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January 2011

Intel Cougar Point Chipset Delayed But Not As Bad As It Looks

Today Intel announced there was a design flaw with its Cougar Point chipset. This is the series 6 chipset for the next generation Sandy Bridge based desktop and notebook PCs. The Sandy Bridge MPUs are not affected at all.

The problem was discovered in an Intel reliability lab. While testing for accelerated life time performance, it was discovered that one transistor in the SATA interface had a probability of failure within 2 to 3 years. This is the port for the slower and older SATA devices. Even if most customers may never use this port, Intel still decided to pull the chipset.

The good news is that the fix is fairly simple and is in the next to last metal layer. All wafers that have been processed up to this point are still okay. The Cougar Point chipset is manufactured on 65nm. Most of Intel’s MPUs are run on 32nm. Intel has a large amount of capacity at 65nm. Speaking with an Intel spokesperson, the company will be able to deliver the revised chipsets in a matter of weeks.

The SATA ports in question are ports 2 through 5. If a system has been delivered in which ports 2 through 5 have not been activated, this is not a problem and the system is not subject to recall. In the meantime, all other Cougar Point chipsets that have already been delivered to customers will be returned. The rollout for the Sandy Bridge systems by OEMs will be delayed about one month. These systems are likely to ship in April 2011.

Nintendo 3DS: Yes Please

I’m normally not a big fan of 3D with the gimmicky movie effects, clunky glasses, and the inevitable headache and eyestrain that comes with it. But Nintendo seems to have circumvented many of these issues with their upcoming Nintendo 3DS handheld.

At CES the N3DS was a big hit with its ability to switch between 3D and 2D, the lack of glasses, and how easy it is on the eyes (and I don’t mean the way it looks).

Admittedly, I am a bit of a fan when it comes to Nintendo. I grew up with the Nintendo Entertainment System and The Legend of Zelda. My first handheld was a Game Boy, and there is a NDS Lite sitting in my desk drawer right now.

Sony will be competing with Nintendo again this year, as they release two new handhelds. Their first handheld is the Next Generation Portable (NGP), due out by the end of 2011, though a release date hasn’t been given. Once again, Sony’s handheld will focus on power, mimicking the PSP. The NGP will be a tablet with a 5” 960x544 OLED screen. It will have a touch pad, two cameras, Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, motion sensors, etc. It will run an ARM Cortex A9 CPU and is supposed to be as powerful as a PlayStation.

The second handheld Sony will be releasing is the PlayStation Phone (also called the Xperia Play) through Sony Ericsson. This console / phone combo will have a 4” 854x480 LCD touch screen, camera, Wi-Fi, and run on an Android platform with a 1GHz processor.

Tight Capacity Forced Semiconductor Production Efficiencies in 2010

Phoenix, Arizona January 25, 2011 - The semiconductor industry has celebrated the 30+% semiconductor revenue growth in 2010. Semiconductor unit sales also increased an impressive 31%. But wafer demand, based on semiconductor product shipments, only increased 22%. How can this be? Semiconductor manufacturers were once again caught in a capacity bind due to underinvestment over the past several years. However, according to Joanne Itow, Managing Director, "This industry is known for delivering solutions under pressure."

A Brazilian Semiconductor Step Forward

On January 18, 2011 CEITEC S.A., a semiconductor manufacturer in Porto Alegre, Brazil, announced the successful completion of a 12 month field trial of an RFID chip that can be implanted in cattle for positive identification. This application is important for Brazil. Beef is one of Brazil’s largest exports. The RFID chip will allow beef to continue to be shipped to Europe and Japan in the event of a mad cow disease scare in South America; because the origin and movements of cattle can be tracked, from ranch to market, providing proof that the beef is not from a suspect herd or area. The rest of the world should take notice. This is a Brazilian semiconductor, designed and fabricated in Brazil. What do you think about when you think of Brazil: inflation, F1 racing drivers, soccer, something else? Think again! Brazil is a major market. It is a country of more than 200 million people, the fifth largest country in the world. It has a stable, democratic government, and inflation has been brought under control. It is one of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India China), identified as developing countries with high growth rates and the potential to become among the world’s dominant economies in the future. Although Brazil’s GDP growth dropped in 2009, along with the rest of the world, its GDP has been growing at rates exceeding 5% annually. CEITEC S.A. is a startup IC company partially funded by the Brazilian government.

Save the Date: Bob Krysiak, Executive VP and GM for the Americas Region of STMicroelectronics, to Speak at Semico Summit 2011

Bob Krysiak Executive Vice President General Manager, Americas Region STMicroelectronics Phoenix, Arizona January 20, 2011 - Semico Research Corp. is proud to announcethat Bob Krysiak will speak at the Summit 2011. The Summit will be held May 1-3, 2011 at the stunning InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Bob Krysiak is an Executive Vice President of STMicroelectronics and General Manager of the company's Americas Region and has held this position since January 2010.

New Era of SoC Design on Horizon

Phoenix, Arizona January 18, 2011 - Given the high volume of inquiries and positive feedback from the release of Semico's IP Subsystem report in November of 2010, Semico is revisiting the report, "IP Subsystems: The Next Market Paradigm".

At Semico we aim to keep our clients informed about the impending changes to the market landscape before those changes occur, as awareness of and preparation for emerging trends can mean the difference in success and failure or profit and loss.

Who Needs Smart TV?

Everything these days is smart. You've got your smart phone, your smart grid, your smart car, and now your smart TV. And the question is, why? Consumers can get the same functionality with their Blu-ray players, set top boxes, and gaming consoles, etc….

And my answer, like for most technology, is why not? There is no industry standard. There is no store a consumer can go to and say, “I want to hook up my TV to the internet. What device do I need?” and not get a response along the lines of “Well, it depends on your set-up and what you want to do and how you want to do it. We have a dozen different stand-alone devices or you can use your computer or your game console….” And so on. This is confusing.

It stems from not knowing exactly what the hub is for the home entertainment system. Every company wants their own device to win this little competition, which means OEMs have no idea which device their consumers have settled on as their hub; so they might as well as add the hub capability into everything.

Industry Consolidation Continues

On the heels of the Qualcomm/Atheros acquisition, on January 10th, 2011, SMSC and Conexant Systems, Inc. announced the signing of an agreement under which SMSC will purchase Conexant in a stock and cash transaction valued at approximately $284 million.

Conexant’s imaging, audio, embedded modem and video products will be combined with SMSC's connectivity solutions targeting the computing, consumer, industrial and automotive markets. Christine King, President & Chief Executive Officer of SMSC expects the combined companies will lead to significant operating efficiencies and help position SMSC to increase earnings growth, increase R&D productivity and drive profitability and shareholder value.

Semico's Analysts Predict That 2011 Will Be....

Phoenix, Arizona January 4, 2011 - Semico's analysts have gazed into their crystal ball (or, in some cases, their "Magic 8 Ball" App on their iPad), and have shared with you here their expectations for 2011.

Economic Outlook for 2011 Promising

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