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December 2009

Micro Logic 2009: Finishing Strong

About this time last year not many people wanted to believe me when I said that the Micro Logic market (microprocessors, microcontrollers, and DSP) would bounce back in 2H 2009 and with a strong upward trend.  Fear, uncertainty and dread (FUD) due to the worldwide economic crisis was driving companies to make severe cutbacks on their manufacturing plans and consequently reduce inventory levels.  Some plans, like Dell and HP lowering production to unusually low levels for 1Q 2009 were self fulfilling prophecies.  It just appeared that the steps taken by most OEMs were extremely drastic.  Semiconductor inventory levels had not been that low in anyone’s recent memory. 

The automotive market had lots of problems of overcapacity and high inventory levels of vehicles.  This is the largest market for MCU sales.  Governments stepped in with programs to stimulate consumption.  The US passed the “Cash for Clunkers” program and Germany had a similar one.  As we approach the end of 2009, vehicle sales are improving in all global markets.  Semico’s discussions with key suppliers to the automotive market indicate a more positive outlook at this time.

Is The Semiconductor Industry Healthy?

Since the beginning of the year, Semico has described the semiconductor inventory reduction as an overreaction and we forecasted the resulting the V-shaped recovery for 2009. This recovery started to occur in Q2 and has continued through Q4. It's hard to say how many times I was asked if this recovery truly has legs. Will 2010 result in another down cycle? All of the indicators we see point to a strong 2010. Semico's inflection point indicator, our analysis of capacity utilization, the low inventory situation at both the chip and box level and the continued demand for electronics are signaling a strong year for 2010.

E-readers are Here to Stay

Many have said that 2009 is the year of the e-reader, and I firmly agree. Others think it will be 2010, but I believe the e-reader has entered the public's consciousness enough that I call 2009 the tipping point. I have been excited by the prospects of e-readers since I first heard of them, around ten years ago. The idea of being able to carry a whole bookshelf worth of books on a single book-sized device is very compelling. I know there are people out there that thrill to the feel, smell, and heft of an actual book, but I'm not one of them. I'll be happy to get rid of the majority of my printed books once I own digital copies of them.
 
I recently received an e-reader as a gift - the Sony PRS-300. I'm in love. For me, it's easier to obtain ebooks and transfer them to the e-reader than it is to transfer music onto my iPod Shuffle. The startup time is a little slow for this device, but I'm sure that's been sped up for the new Sony Daily Edition model. Once it's on, I can quickly jump to any book in my library, and the device remembers where I leave off in a book so I don't have to. The battery life is great; so far I have only used one bar on the battery meter. The device is heavy for its size, and comes with a really protective sleeve. It fits great in my purse, allowing me to keep it handy for whenever I have a few minutes of downtime. 

Microchips Latest 32-bit PIC Offers More Connectivity

Connectivity has been a driving force in electronics.  It is not just important for computing and consumer applications.  The industrial and medical markets show increasing need for connectivity.

Microchip Technology recently announced new members of its PIC32 32-bit MCU family to address this growing need.  Increasing connectivity for embedded control applications puts an increasing demand on memory requirements.  These communication protocols need more software stacks that must run simultaneously.  The new PIC32MX5/6/7 families are designed specifically for these data-intensive applications.

Microchip’s PIC32, a MIPS based product line, now offers memory sizes ranging starting at 256KB for Flash and 64KB for RAM, going up to a combination of 512KB and 128KB for Flash and RAM, respectively.  The company is integrating a wide variety of communication peripherals in different combinations: Ethernet, CAN and USB modules, along with UARTs, SPI, I2C and DMA channels.  The MCU is based on a high performance MIPS core at 80MHz.

Some of Microchip’s target markets are:

GlobalFoundries: Solid Ground, Not Loose Sand

The recent news regarding Dubai’s ominous financial situation may have caused some uncertainty and confusion about the impact on GlobalFoundries. It is well known that a significant portion of GlobalFoundries is funded by ATIC (Advanced Technology Investment Company) of Abu Dhabi. ATIC’s sole shareholder is the Government of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Dubai is one of the seven members of the United Arab Emirates, just as Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is the largest city in terms of land area and maintains the largest oil and gas reserves. Abu Dhabi is also considered the strongest member in terms of financial stability. Dubai is the largest city measured in terms of population but is now finding itself in a financial crisis. In its attempt to diversify its economy away from its heavy dependence on oil reserves, the Dubai government invested heavily in real estate projects, construction and tourism. The value of their debt obligations is estimated to be in the range of $60-$80 billion. Abu Dhabi has indicated an intent to assist in the bail out of Dubai. Some may think that any assistance Abu Dhabi provides could put ATIC at some risk, however, to put the whole thing in perspective, Dubai’s debt is in the $60-$80 billion range while the U.S. government financial bailout was in the $900 billion range, quite a difference.

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