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August 2010

71 Applications Can't Be Wrong About ASIC Design Starts

Phoenix, Arizona August 31, 2010 - The worldwide financial meltdown of 2008-2009 impacted the ASIC design start landscape as many designs that were underway were either cancelled outright or were suspended pending a recovery in the end markets. Starting at the end of 1Q09, the market decline halted, markets stabilized and came roaring back in the second half of 2009 and into 2010.

Big Customers = Big Foundries, Opens Door for Others

On Wednesday, September 1, 2010, GLOBALFOUNDRIES will be hosting its inaugural Global Technology Conference in Santa Clara. Attendance should be high as we all try to find out what GLOBALFOUNDRIES has up their sleeve to woo new business.

These technology forums are a great way to get broad audience coverage but all the big foundries are targeting the largest and the most advanced semiconductor manufacturers. As I prepare my next foundry report, I can see why big customers are so important. In 2009, TSMC reported that their 10 largest customers accounted for 53% of their total net sales. Back in 2000, TSMC’s five largest customers comprised 30.6% of their total sales. UMC’s top 10 customers account for 65.3% of total revenues and SMICs five largest customers account for 60% of their total sales. In 2008, Chartered Semiconductors top five customers comprised more than 63% of their total sales and with the combined sales of GLOBALFOUNDRIES that percentage is even higher now.

Its Not a Serial Number

The 2010 Flash Memory Summit wrapped up last week in Santa Clara, CA.  Three days of breakout sessions, technical discussions, tutorials, flash exhibits and keynote speakers provided attendees with ample opportunity to gather intelligence related to the future of flash memory architectures.

Inevitably, most who attended are likely to come to the same conclusion; Denali’s reputation for throwing great parties is well deserved.  Wait, that’s not what I meant to write.  What I meant to write was… the gigabyte rules.  While there were numerous relevant points discussed over the three day event, let’s focus momentarily on a story told by Ed Doller, VP Micron Technology, which best illustrates both the state and future of flash memory.

Ed spoke on Thursday, August 19 to a packed theater on the topic of “Flash Memory—The New Technology Driver”.  He cited a number of technology advances over the last several years including the rapid adoption of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.  While it’s easy for many within the industry to focus on delivering improved performance by enhancing a number of technical capabilities consumers desire, it all boils down to memory.

Building up the Communications Infrastructure to Keep Pace with Consumer Demand

All of the interesting gizmos get the attention of the mainstream media and even the industry press.  The various smart phones, IPTV, iPads and other devices that connect to the internet, especially via wireless, generate a great deal of excitement and sales.

However, these devices need an infrastructure to support them. As more devices come into use and the bandwidth demand increases to support advanced apps, the service providers are under pressure.  They need to deliver quality service at an acceptable price and still make a profit.  The concern over running out of internet addresses for all of these devices has been raised recently.  This is IPv4 which uses 32-bit address.  The industry is moving to IPv6 which uses 128-bits.  However, the deployment for IPv6 is still very low.

In recent weeks two companies have made significant product announcements to address the needs of the communications infrastructure.

In July 2010 NetLogic Microsystems launched the NLX321103A, a three chip set that handles a broad range of packet-processing functions at speeds up to 40Gbits/sec.  This comes out of the acquisition of RMI Corp. (June 2009).  The NLX321103A includes RMI’s 8-core, quad-threaded XLR processor.  This is a MIPS64 based design for which the company holds an architectural license.  NetLogic’s solution will enable platforms, such as mobile infrastructure, to reduce the bill of materials (BOM) and increase performance.  It also supports IPv6.

Semico IPI Index Signals Caution for 2H 2011

Phoenix, Arizona August 23, 2010 - In August 2010, the Semico IPI Index (Inflection Point Indicator) experienced its first drop since December 2009. The Semico IPI Index signals changes in the direction of semiconductor sales growth one year in advance. Semico Research's growth rate for semiconductor sales already assumes a slower year in 2011 at 13% year over year growth compared to the 31% growth in 2010.

Apple iPad in big demand, can Apple keep up?

Apple reported in its last financial results that as of June 26, 2010 it has shipped 3.27 million iPads.  This is the first quarter of availability for the iPad.  It is shipping at the rate of about 1 million units per month.  However, keep in mind that there was a large amount of pre-orders prior to its April launch.

The question is can Apple ramp up production to meet demand?  Apple’s Steve Jobs has stated since its launch that demand for iPad has been stronger than expected.  Apple has been rolling out iPad to markets outside the US in select countries at different times rather than an all out world wide blitz.  On May 28 Apple made iPad available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.  On July 23 Apple extended this to Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore.

This steady roll out may help Apple manage its supply issues.  Recently, the supplier of the iPad’s display, LG said that it was unable to keep up with demand.  Apple has signed on Samsung as a second manufacturer.  Flash memory is an important component for iPad.  There has been strong demand for Flash for many devices.  Apple’s iPad has to compete for this supply.

E-reader Market Update

When Semico released our e-reader report, one of the predictions we made was that Amazon would introduce an updated Kindle this quarter.  They were right on track and are estimating new orders will ship September 10th.  This was a highly anticipated step, considering all the new competition and great products being introduced to the market.

The main purpose of the Kindle is to sell ebooks for Amazon, and it has been a very successful endeavor.   In order to sell more ebooks, Amazon has released a Kindle app that can work on phones, iPods, the iPad, and computers.  As this market continues to mature, publishers have become more interested in interactive books with embedded video and audio.  The Kindle app now supports these features along with Apple’s iBooks app, making cell phones, iPods, and the iPad, decent e-readers, though they lack the electronic ink display.

ASIC Design Starts: Recovery in the Markets

The ASIC Design Start landscape has changed in the last three or four years starting with 2006 and continuing through today.  The market landscape has changed to accommodate increasing design costs, rising design complexity and lengthening design cycle times, especially in the System-on-a-Chip (SoC) market.

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ASIC Design Starts By Key End Market Application

The end of 2008 saw dramatic changes in the ASIC design start landscape as end market demand for both silicon solutions and the unit volumes associated with those solutions evaporated quickly in the face of the worldwide financial meltdown. Many designs that were underway were either cancelled outright or were suspended pending a recovery in the end markets. Starting at the end of 1Q09, the market decline halted, markets stabilized and came roaring back in the second half of 2009 and into 2010.

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DIMM Revenues Soar: High Density DRAM Module Market Overview

In 2008, the DRAM industry faced a supply glut. ASPs for DRAM chips fell precipitously and as a consequence, DIMM module revenues and profits fell as well. DRAM manufacturers slashed capacity output late in 2008 in order to tighten chip supply. Near the midpoint of 2010, demand began to recover as the overall global economy stabilized after all of the financial fallout. What resulted was a return to profitability for DIMM module OEMs and third-party module vendors. For 2010, the DIMM module market will experience a 62.3% increase in revenues year over year.

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