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July 2010

ComicCon 2010: Content is King, 3D Games Coming, but 3D TV Not Ready For Primetime

Frequent readers of the Semico Spin know that I am a fan of ComicCon and attend it in San Diego, CA during my family vacation. This is the seventh year in a row if I remember correctly which we attended. As I say every year, there were more geeks than you can shake a light saber at.

This year I had a small video camera, a Kodak ZI8. I have added video to my annual show report. Links to some of the clips are in this article. You can find these and others on the Semico home page.

For those unfamiliar with ComicCon, it is the largest convention for comic books in the world. However, it covers a great deal more. Science fiction and fantasy TV and movies are heavily represented. These are usually tied in with comics and animation. There is also a strong tie in with video games. For the third straight year, ComicCon was sold out for all four days with attendance of 125,000 each day. It is the largest convention through out the year for the city of San Diego.

Reporting from ComicCon 2010

Last week Semico's Tony Massimini escaped the scorching 110° F (43°C) Phoenix temperatures and combined a work/vacation by attending ComicCon 2010 in San Diego, CA. He brought back five great video clips covering Intel and nVidia as well as his views on things to come. See all five videos at the links below. Tony, where’s your Klingon costume? OK, that’s last century. How about an Avatar outfit?

Demo of Intel’s SmartTV       
nVidio demo of 3D graphics
ComiCon overview                  
Tony’s opinions and wrap-up

Apple Faces Flaws, Makes Fixes

There was a time when nothing was hipper than Apple—it had colors when others were grappling with grayscale,  a sense of style that was way out front, and mice when the rest of the world was stuck on “chicklet keyboards”—but gradually computing shifted. Due to wide adoption of the PCI bus family, the PC industry emerged from its chaotic swamp of standards and got traction. Then, smaller got better. The form factor of choice moved from the desk to the backpack. Computing in the park became a feasible release from deskbound postures and fluorescent lighting. Apple was there. And then wireless got big. PC users could untie themselves from network vines (and the attendant costs of endless cabling and switchgear). Again, Apple was in the lead, showing the world that the words “stylish” and “laptop,” and “airport” could go together well.  

SemiconWest 2010

The weather in San Francisco was beautiful and SemiconWest was a great show this year. In addition to the many new product and technology announcements, most exhibiters are well into a healthy recovery and optimistic about the next 12-18 months.
Here are just a few of our key takeaways.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

Fifteen years ago fabless companies flourished because production became somewhat routine and foundries could provide more than adequate manufacturing capacity. Many IDMs also realized they no longer needed to invest in internally developed, proprietary technology. Marketing and product development was the way to gain market share. After reviewing the technology announcements and presentations from DAC and the VLSI Symposium over the past two weeks it hit me. Manufacturing is once again becoming a differentiator.

The ITRS (International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors) has outlined a transition path for us that was adopted by a majority of manufacturers. Most advanced logic products use copper, and now high-k, metal gate. A majority of companies with advanced manufacturing capabilities have moved to immersion lithography. Many processes and materials had a way of becoming accepted as standard.

Moving into the next generation process technology, semiconductor manufacturers, both fabless and IDM, have to make a number of significant manufacturing decisions which could impact their product’s market applications and the ability to deliver timely, future products. The semiconductor manufacturing decision involves more than just a process node or cost of ownership. Manufacturing technology is becoming a major decision point with numerous options.

Solar Radiation, The Good And The Evil

Solar energy is typically viewed as a very positive resource. Not only does solar energy help produce our food, recently we’ve seen a boom in photovoltaic electrical systems because we’ve gotten much better at converting sunlight into electricity.
As we all know, the solar system operates in cycles. During the past decade the sun has been in a lower energy producing cycle which some described as the sun sleeping. It now appears that the sun is waking up and over the next few years will begin its next cycle. That means we will experience more sunspots and an increased amount of solar radiation. The solar cycles build slowly and one is currently under way. Experts expect solar radiation will peak in 2011 and 2012.
That's good news for people who have solar panels but it may wreak havoc on our high tech, mobile device society that we enjoy today. Solar storms can have a big effect and most are not positive outcomes. During a solar storm, if a plane flies over the poles, space radiation can cause radio blackouts, navigation errors and computers to reboot. Solar storms can also disable satellites that we use for weather forecasting, GPS navigation and communications. Radio bursts from solar flares can directly interfere with cell phone reception and the coronal mass ejections (CME) can cause electrical outages. In 1989 a CME caused an outage in Québec that lasted for six days.

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