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March 2010

Apple iPad: A New Computing Paradigm or the iPhone on Steroids?

The Apple iPad will be shipping April 3, 2010. If you have already pre-ordered, you will get it at that time. If you still need to order the iPad, you will be waiting until after April 12. According to recent news items, the pre-order levels may have exceeded Apple’s initial expectations.

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Semico Outlook 2010: Infrastructure is the Key

One of the panels at the Semico Outlook Conference (March 2, 2010) focused on issues concerning the communications infrastructure. Some common themes were the carriers meeting the challenge of return on investment (ROI), meeting the growing demand for band width, and reducing power consumption.

The mainstream press and popular culture tend to focus on the various gizmos people around the world are clamoring for, such as smart phones, eReaders, notebooks, and other personal handheld electronics. Networking homes and businesses are hot topics. And of course people keep talking about “cloud computing,” but many are not aware that these are actually large data centers. In order for all of these things to connect, work and satisfy consumers, the communications infrastructure is necessary.

The panel was moderated by Hugh Durdan, COO of eSilicon. Speakers were Bradley Howe, (VP IC Engineering/Altera), Young Sohn (Pres. & CEO/Inphi) and Lisa Su (Sr VP &GM/Freescale).

Durdan kicked off the panel pointing out that social networking is putting pressure on communications networks. He cited a recent example of AT&T suspending sales of iPhones because of lack of BW.

Foundry Wafer Pricing 1Q10

The Semico Foundry Wafer Pricing report is published twice a year. It includes quarterly prices for wafers manufactured at foundries utilizing a logic process at 0.35µm, 0.25µm, 0.18µm, and 0.13µm on 200mm wafers. It also includes pricing for 90nm and 65nm on 300mm wafers. Actual prices are presented for six quarters, including the present quarter, and a forecast for the next two quarters are provided. Prices are differentiated by low and high volume runs. There is additional segmentation for metal layers by technology, with a total of seven different metal layers represented.

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Microchip Technology Introduces MCUs with less than 50µA/Mhz Active Power

Microchip Technology has announced a series of 11 new 8-bit PIC® microcontrollers, ranging from 8 to 64 pins, which use Microchip’s nanoWatt XLP Technology to attain active power consumption less than 50µA/Mhz. Low power, combined with the large number and variety of functions integrated onto these MCUs make them ideally suited for a wide range of applications. These functions include on-chip analog to digital conversion, timekeeping, UARTs, EEPROM, LCD control, a capacitive touch screen controller and others. In addition, there is up to 56KB of program memory and 4KB of storage memory. Low-operating power, of course, makes this MCU ideal for battery powered applications.

Semico believes that this series of PIC® MCUs will find homes in numerous applications. Their low power and high level of integration are very attractive benefits. In addition, Microchip, as always, is providing a comprehensive suite of design tools and evaluation platforms.

Morry Marshall
VP Strategic Technologies
Semico Research Corp.

Jay Cormier Speaks on Energy Metering in the Home and Enterprise

Jay Cormier, VP and GM of Energy Measurement and Communications for Teridian, spoke at the Semico Outlook 2010 Event this morning.  The topic was "Sub-metering in the home & enterprise...The Next Wave."  Some of the problems facing the energy industry today include higher demand than supply forecasted for the next twenty years, amid an aging electrical grid system in the U.S.  The solution is the smart grid, which could save up to $75 billion in capex costs in the US over the next twenty years, in addition to reduced electricity consumption and opex savings. 

Dr. Makimoto Predicts "Next Big Thing" at Semico Outlook Event

Dr. Tsugio Makimoto, Chairman of the Society of Semiconductor Industry Seniors, spoke this morning at the Semico Outlook event about "Chip Innovations Opening the Age of the Digital Nomad."  He pointed out that devices from the Communications, Computing, and Consumer areas are converging into more intelligent portable digital products, driven by the digitalization of everything and with chip innovation.  He noted how PC companies are changing, just in the last few years.  Apple is becoming a consumer company with the iPod, Microsoft is now in the game business with the Xbox, and, most significantly, IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo. 

Our world has transitioned from analog to digital, and chip innovation has been the most important enabler of this transition.  Dr. Makimoto showed a slide of a $6 million Cray-1A supercomputer from 1976, based on 5 micron bipolar technology.  He said the Cray's performance specs are comparable to the 2006 iPod Shuffle, which is based on 90nm CMOS technology.  Dr. Makimoto predicts that the "Digital Nomad" will change where and how we live, reducing or eliminating rush hour as more people telecommute and live in rural settings.  Remote health care and education will also fuel this trend, as will the desire to live a "low-carbon" lifestyle with solar power, an electric car, and LEDs for green lighting.  Dr. Makimotor predicts that the next big thing will be language translation and recognition. 

Positive Signals From The Mixed Signal Market - A Market Analysis and Forecast

The rise in applications demanding increased connectivity and portability have converged to offer new opportunities for mixed signal ASICs. This has come primarily in the form of adding mixed signal functionality to what had been all-digital System-on-a-Chip (SoC) designs. This trend has also impacted the programmable logic market, most notably Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) where high speed Serializer-Deserializer (SerDes) channels have been added to facilitate high speed communications channels.

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