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.

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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.

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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!

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

16th August 2011

So what’s the deal with the Google –Motorola Mobility deal, eh?

The cyberspace is abuzz with news about Google acquiring Motorola Mobility for a whopping $12.5 billion. Speculations on Google’s motive behind the deal are mainly skewed towards 2 issues – access to patents and the other whether Google has plans to set up another end-to-end mobile empire akin to Apple. Add to that the buzzing concern of a high potential for conflict - mainly whether there still will be a “level playing field” amongst different Android handset vendors.

My two cents….

1. Access to patents: Motorola deal gives Google access to more than 17000 patents. This helps Google lend a legal hand to the embroiled Android handset vendors like HTC and Samsung as well as prepare itself against potential infringement law suits.

Flip side: If that was the main point, would Google not have been better off with just buying the patents like it did from IBM?

2. Potential conflict of interest – open OS partner or a handset competitor?? Now that can indeed be a worrying factor amongst the Android handset vendors - in spite of the prompt support statements from Samsung, HTC etc. Will these companies who had flocked towards Android to compete against Apple now gravitate towards Microsoft’s Windows Mobile? Google has stated that the handset biz will be kept as a separate independent biz and Android platform as an open one as before but the company will have a tough time treading this slippery slope in order to retain the Android handset vendors’ support.

Having said that, we have seen biz areas where the line between partner and competitor has blurred. Pure play foundries, IP vendors and IDMs is one such example. Market conditions have led to consolidation, fab lite etc. IDMs get the core process wafers done from foundries and keep some special process add-ons in-house to retain their specific niche. IP vendors work along with foundries in spite of foundries touting their own IP portfolio as well as specific design services.
Individually it has got very difficult to compete, with combining resources, there always lurk the spectre of “loss of level playing field”.

3. An Apple like end-to-end empire: Lucrative but an extremely difficult path ahead for the search engine giant in the hardware world… a tough act to follow!

But apart from these, the news throws up another nugget too:

The central point of computing is moving away from the desk towards mobile - and search engines do follow the computing devices. A tight integration between hardware and OS will make it easier to get the desired utilities and apps to the consumer – providing the coveted “unique user experience’.

The deal goes beyond handsets. Motorola Mobility is also into set top boxes – just to name another one. This will bring Google back into the home automation market. Gigaom’s Stacey Higginbotham & Katie Fehrenbacher has written a very good article on this; do read it. Getting your ads, location optimized and perhaps with dynamic relevance does require a tighter integration between the hardware and software.

And it is for this reason alone, my opinion is that it will very much be in Google’s interest to keep Motorola Mobility humming away as a separate unit within Google – especially as far as the level playing field of Android handset entities are concerned and leverage this hardware vendor acquisition to bolster its search ads revenues by making it’s ads more pervasive and relevant.
The patents are the special icing on the cake!!

posted in Semiconductor, Business, Industry Events, Mergers & Acquistions, MIDs, Hardware | 0 Comments

3rd March 2009

Intel teams up with TSMC for Atom

Intel will port unspecified Atom processor cores to TSMC’s technology platform, including processes, IP, libraries and design flows under the terms of an agreement between the two companies announced yesterday.
 

The deal will expand the TAM for Atom. It allows TSMC & Intel to go after newer market segments together - namely the embedded, CE, netbooks and handheld market.

Some interesting highlights on this deal:

  • It is indeed a rare event for Intel to allow its processor to be manufactured by another company.
  • Intel has no plans to license or transfer its high-k process to TSMC. It is doubtful the TSMC Atom devices will include high-k and metal gates. Hence it’s unlikely that the core from TSMC will have the same performance level as that from Intel.
  • With PC shipments failing, Intel needs to aggressively penetrate into other markets.
  • Intel goes head-on with leading embedded core provider, ARM. While ARM is trying to move to larger devices (from handsets etc.) for its cores, Intel is moving in the opposite direction (PC to smaller devices)
  • We may see two strong foundry-IP camps emerging: ARM-IBM alliance and Intel-TSMC for the much sought after mid size converging devices in the embedded space.
  • Point to be noted is that while there are 2 different market segments for the processor – higher end processors for PCs and the lower (& cheaper ones) for MIDs, Intel will need to do a real balancing act here so as not to have its profits from the upper segment being eaten away substantially by the lesser profits of the lower end processors.

 

posted in Business, Foundry, IP, Industry Events | 0 Comments

7th September 2007

MIDAS Semicon Summit 2007

MIDAS, the Singapore Semiconductor Association is organizing a high profile industry event on 13th September in Raffles Town Club, Singapore – this is mainly why off late I haven’t been able to blog as frequently as I would have wanted to (I’m helping organize the same along with my other colleagues)!

 

The summit, “Enabling Singapore’s Semiconductor Excellence” is a full day inaugural event. Singapore’s leading semiconductor companies, start-ups, investors, industry analysts and industry leaders will meet and discuss Singapore’s semiconductor industry and how its semiconductor community continues to address the challenges and accelerating growth. There will be a couple of panel discussions – “Singapore: Gateway to Asia-Pacific’s Semiconductor Market” (moderated by me) and “Living the Silicon Valley Dream” (moderated by Mike Holt, CEO Get2Volume).

Speakers include quite a few industry stalwarts like

  • Mr. Chan Yong Choong, VP Corporate Development & Business Management STATSChipPAC
  • Mr. Damian Chan, Head Semiconductors Electronics Cluster, EDB
  • Mr. Thomas Fu, VP & Managing Director Qimonda Manufacturing
  • Dr. Markus Wachter, Managing Director German Institute of Science & Technology
  • Mr. Rohit Girdhar, Head of Corporate Strategy Asia-Pacific, Infineon
  • Ulf Schneider, VP Infineon Technologies Asia Pacific
  • Prof. Yeo Kiat Seng, Head of Division for Circuits & Systems, NTU
  • Mr. BC Khou, CEO Trilobyte Tech
  • Mr. Edwin Chow, Director Technology Innovation Division SPRING
  • Mr. Anthony Ng, CEO D’Crypt
  • Mr. John Tan, Lead Venture Partner Jafco Singapore

The summit sponsors include Cadence, Infineon, Qimonda, Silicon Labs, Marvell, GIST, Get2Volume and Arfic.

 

For details, click here.

posted in Industry Events | 1 Comment

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