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Is It Time to Ditch Your Cable?

If you've read any of my previous articles, you know I'm not a big fan of cable. So my short, biased answer to the question at the top of this article is yes. The more convoluted answer is "Probably, if you're willing to test out some hardware."

Luckily, even though there still isn't a "plug and play" system that fits 100 percent of our needs, the cable-free landscape is improving almost daily.

These changes in the landscape are due in part to the increased interest in mobile technology. Total OEM revenue from mobile devices is set to top $565 billion by 2015, with consumers flocking to smartphones, notebooks, and tablet PCs. The main factor in this growth is broadband access. Silicon Image Inc. expects its mobile HD technology (MHL) to be incorporated into 200 million mobile devices by the end of 2012. That's a lot of high-definition streaming, from mobile devices to TVs.

Electric Vehicles Charging Its Way to the Future

Plug-in electric vehicles are here to stay and Semico Research believes that these vehicles will be in high demand by consumers. There are many advantages that electric vehicles provide.  A lower gas bill is just the start.  They also have fewer moving parts resulting in higher reliability, a quieter motor than internal combustion vehicles, lower maintenance costs and significantly lower operational costs.

Here at Semico we already have two employees with plug-in electric vehicles. (We only have 10 employees.)  I just recently acquired a Chevrolet Volt and our CTO, Tony Massimini, purchased a Nissan Leaf. Both cars have their unique advantages and disadvantages.

The Chevy Volt is nicely designed, well put together, with a solid feel and good crisp handling. From a performance standpoint the Volt’s electric motor is comparable to a 250HP internal combustion engine with 273 pound-feet of torque.  This rating is benchmarked at all RPMs. The single speed electric motor eliminates the transmission contributing to a simpler design.

The Chevy Volt has a 16 kW battery of which 10 kW is dedicated to the all-electric propulsion.  The remaining 6 kWs is a buffer for use during the extended range mode and for redundancy to ensure long battery life.  The battery life is rated for 100,000 miles.

Smart Money in Analog

Recently Semico released a report touting the above average growth rates in the analog market as well as the healthy revenue per wafer for analog products.  Smart money is moving into power management and other analog applications which have gained in popularity in our mobile electronic world.

Over the next five years, semiconductor units will grow at a CAGR of 9.6%.  The analog market will grow at a CAGR of 10.1%.  Specific analog product categories such as power management devices will grow even faster, logging in a 13.2% CAGR over the next five years.  Companies are gearing up for this growth by offering increased fab capacity, more efficient manufacturing and innovative materials and process advances.

Although a majority of the analog products are run on 200mm and 150mm wafers, there is still a fab running 75mm wafers and of course, there is the one 300mm fab now being operated by Texas Instruments.  The flexibility of analog manufacturing is also exemplified by the fact that many of these fabs are capable of running two different wafer sizes.

MEMS Executive Congress 2011 Review: A High Growth Market

The MEMS Executive Congress (Nov 2 to 3, 2011) held in Monterey, CA was filled with optimistic and rosy views of the future for MEMS.  This year’s event attracted 225 attendees – a 25% increase.  There were companies in attendance that covered the breadth of the MEMS supply chain: MEMS vendors, manufacturing equipment, materials suppliers, modeling, tools, etc.  Large and small players alike were represented.

Semico Research presented on the panel featuring market analysts.  The consensus on the panel and by many in the audience is that MEMS is a high growth market being driven by high volume applications in consumer electronics, most notably smart phones.  Semico brought a fresh new perspective.  MEMS are becoming more main stream.  The market dynamics for MEMS will more closely resemble the rest of the semiconductor market.  The high volume consumer market is a commodity market.  Therefore, the MEMS market needs to develop a more cohesive ecosystem.  This would allow companies to leverage standard processes and tools for volume production.  This will reduce costs and speed up time to market.

Free Forecast PDF Download

As we head into November, Semico's forecast of a weak second half is showing to be accurate. June, July, and August all had poor performance and according to the IPI, we will see that trend continue into 1Q12. February of 2012 is still forecasted to be the bottom as OEMs are currently burning off inventory while foundries cut back on capital expenditures.

This month, we are making a section of that report available to you as a free download.  Included in the White Paper is our IPI chart along with a section of the Mobile Devices: Analog discussion.  We invite you to download this free informative report, and contact Jim Feldhan with any questions about our forecast.

Semico Forecasts 2011 Revenues will be Down 1.4%


Remembering Steve Jobs and the Apple II

In the last few days, many articles have been written about Steve Job’s contributions.  They tend to focus on recent product introductions, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad.  Those are sensational products; but, in my opinion the authors’ memories are too short.  The articles do not give proper recognition to Steve Job’s first big hit, the Apple II.

In 1978 I was working for EMM Semi, a pioneering 4K SRAM manufacturer.  Yes, 4K!  In June of that year I went to the National Computer Conference in Anaheim, Ca.  It was a big iron show.  The main hall featured exhibits by IBM and the Seven Dwarfs, (Burroughs, Control Data, General Electric, Honeywell, NCR, RCA and Sperry Rand) as well as minicomputer manufacturers such as Digital Equipment Corp. and Data General.  Microcomputers were only allowed, very grudgingly, in a much smaller, dingier hall across the street.  None of the big iron people thought microcomputers were a real market.

I remember counting something like one-hundred-forty small microcomputer manufacturers at that show.  Because almost every microcomputer manufacturer had a proprietary operating system, there were nearly as many operating systems.  The Wintel partnership was far in the future.

GSA Ecosystem Summit: Supply Chain Links Strengthened

Although news from Japan regarding the earthquake and tsunami recovery efforts comes less frequently than before, the ripple effects of the disaster can still be felt in the semiconductor industry’s operation strategies.

At the GSA Ecosystem Summit held in Santa Clara last week, Hugh Durdan from eSilicon moderated a panel on the best practices for successful supply chain relationships.  IBM, Intel, Qualcomm and Tensoft, Inc weighed in on some of the changes they’ve implemented since the disaster in Japan.  IBM’s Dale Miller said they’ve made some very subtle changes looking at the whole system.  IBM looks at their needs over a 2-year horizon, not just one year.  They take a longer forecast approach to plan for capacity needs and that involves getting closer to both suppliers and customers.

Intel ‘s Tim Lloyd said they created a hierarchy of suppliers looking at both their upside and downside capabilities.  A blanket increase in capacity, without a corresponding needs assessment, doesn’t always mitigate risk.  The supply chain reaction should be significantly different depending on if the change is due to an overall shift in the industry or limited to one company’s market share.

They all agreed that better communication with customers and suppliers is critical in today’s environment but the question now is how much information do you provide them?

Analog Will Reach $61.9 Billion by 2015

The semiconductor market may be experiencing a downturn, but that doesn't have to mean all news is bad news. Analog, within the Computing, Consumer, and Communications markets, will see some strong growth over the next few years, growing 13.8%, 8.6%, and 12.8% in 2011, 2012, and 2013 respectively.

These numbers are pulled from our MAP Model database, Semico's way to track semiconductor migration within end-use markets. This method accounts for about 80% of the overall market.

Our overall Analog numbers include the following categories:

  • Standard Linear
  • Amplifiers
  • Interface
  • Voltage Regulators and Reference Circuits
  • Data Conversion Circuits
  • Comparators
  • Application Specific Analog ICs (Small Scale Complexity)
  • Application Specific Analog ICs (Medium Scale Complexity)
  • Application Specific Analog ICs (Large Scale Complexity)

All of these categories combined will reach $61.9 billion, a 7.9% increase over 2010's $42.4 billion.

Breaking this number out farther, we can see that in 2010, the consumer market accounted for 33.3% of the Analog market, but in 2015, it will only account for 23.4%. Where is that Analog migrating?

To smartphones.

A Semiconductor Industry Stimulus Plan

Last week Semico released its industry forecast outlook for the balance of 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately, all the indicators have moved 2011 into the negative territory. Semiconductor sales will end the year 1.6% lower than 2010. That should not be too surprising as the Semico IPI began moving down in May of 2010, warning us of a sluggish second half 2011. The economic malaise, along with the natural disasters around the world has only made semiconductor sales even more challenging.

The good news is that the Semico IPI points to a bottom in the first quarter 2012. Not only are all the economic and supply chain indicators pointing to a better 2012, but it is also consistent with the industry technology cycles. Intel is rolling out their 22nm process technology by the end of this year. GLOBALFOUNDRIES and TSMC are ready with their 28nm processes.

New technologies mean new products or at least new features for our existing electronics devices. In addition, the good news is that GLOBALFOUNDRIES remains committed to their capacity expansion and technology development plans. Fab expansions at their Fab 1 in Dresden and Fab 8 in New York remain on schedule. And at their recent GLOBALFOUNDRIES Technology Conference in Santa Clara, company executives proudly discussed their continued push to develop 20nm processes and even 14nm.

Have Smart Phones Destroyed the Handheld Gaming Market?

It's an accepted fact these days that smart phones are rampaging through the handheld industry, wiping out single use products one after another.  Portable media players, GPS, satellite radio… are handheld games next? Handheld gaming has had problems over the last few years because high start-up costs keep competition at a minimum.  Microsoft, Sony, Nokia, and a score of small companies have tried, and only Sony has managed to compete against Nintendo.  This lack of competition could be a reason why this industry was so prime to be taken over by smart phones. The most popular Nintendo games can sell between 15 – 25 million units.  Angry Birds has had 200 million downloads. According to Guardian, some of the best smartphone games of 2011 (with their prices) are: