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More Than Trees Growing in Luther Forest

Last week Semico visited the GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ Fab 8 construction site and was impressed for several reasons. Not only is the infrastructure significant but the people and surrounding community have welcomed GLOBALFOUDNRIES, embraced the project as well as the invasion of businesses and people that go along with the project. This made our visit extremely pleasant and trouble-free.

The GLOBALFOUNDRIES fab is a multi-billion dollar facility that is on schedule and on budget! That’s noteworthy when we consider this is the first major project for the Luther Forest Technology Campus and a major portion of the infrastructure construction took place during the Upstate New York winter.

An Analog Devices Inertial Sensor for Down-Hole Drilling

The temperature, shock and vibration requirements for components used in down-hole drilling are exceeded perhaps only by the requirements for components used in Hades, whatever those might be.  An oil well drill bit is not only subject to temperatures that may be beyond 200C, it is also subject to vibration while the bit is rotating and severe shock when the drill string is pulled or new sections are added.   Amazingly, Analog Devices new inertial sensor, part number ADXL206, which combines a MEMS accelerometer and the required logic on one IC, meets the down-hole requirements at a fraction of the cost and size of previous solutions. Oil wells are no longer only drilled straight down.  They are often drilled at a slant to reach an oil field from an accessible location.  They are also often threaded around obstacles such as water or hard rock.  This requires an extremely accurate measurement of the tilt and direction of the drill bit.  The Analog Devices inertial sensor provides that measurement.  This part also has an application when the well is completed, when it can be used to monitor vibration from the down-hole pump to provide an early warning of a potential failure of the pumping apparatus.

Apple: Repeating the Mistakes of the Past or Trailblazing a New Future?

Morry Marshall:  Repeating the Mistakes of the Past!

Here we go again, right back where we’ve always been.  In the 1980s the Apple Mac OS was the best operating system on the planet, and Apple was heading toward a dominant share in the personal computer market.  Microsoft MS-DOS had a text interface with arcane commands rather than an easy to use graphical interface.  The IBM PC was just getting off the ground.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to market dominance.  Apple decided to keep the MAC OS and the MAC architecture proprietary.  For some inexplicable reason IBM, historically a company that kept everything to itself, decided to make MS-DOS and the PC architecture open systems.  A series of clone manufacturers emerged; and, as the Microsoft operating system evolved, it became overwhelmingly more popular with developers.  Easy to see why!  Their potential market was much bigger.

Today, Apple has a dominant share in the smartphone market.  Apple has also created the tablet PC market and dominates it.  The Apple iOS (born as the iPhone OS) is the best smart phone operating system on the planet.  It has been ported to the iPad, and it is the interface with the Apple App store for both the iPod and iPad.  The App store has far more apps available than any other site.  The iPod, the iPad, iOS and the App store are all proprietary.

MEMS in Smartphones: Growth At What Price?

It’s no surprise, the smartphone market is a high growth and potentially huge market.  In 2011 over 469 million units will ship worldwide.  This is an annual growth of 30.8% over 2010.  Semico Research projects that this market has a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.9% on units from 2011 to 2015, approaching 1.1 billion units by 2015.

It’s also no surprise that smartphone feature sets change over time.  What constituted a smartphone in 2003 is not at all the same as in 2011.  With each generation cell phones are becoming more feature rich, especially smartphones.

MEMS and sensors are important components that enable many of the new features on smartphones.  MEMS devices offer not only additional functionality but also smaller size and lower power consumption.  This makes MEMS very attractive to the smartphone market.  But what truly paves the way for MEMS in cell phones?    Is it just the new feature or new features at the right price point?

Will the cell phone market force MEMS devices to reduce margins or will manufacturers find ways to produce these chips more efficiently?

Analog Devices RF Mixers Provide High Performance from 700MHz to 2.8GHz

On May 10, 2011 ADI announced the availability of the semiconductor industry’s only double balanced wideband passive mixers.  P/N ADL5811 is a single-channel mixer and P/N ADL 5812 is a dual-channel mixer. Due to differences in frequency allocations around the world, wireless receiver manufacturers often need to provide a receiver that will operate on several different frequencies, scattered across a wide frequency band.   But, this presents a quandary.  Active mixers have the requisite bandwidth but also have higher noise figures and lower linearity than passive mixers.  Passive mixers have better noise figures and linearity but only across a narrow bandwidth.  The new Analog Devices’ mixers employ a clever technical ploy to achieve the best of both worlds. The Analog Devices’ mixers use a programmable RF balun transformer and a programmable low pass filter to allow a receiver manufacturer to tune the mixer to a frequency of their choice.  This allows a passive mixer to retain its low noise and greater linearity characteristics while achieving the bandwidth of an active mixer.  This allows a receiver manufacturer to shorten design time, eliminate off-chip matching components, achieve a shorter time to market, reduce the number of component qualifications and greatly improve inventory management.

28nm Issues Generate Debate at Semico Summit

At the Semico Summit held May 2, 2011 in Phoenix, Az, one of the most lively discussions occurred during the panel Challenges at 28nm. Mahesh Tirupattur, Analog Bits brought out the best from the audience as well as panel members.

Riding the Wave: 2011 Cresting into a 2012 Cutback Move

At the Semico Summit this week Jim Feldhan said “2011 will see revenue growth of 8% however the Semico IPI indicates the second half of 2011 as the beginning of the next market slowdown.” What other evidence supports this hypothesis?

  • Approximately 100 tablet models are being introduced this year, each with a market share goal of more than 1%.  There will be winners and losers.  The result will be excess capacity and inventory in the channel as these models shakeout. In terms of semiconductor ASP's, the supply chain only has to be few percent points out of equilibrium to cause prices to crash.  We’ve seen it in the memory market many times.
  • The smart phone is considered the “promise land”. A market that continues to grow at double-digit rates with increasing semiconductor content is an irresistible market. However, there is a similar threat in the smart phone market.  Overbuilding of smart phones will result in a production pullback in 2012 contributing to excess capacity and inventory leading to falling ASP.

While we would expect a semiconductor downturn to produce negative semiconductor revenue, Semico has identified several factors that will dampen the severity of the downturn.

The Invisible Computers in Our Lives - Microchip

At the recent Semico Summit Ganesh Moorthy, Chief Operating Officer of Microchip Technology, examined how much embedded computing permeates our lives.  But he also pointed out how much more opportunity there is for microcontrollers.  Microchip is a leading vendor of microcontrollers

Mr. Moorthy showed how several applications that have evolved from very simple solutions to solutions that utilize sensors and intelligence.  This has enabled products that are adaptable, have more security, simplified user experience, improved energy efficiency and more.  Among these are developments in automotive, lighting, thermostats and appliances.  There are new applications for microcontrollers providing support management in personal computing, data centers, handsets, asset tracking & management and personal medical equipment.  Embedded computing is found throughout various applications within the smart power grid.

Mr. Moorthy cited several innovation enablers.

Doing Well by Doing - Good STMicroelectronics' View to Shaping the Semiconductor Future

At the recent Semico Summit STMicroelectronics presented its view on shaping the semiconductor future.  Bob Krysiak, Executive VP and GM of the Americas Region, spoke on how ST and the semiconductor industry is “doing well by doing good.”

Mr. Krysiak pointed out the demographic changes that are occurring.  There is increasing world population with most of this growth in non-Western countries.  By 2050 there will be nearly 10 billion people, an increase of 3 billion over today.  In addition we have an aging population.  This puts pressure on many resources.

The theme of his presentation, “doing well by doing good,” presents the internet and connectivity as key elements in addressing these issues.  He noted that the internet and connectivity have become the plumbing of our world and industry.  There are a growing number of online users, many in China.

We will depend more on the internet and connectivity for increases in productivity and security.  Human productivity will depend more on mobility and wireless.  Banking will be transformed by this, but then security becomes more important.  This will lead to growth in brand authentication, protection and trusted platform security.

Sensors Changing the Way We do Business

Freescale’s Senior VP and GM of the RF, Analog & Sensor Group, Tom Dietrich, joined us for another year at the Summit.  Tom is always at the forefront of what is trending in the semiconductor industry and this year was no different as he introduced us to Freescale’s vision of a sensor-based future.

Over the next few years Freescale sees the future changing the world, and Freescale will be leading the change as they focus on four growth markets: Automotive, Networking, Industrial, and Consumer while they leaverage three growth trends: The Net Effect, Health & Safety, and Going Green.

For the consumer market we can see how sensors are changing the way we interact with our electronics just by looking at the iPhone and the top ranking apps.  Games now rely on the touchscreen, some rely on tilting the phone, others respond to shaking.  Add this in with networking and we have Cloud Computing.  For example in Japan, a good way to use sensors in cell phones is to have an earthquake app that can combine data from everyone’s phone to a central hub where the data will be analyzed to predict more accurately when and where the next earthquake will occur.  And considering that seismologists are warning of another magnitude-8 quake, this is a feature of sensors that can save lives.