latest report from EE Times and Gartner Dataquest on Design Trends & EDA Tools : China & Taiwan. It can be accessed from their website http://www.eetasia.com.

The report makes a very interesting reading and made me ponder on a few points…….

ASIC Design segment

A. Application segment
While consumer applications remained the major application segment in Taiwan (as was in ’04 too), it displaced Telecom/Datacom in China to be the major one there too. Some possible underlying reasons (apart from generic market conditions) could be
· Telecom/Datacom designs have traditionally been using the leading edge process geometry. The rising mask costs associated with them could have been a factor of the decrease in new ASIC designs.
· The varied & vast set of categories within the consumer applications mkt. abets more ASIC designs and spin-offs.
· More consumer ASICs are coming out with the rapid growth of the China consumer mkt.

B. Gate Count
The general increase in the gate count follows the rising complexity which is also aided by the integration of various functions/categories in a single product.
Majority of the respondents working on large designs are companies that are local subsidiaries of foreign companies or local ventures – not joint ventures with foreign companies. This is mostly due to the high costs involved in large & complex designs. It makes sense for joint ventures with foreign companies to focus on the local marketing & enhance their foreign partner’s footprint in the local mkt.

C. Process Geometry
China figures indicate a more rapid embracing of newer technos.
The 0.18um in Taiwan, apart from remaining the predominant node for the past 3 years, has grown from 35% from last year to 44% while the 0.13um has increased from 13% to 23%.
0.18um is still the dominant node in China. However, it’s share has slightly decreased from 49% to 45%. But it’s in the 0.13um that we see the real increase – 12% to 31%

D. IP core usage rate
EDA companies’ share has decreased and has been correctly attributed to their partnering with foundries. With the increasing complexities and the focus going more towards Design for Yield, it is natural for foundries to play a major role in this partnership with EDA vendors/3rd party IP suppliers. The growing complexity of selecting the right IP & the subsequent issues seen during their integration in the design compel companies resort to developing them in-house. The marked surge in the independent 3rd party suppliers is also due the fact that they specialize in their niche IPs & these IPs are their main products.

EDA tools usage
Increasing reliability and reduced costs are the paramount factors for the electronic designers in Taiwan (increased functionality is no longer the most important goal) while increased functionality and reduced cost are the most important goals for the designers in China.

This possibly indicates a more mature market (in terms of EDA tools usage) in Taiwan where they seem to be more conversant and satisfied with the various functionality features offered by the EDA tools and hence are focusing more on reliability i.e. fewer issues while going through the design flow and hence shortening their time to market.
Cost reduction remains common; not surprising where Consumer applications is the predominant market.

posted in EDA, Fabless, Survey | 0 Comments

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