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June 2010

Freescale Kinetis Family Connects with ARM MCUs

June 28, 2010

Last week at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) in Orlando, FL, Freescale announced a new MCU product line, Kinetis, based on the ARM Cortex M4 core. Kinetis is scalable low-power and mixed signal design. Freescale is expected to introduce seven new Kinetis MCU families over the course of the next 12 months. There will be over 200 pin, peripheral and software compatible devices.

Freescale integrates mixed signal capabilities in Kinetis in order to target consumer and industrial applications. ARM had developed the Cortex M3 for MCUs. The Cortex M4 was announced by ARM in February 2010. Freescale is a lead partner in the development of the M4. In April 2010, NXP announced future MCUs based on the Cortex M4. Freescale will sample Kinetis in 3Q 2010 with production in 1H 2011.

The Cortex M4 is an extension of the M3. The M4 includes DSP functionality. The Kinetis software will be backwards compatible with M3. Therefore, Freescale decided to jump into ARM MCUs with the M4 rather than put resources into an M3 version.

Semico Spin

Lots of Hoopla for Video Game Consoles, but what about the CPUs?

June 21, 2010

There was a lot of excitement last week at the E3 Show in Los Angeles.  There were numerous announcements, demos and news on new game titles.  On the hardware side what grabbed a good deal of attention were Sony and Microsoft products for motion control to compete with Nintendo Wii.

The console makers were also touting sleek new console designs.  These are slimmer and operate with less noise and lower power consumption, thus generating less heat.  Prices for consoles have come down over the years.  Ironically, the snazzy new peripherals will help make up the difference in price.

However, all of these appear to be about further enhancements and peripheral developments that improve the gaming experience of the current platforms.  3D games will be achieved through SW.  The console makers have taken advantage of improved semiconductor manufacturing technology to reduce the size and power consumption of the CPUs and GPUs.  This has enabled designs that are less expensive, lower power consumption and sleeker designs.

However, the basic design of the CPUs, GPUs and support chips have not changed since their introduction in late 2005 and 2006.  There is no discussion about next generation platform designs, similar to those that preceded the introduction of the current generation.

Wafer Demand Summary and Assumptions 2Q10

The Wafer Demand Summary and Assumptions is a quarterly publication. It includes an excel spreadsheet with annual wafer demand by product by technology from 2002-2013. Product categories include DRAM, SRAM, NAND, NOR, Other Non-volatile, MPU, MCU, DSP, Computing Micro Logic, Communications, Other Micro Logic, Programmable Logic, Standard Cell, Gate Array, Analog, Discrete, Optoelectronics, Digital Bipolar. In addition, there is a five-page summary write-up providing the major assumptions behind the forecast and changes from the previous quarter.

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Synopsys to Acquire Virage Logic

On Thursday, the 10th of June, Synopsys announced its intention to acquire Virage Logic for $315M ($289M after accounting for cash in Virage’s possession). The acquisition is expected to close around late October of this year.

This transaction will provide Synopsys with many diverse types of SIP such as Memory cells (both volatile and non volatile), Memory compilers, Memory controllers, Interface I/Os, the ARC CPU cores along with Audio and Video IP blocks, some limited ‘Mega-Blocks (SIP that merges the ARC CPU cores with Audio / Video IP), basic Interconnect SIP, some basic Analog and Mixed Signal functionality, Standard Cell libraries, Communications IP, and a host of basic logic functions. In essence, Synopsys will now possess most of the elements needed to create their own SIP Sub Systems as complete products to be offered to the market at large. While Synopsys has not signaled their intent to create such SIP Sub Systems directly, they have hinted this is the direction in which they will go and it is a logical step for them to do so. Bringing more value to their customers – through offering better performing, more highly converged products as SIP Sub Systems, will ultimately bring more value to Synopsys.

System(s)-on-a-Chip: A Change in SoC Design Methodology

The SoC market experienced negative revenue for the first time in 2009 since the market was first tracked in 1998. Total market revenues declined 19.2% in 2009 in response to weak end-market unit demand and increasing pressure on device ASPs. However, the market is recovering strongly in 2010 as market demand solidifies. Revenue for this market will grow from $45,294M in 2010 to $69,405M by 2015, a CAGR of 8.9%.

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Micro Logic Overview 2010: A Market on the Rebound

Since 2H 2009 the Micro Logic market has been on an upswing. The momentum continues into 2010. Semico foresees sustained growth for the next couple of years.

What is driving this growth? MPUs dominate revenues for ML. This reflects the renewed growth of the PC market. However, MCUs account for the unit volume. How is each of the MCU segments doing? Which markets are driving the growth for embedded control?

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Digital Television: To 2D or 3D?

Phoenix, Arizona June 2, 2010 - Semico has just released our latest report on the Digital Television market titled Digital Television: To 2D or 3D? This report looks closely at the current trends influencing flat-panel displays, CRTs, and RPTVs across the world.

Semico expects the DTV market to grow to 290 million units in 2014, a CAGR of 6.3%. Not bad for a mature market. Because the television is the center of the home entertainment theater this report has implications for Blu-Ray, set-top boxes, audio equipment, etc.

Investing For The Next Downturn?

Although the semiconductor industry cycles are difficult to predict, one thing always rings true, over-investment creates over-capacity, lower prices and usually sluggish or declining semiconductor revenues.

The stage is being set. Two weeks ago, Samsung announced its biggest ever semiconductor capital expenditure budget, some say the biggest the industry has ever experienced from one company. A majority of the approximately $10 billion total of Samsung's 2010 semiconductor spending will be on capacity expansion for memory products.

This week, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, backed by its major shareholder ATIC, announced an additional $3 billion dollars in capital expansion projects, on top of the $6 billion already announced. Other companies have also announced larger capex projections for 2010.  Total industry capital investment in 2010 could exceed total investments made in 2000. 

During the past three years the industry has curtailed capital expenditures, which Semico believes helped to dampen the effects of the last downturn. But are we now walking into the same trap?

One could argue that the capex is more highly concentrated to fewer players. One could also say that advanced technology production is more expensive these days. However, these capacity additions are expected to come online right during the next slowdown that Semico has predicted. Coincidence?

Joanne Itow
Managing Director

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