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The Semiconductor Industry and Green Power

Echoing the general theme of the day at the Semico 2010 Outlook conference; namely the growing importance of controlling, manipulating, generating, conserving and transmitting power, eSilicon CEO Jack Harding addressed the issue in his keynote speech, summarized as follows. 

Developing counties such as India and China have ever-increasing appetites for the kind of inexpensive, plentiful and reliable sources of energy already available in the developed world. More energy resources are needed in developing countries to provide clean water, electric lighting, heating and cooling and other aspects of a comfortable life the developed world takes for granted. Increased energy resources are also required to provide the computing power and all-pervasive connectivity becoming available to billions of people around the world.

Although the growing markets for electronic products benefit many companies, the environmental impact of generating the power required by those devices is beginning to be a concern. Many are beginning to question whether or not sales of ever larger numbers of electronic devices, requiring ever larger amounts of power, is necessarily a good thing. Those questions are leading to demands for “Green” processes and initiatives.

Semico Outlook 2010: Infrastructure is the Key

One of the panels at the Semico Outlook Conference (March 2, 2010) focused on issues concerning the communications infrastructure. Some common themes were the carriers meeting the challenge of return on investment (ROI), meeting the growing demand for band width, and reducing power consumption.

The mainstream press and popular culture tend to focus on the various gizmos people around the world are clamoring for, such as smart phones, eReaders, notebooks, and other personal handheld electronics. Networking homes and businesses are hot topics. And of course people keep talking about “cloud computing,” but many are not aware that these are actually large data centers. In order for all of these things to connect, work and satisfy consumers, the communications infrastructure is necessary.

The panel was moderated by Hugh Durdan, COO of eSilicon. Speakers were Bradley Howe, (VP IC Engineering/Altera), Young Sohn (Pres. & CEO/Inphi) and Lisa Su (Sr VP &GM/Freescale).

Durdan kicked off the panel pointing out that social networking is putting pressure on communications networks. He cited a recent example of AT&T suspending sales of iPhones because of lack of BW.

Microchip Technology Introduces MCUs with less than 50µA/Mhz Active Power

Microchip Technology has announced a series of 11 new 8-bit PIC® microcontrollers, ranging from 8 to 64 pins, which use Microchip’s nanoWatt XLP Technology to attain active power consumption less than 50µA/Mhz. Low power, combined with the large number and variety of functions integrated onto these MCUs make them ideally suited for a wide range of applications. These functions include on-chip analog to digital conversion, timekeeping, UARTs, EEPROM, LCD control, a capacitive touch screen controller and others. In addition, there is up to 56KB of program memory and 4KB of storage memory. Low-operating power, of course, makes this MCU ideal for battery powered applications.

Semico believes that this series of PIC® MCUs will find homes in numerous applications. Their low power and high level of integration are very attractive benefits. In addition, Microchip, as always, is providing a comprehensive suite of design tools and evaluation platforms.

Morry Marshall
VP Strategic Technologies
Semico Research Corp.

Outlook 2010 Panel: Technology Everywhere, All the Time

People want to be connected everywhere and all the time: at work, travelling, at home, in the grocery store, at sporting events, everywhere. They want telephone, Web and wireless networking connections for audio, video and data. Smart phones come close to satisfying this desire; but there are still dead spots, not enough bandwidth or the screen is too small. The available technology is being taxed. What’s next? What applications do people want? What kinds of devices. What new technologies will be needed? What are the economics at play? Is there a need for a new business model? Most of all, where are the semiconductor opportunities.

The speakers on this panel will be:

Derek Meyer
Executive Vice President
Quartics

Alex Shubat
President and CEO
Virage Logic

Bart Ladd
General Manager
NEC America

For more information go to: http://www.semico.com/eventoutlook/outlook.asp

Outlook 2010 Panel: Infrastructure is Key

Smart phones, Wide Area Networks and a host of future mobile devices are drivers for future semiconductor industry growth. So are virtualization, storage, cloud computing and anytime/anywhere computing applications. But, none of this will be possible without an often ignored factor, an adequate supporting infrastructure. A seemingly insatiable demand for bandwidth is being created. How will this demand be satisfied? This panel will discuss the infrastructure build out, the new technologies and the semiconductors that will be required to provide the capacity, performance reliability that will be required.

The speakers on this panel will be:

Brad Howe,
Vice President, IC Design
Altera Corporation

Lisa T. Su, Ph. D.
Senior Vice President and General Manager, Networking and Multimedia
Freescale Semiconductor

Young K. Sohn
President and CEO
Inphi Corporation

For more informatopm go to: http://www.semico.com/eventoutlook/outlook.asp

An Audio Bridge to Good Music

Is the digital multimedia home finally here?  Media hubs and PC-centric solutions have come and gone, too expensive or not offering the right features; but the BridgeCo Inc. DM870 Networked Media Processor and JukeBlox software platform offers a simple, inexpensive way to connect multiple devices in the digital home.  The DM870 can deliver quality audio or pictures from the Internet or other sources to PCs, entertainment centers or home theater systems, and it is inexpensive enough to be used in iPod docks, clock radios or table-top radios. A major inhibitor to the realization of the digital home has been the confusing jumble of digital standards.  PCs, TVs, set-top boxes, entertainment centers and cell phones all have their own unique standards for the compression, transmission or display of digital information.  To help overcome this problem, the manufacturers of consumer electronics devices have proposed a standard, DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), that allows home entertainment devices to share their content on a home network, using a DLNA interface built into each device.  The DLNA interface will be built into hundreds of millions of consumer devices.

A New Mobile Wi-Fi Chip, Better in Every Way

Faster, smaller, more transmission power, less battery power.  In a few words, that describes the Atheros AR6003, a recently released 802.11n Wi-Fi chip for cell phone and other handheld mobile applications.  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  The AR6003 is leaps and bounds ahead of even the previous industry-leading Atheros AR6002 mobile Wi-Fi chip. Faster:  The AR6003 is a one-stream 802.11n chip, backwards compatible to 802.11g.  It is capable of transmitting data at up to 85Mbs TCP/IP in the 5GHz band/40 MHz mode and up to 48Mbs TCP/IP in the 2.4GHz/20MHz mode.  That means that it can support media-rich applications on cell phones or other mobile devices. Smaller:  The AR6003 is only 5mm X 5mm, 50% smaller than the previous world’s smallest mobile Wi-Fi chip, the Atheros AR6002. More Transmission Power:  The AR6002 uses an on-chip CMOS PA to provide 19dBm of transmission power.  That’s power on a par with Wi-Fi routers, which eliminates a problem.  Many mobile Wi-Fi chips can receive signals from Wi-Fi routers at a range beyond the point where they have enough transmitting power to respond.  The AR6003 can respond at points up to a router’s maximum range. Less Battery Power:  The AR6003 needs only 0.45mA when connected and 57mA when active.  That’s 20% less current than the AR6002, which had been the lowest power chip available.  In addition, the AR6003 has on-chip power management circuitry so that it can be connected directly to a battery.

Car Guys Have Blind Spots

Car guys, and I am one, have some blind spots.  We want more car than we really need or can use, and we think we’re better drivers than we really are.  Those blind spots make us poor judges of what most people want or need and of the cars that the automotive industry should be building in the future. 

The car magazines lead us astray.  Their road tests feature exotic cars:  Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lotuses and the like.  Those cars are desirable, but they are fantasies.  Their production is only a tiny fraction of total worldwide automobile production.  They are far beyond the means of all but a few of the magazines’ readers.  Their performance is beyond any reasonable requirement for driving on the road. 

The implied standard of comparison in the car magazines is a racing car.  Cars are often rated based on their performance on a race track.  The assumption is that a car that performs well on a race track will be a desirable street car.  

Chips and Change Book Review

Chips and Change:  How Crisis Reshapes the Semiconductor Industry

By Clair Brown and Greg Linden

The MIT Press © 2009

The cyclical nature of the semiconductor industry is well known, but too little attention is paid to the underlying factors.  A just published book, Chips and Change, by Clair Brown and Greg Linden, discusses eight recurring, interactive crises that have shaped the semiconductor industry and contributed to its market cycles:  These crises and some examples are:

Gasoline Engine or Battery Power: What Semiconductors Will Be Needed?

Gasoline or electric?  Hybrid or plug-in.  Lithium ion or fuel cell?  What will we be driving?  It depends on the supply of oil, the price of gasoline, global warming, battery technology and more; but, whatever the outcome, there’s opportunity for semiconductors. 

Automobile sales are beginning a recovery from a disastrous slump.  Sales will increase more than 3% annually through 2013.  That may not seem very high, but it is a terrific number in the automobile industry, especially after the last year.  It will lead to much higher semiconductor growth opportunities.  For example, the 2008 - 2013 CAGR for hybrid electric vehicle control semiconductor revenue will be 52.8%. 

Semiconductor growth opportunities will occur, in part, because the kinds of automobiles being manufactured are going to change dramatically.  Cars will be smaller, more fuel efficient, and have alternate power plants.  The facts supporting this have become politicized and are hotly disputed; but here are the basics. 

Oil supplies are being depleted.  The price of gasoline will increase to $10.00 per gallon or more in the US within ten years.  Global warming is real; and people are causing it, not some variation in a natural cycle.  Automotive emissions are a major contributing factor. 

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