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October 2012

ARM Reaching Into Server Market

ARM has become the dominant architecture in portable products.  The server market is not as large as smartphones and other portable consumer electronics in terms of unit volumes but   is growing at a fast rate.  While the volumes are relatively low, the processors in the server market carry a high price tag, in the hundreds of dollars.  Intel dominates the server market with Xeon.  This is Intel’s fastest growing product line and it has its highest gross margins.

ARM and its partners have been eyeing the server market for several years.  Expanding into servers results in a new revenue source.  The main thrust for using ARM technology in servers is the lower power consumption the architecture offers versus the x86.  It may require a multi-core and multi-socket solution to compete with Intel on performance.  Yet the ARM camp touts that it can still achieve a lower power profile, occupy less space and do this at a lower cost.

Currently, ARM is a 32-bit architecture while x86 is 64-bit.  A year ago (October 2011) ARM announced a 64-bit V8 ISA.  The chip vendors for ARM server class CPUs are Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC), Marvell, and Calxeda.  Currently, Marvell and Calxeda are supplying 32-bit ARM CPUs for servers.  AMCC has an architecture license.

Is NFC Cool Enough to Finally Take Off?

NFC-enabled mobile payments have arrived in the United States. Isis, a joint venture between AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, has launched its mobile payment service in Austin and Salt Lake City. Isis payments can be made and offers redeemed by using a secure element SIM and the Isis Mobile Wallet application. Isis has flown under the radar recently as its trial launch was delayed from this summer. While tapping a phone to a payment terminal seems like the next great thing to us here in the US, in fact NFC is in use around the world for payments, and we are belatedly joining the party.

Except for Work, Is the PC Age Over?

It may be tempting to say that the current shift in user trends for consumer devices is limited to a generational shift, but in reality, it's affecting our grandparents and parents as well as our children.

The shift is crossing platforms from gamers to casual users and business clients, and it's changing the types of services we purchase for our homes and how we assign value to products.

This is the shift away from the computing segment to the consumer segment. As a society we are leaving our desktops and notebooks behind and moving to smartphones and tablets. But we're not going to be a society of just smartphones and tablets, no. We're going to be a society of smartphones, tablets, and SmartTVs.

How many people do you know who have already stopped using their desktop? Do you still use your laptop for anything other than business?

The first move in this shift was when we all moved from landlines to the cellular network. During the last five years or so, many people have been abandoning their TV services and switching to cable or DSL. How many people now watch their favorite shows on services like Hulu or Netflix or Amazon Prime?

Sensor Fusion: The Elements are Converging

Sensor fusion has become an important feature for many portable devices, in particular smartphones, tablets and the emerging Ultraportable PCs.

In fact, sensor fusion is required by Windows 8 for all tablet PCs and all convertible Ultrabooks, and recommended for clamshell Ultrabooks. Intel offers reference platforms for tablets and Ultrabooks that include a sensor hub block connected directly to the CPU. Many advanced applications are enabled by sensor fusion, including geo-fencing, gesture controls and context awareness.

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NAND Pushes Wafer Demand to 11.7% Growth by 2016

SEMI recently released their silicon shipment forecast for 2012-2014.  Total wafer shipments are expected to reach record levels in 2013 and 2014.  Semico’s Wafer Demand model concurs with their forecast.  Wafer demand is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 11.7% over the next five years.

The wafer demand pie keeps getting bigger but all the pieces are not growing at the same rate.  The pie looks a lot different than it did 15 years ago or even 10 years ago.   The chart below presents a few of the product categories that have traditionally utilized the most advanced technologies.

Figure:  Wafer Demand by Product as a Percent of the Total Wafer Demand

Source: Semico Wafer Demand Model Sept. 2012

Wafer demand for microprocessors has grown 65% over the past 10 years, but, as a percent of the total, MPU remains at less than 3% of the total industry wafers.  To a certain extent, this is due to the production efficiencies and improved designs that the MPU manufacturers have implemented.

NFC: Security at Hand

Near Field Communication, or NFC, is a short-range wireless communication technology. The “coolness” factor is very high, and the technology has been proven for years, yet it has failed to gain much traction. It may be on the verge of exploding, however. Semico Research has just released a report, NFC: Security at Hand, that covers what the technology is, what competitors it has, who the major players are in the market, and what the major target applications are.

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Semico's Tony Massimini to Speak at MEMS Executive Congress

Phoenix, Arizona October 9, 2012 - Tony Massimini, Chief of Technology for Semico Research, will speak on November 7, 2012 at the MEMS Executive Congress. The event will be held from November 7-9, 2012 at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, AZ. Mr. Massimini will be on the first panel, titled "MEMS Market," where he will speak about the growth and development of sensor fusion across several markets.

Augmented Reality: Envision a More Intelligent World

Augmented Reality is a disruptive technology that is going to influence almost every aspect of our technological life. It is still in its infancy and is often looked upon as gimmicky or promotional, but it is going to drive innovation within the gaming, medical, mobile, automotive, and manufacturing markets. Semico’s latest report, Augmented Reality: Envision a More Intelligent World, provides an in-depth look into this technology and its impact on the market. Semico forecasts that revenues related to this technology will approach $600 billion by 2016.

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