Monday, February 28, 2011

Great union budget 2010-11, but very little (or nothing) for semicon!

The Union Finance minister has tabled the Union Budget 2011-12 this morning in the Indian Parliament. Some of the key features include:

* Hike in exemption IT limit from Rs 1.6 lakh to Rs 1.8 lakh.
* Air travel expensive -- service tax increased.
* TV, mobile phones cheaper.
* Battery-operated hybrid vehicles cheaper.
* Plan to provide rural broadband connectivity to all 250,000 panchayats in the country in three years.
* Connectivity to all 1,500 institutions of higher learning and research through optical fiber backbone to be provided by March, 2012.
* Special grant provided to various universities and academic institutions to recognise excellence.
* From 1st October, 2011 10 lakh Aadhaar numbers will be generated per day under the UID program.

IT infrastructure
* Various IT initiatives taken for efficient tax administration. These include e-filing and e-payment of taxes, adoption of ‘Sevottam’ concept by CBEC and CBDT, web based facility for tax payers to track the resolution of refunds and credit for pre-paid taxes and augmentation of processing capacity.
* Under Mission mode projects, funds released to 31 projects received from States/UTs for computerisation of commercial taxes. This will allow States to align with roll out of GST.
* Bill to amend the Indian Stamp Act proposed to be introduced shortly.
* A new scheme with an outlay of Rs. 300 crore to be launched to provide assistance to States to modernise their stamp and registration administration and roll out e-stamping in all the districts in the next three years.
* A new simplified form ‘Sugam’ to be introduced to reduce the compliance burden of small tax payers falling within presumptive taxation.
* Three more benches of Settlement Commission to be set up to fast track the disposal of cases.
* Steps initiated to reduce litigation and focus attention on high revenue cases.

* Full exemption from basic customs duty and a concessional rate of central excise duty extended to batteries imported by manufacturers of electrical vehicles.
* Concessional excise duty of 10 percent to vehicles based on fuel cell technology.
* Exemption granted from basic custom duty and special CVD to critical parts/assemblies needed for hybrid vehicles.
* Reduction in excise duty on kits used for conversion of fossil fuel vehicles into hybrid vehicles.
* Excise duty on LEDs reduced to 5 percent and special CVD being fully exempted.
* Basic customs duty on solar lantern reduced from 10 percent to 5 percent.

Besides mobile phone and TV, several other components have been made cheaper. These include laser printers, solar lanterns, hybrid vehicles, LED lights, etc. Air travel, hotels and getting treated in big hospitals have become expensive owing to service tax.

There is also a proposal to launch a National Mission for hybrid and electric vehicles. That should be interesting!

As of now, there is nothing on the Indian semiconductor industry.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It’s Q1 seasonal slowdown and yearly time for denial

This is a summary by Malcolm Penn, CEO, Future Horizons. For those who wish to know more, please get in touch with me or Future Horizons.

December’s WSTS results were as boring as they were predictable, with no serious data revisions (thankfully) and the results right where we expected. December’s year-on-year IC unit growth was 8.9 percent that, with the 3.5 percent growth (yes GROWTH) in ASPs, yielded a respectable double-digit value growth of 12.8 percent.

And this, on the back of a weak Q4 memory market that saw ASPs fall 13.1 percent vs Q3-10! The yearly growth vs 2009 weighed in at 31.8 percent, hitting US$298.3 billion, just shy of the elusive US$300 billion threshold. The market is right where we said it would be at our recent 2011 Forecast seminar; we reiterate our position that 2011 will be a good year for the industry. Choppy first-half waters for sure, but watch out for a whopping 2H-11 ricochet.

Connectors are up as well
It is not just semiconductors that are off to a good start. The connector industry is tight as a drum too. Orders in December 2010 were up 13.3 percent versus December 2009, with full year orders up 29.3 percent on 2009, down sequentially 11.1 percent from November 2010. The comparable data for sales was plus 18.7 percent, plus 28.4 and minus 13.7 percent.

The December connector book-to-bill ratio was 1.01, unchanged from November. This industry still publishes orders and book-to-bill data by the way, unlike the chip industry which very foolishly stopped publishing this several years ago. All this in the seasonally slow first quarter of the month, yet few people believe there is a supply problem in prospect. Just as this time last year, industry denial is rampant, way beyond reasonable caution and ignoring the underlying trends.

Strong demand for mobile, server and graphics DRAM
We estimate that the worldwide growth rate for PCs in 2011 will be a healthy 10 percent, with 3.9GB the average DRAM content per box. New capacity and die shrinks are putting near-term pressure on over-supply and pricing but there are now move afoot from Elpida and others to start raising prices.

Where they can, to gain a price advantage, DRAM vendors are actively adjusting their supply in favour of mobile from commodity DRAM, given the current strong demand in the smartphone and tablet PC markets, with a 1GB per box average DRAM content.

Server demand continues to be the other star segment, not just in unit demand but in content per box as well, estimated to average around 30GB in 2011. This will drive a 50 to 60 percent increase in server DRAM demand. Finally in graphics demand for specialty DRAM is also very strong, driven by the rapid take off of 3D-TV and continuing strong growth in Blue-Ray DVD.

The overall DRAM industry is thus gradually diversifying from manufacturing mainly commodity DRAM to diversified products such as mobile DRAM, serverbasis DRAM, specialty DRAM and graphic memory. DRAM vendors however are faring mixed fortunes, with Elpida and Hynix having the worst net cash positions with barely enough cash to cover their short-term debt.

The Taiwanese vendors find themselves stuck in a technology trap, unable to invest in the immersion technology needed to break through the 5*nm node, meaning that in the absence of a good market uptick to improve cash flow and profits, a shake out in the DRAM supply base seems unavoidable.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Disruptive technologies an innovation for masses!

The last session of the ISA Vision Summit 2011 focused on disruptive technologies. There were three presenters:
* Ashok B. Ramaswamy, global director for software development, Delphi.
* S. Nandakumar, co-founder and CEO, Perfint Healthcare.
* Phanindra Sama, co-founder and CEO, redBus.

More later! ;)

Entrepreneur’s journey: Two sides of the same coin!

Chetan Mani, chief of Technology and strategy officer, and deputy chairman, Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicle Co. Ltd and Steve Sanghi, CEO and chairman of the board, Microchip Technology Inc.

More later! ;)

Xilinx fueling next wave of innovation and growth!

Moshe Gavrielov, president and CEO, Xilinx Inc., presented the keynote on day 2 of the ongoing ISA Vision Summit 2011 here in Bangalore.

More later! ;)

Belgian contingent graces ISA Vision Summit 2011

The Belgium contingent was at full strength at the ISA Vision Summit 2011, with five key representatives. These included:
* AnSem
* imec
* Target Compiler Technology
* Televic Group.

The twin objective of this delegation is to stimulate innovation by enabling and supporting co-operation with Indian partners. Another objective is to promote the DSP Valley network and the region of Flanders/Belgium as having a unique experience in the domains of wireless communications, DSP and embedded system design.

More later! ;)

Monday, February 21, 2011

ISA Technovation awards 2011: Anand, the top draw! Top honors for Su-Kam, Tejas

The ISA Technovation Awards 2011 were given away this evening by World Chess Champion, Vishwanathan Anand. The sudden downpour had earlier made everyo

Driving global markets through local innovation: ISA Vision Summit 2011

This was perhaps the best session of the day, but held at the end! More later! ;)

ISA Vision Summit 2011: Energy saved is energy produced!

As usual, there was a session on solar energy, that focused on how 1 unit of energy saved is energy produced!

More later! ;)

Healthcare and education -- next gen in multi-disciplinary system design: ISA Vision Summit 2011

According to Dr. Prem Kalra, director, IIT, Rajasthan, one should be able to solve problems on becoming educated. To make students job creators, you need to empower them!

More later! ;)

Infosys presents three points for India's growth: ISA Vision Summit 2011

One wonders what S.D. Shibulal, COO and member of the board, Infosys Technologies, was doing as the speaker for Market and business dynamics in emerging markets. Nevertheless, he was the speaker after the inauguration of the ISA Vision Summit 2011.

More later ;)

ISA Vision Summit 2011: Nanotech likely to catch us all unaware!

"The electronics industry in India, touching $60 billion, has now thrown up a challenge," said Dr. N. Seshagiri, former director-general, National Informatics Centre (NIC), chief guest at the 6th ISA Vision Summit, which kicked off today in Bangalore. "This decade can see many disruptions. One innovation likely to catch all of us unaware is nanotech!"

More later! ;)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's happening with Indian solar/PV industry?

I've just returned after attending the Renewtech India 2011 show in Mumbai, on behalf of Trafalgar Media. I am very pleased to report that there were two sessions that I was able to attend -- one on "Financing of Renewable Energy Projects" and the other on "Solar Energy & Hybrids." Besides, I made a new friend in Sarita, my associate at the show.

To read more, you'd need to go to the website titled Global Solar Technology! I will, meanwhile, attempt to put down some of my own thoughts here!

First, the show itself! I am told there were many more exhibitors in the previous edition than this year's edition. Now, I don't know whether that is correct, but one got the feeling that this show was small! Two, the sessions were really lively! At least, that's what I thought! Three, there was a strong German presence at the show. Four, on a lighter note, Yingli came to the show with a large booth, but also ended up doing a raffle draw on day 2! ;)

As for the conference, there were 'moderate' attendances for both the sessions mentioned above. 'Moderate', because I felt that the venue, or the room that showcased the conference, was too small! Now, I may be wrong in my assessment.

However, these odd things did not have any negative impact on the sessions themselves. All speakers went full blast at their topics, as did the audience, which, for a change, asked several interesting questions.

What was my impression about the show? It so appears that the Indian solar PV industry is well on track to perform well. However, there are some reports that not all licensees have managed a start, post the granting of 37-odd licenses by the NVVN. What's being done to support or help the guys who have won the NVVN licenses?

Also, there seemed to be a lot of discussions focused on solar thermal, rather than on solar PV technology. Now, why is that so? Perhaps, Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI) has a larger role to play here!

By the way, there was a Bangalore-based supplier of LEDs, which had quite a few visitors at its booth.

And now, I am looking forward to attending the ISA Vision Summit, to be held on Feb. 21st and 22nd. Let's see if something good comes out of this edition. Not to worry, you'll hear from me, right here! ;)

Friday, February 11, 2011

ST focuses on four key growth areas

According to Carlo Bozotti, president and CEO of STMicroelectronics, there are four key growth areas for the company:
* Smart meters and energy saving.
* Smart consumer devices.
* Trust and data security.
* Healthcare and well being.

Bozotti was speaking at the STMicroelectronics' media roundtable held this evening at the Greater Noida, India office.

Year 2010 goes down in ST's history as a year of records. Both ACCI and IMS surpassed the $1 billion mark in quarterly revenue. Year 2010 was also a year of recovery -- with ST achieving $1,3 billion revenue and a net operational cashflow of $961 million. ST also improved its net financial position to $1.7 billion.

In 2011, ST promises to expand and continue to grow its customer base. This year, ST predicts that the global semicon industry will grow 5-8 percent.

ST forsees its second major block of growth in manufacturing. It has aggressive ramp-up planned in application areas, such as:
* Smart power automotive field.
* New platforms and solutions in smartphones and tablets.

Even ST-Ericsson, which was in restructuring mode, is now secure. This year, said Bozotti, it will be a year of transition from old, legacy products to new.

The last priority is to achieve 3D SoCs, complex MCUs and twin MEMS. Bozotti noted that the company plans to combine accelerometer and gyroscope in a single application. It will also add innovative solutions to smartphones and tablets.

As for R&D, Bozotti claimed that the company will remain committed. "We strongly commit to R&D in both good and bad times," he noted.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Top 10 Indian embedded companies!

It has been over two years since I wrote the piece -- Top 10 embedded companies in India! It has been the most read, and by far, the most commented. Now, it is time to do a review, or a recap!

First, who are the top 10 (Indian) embedded systems and software companies in India? My list, in no particular order, would read something like this:

1. Ittiam
2. Sasken
3. CMC
4. C-DAC
5. L&T EmSyS
6. ProcSys
7. eInfochips
8. Mistral
9. iWave Systems/Global Edge
10. Vayavya Labs

There are several firms in Pune and Hyderabad, who probably deserve a name. There may be some folks may not agree with this list, but I would go with these, for now. The next change could be two years down the road!

Some may even question the presence of CMC and C-DAC in this list. However, CMC has well over 30+ years of extensive experience in providing consulting, design and development services and testing services in real-time systems.

C-DAC has capabilities in high-performance computing as well as grid computing. It also has unit focusing on professional electronics, including embedded and VLSI products.

Ittiam and Sasken remain in the top 5 category. ProcSys is a new entrant, besides iWave, Global Edge and Vayavya Labs.

Now, may I know if you have any doubts, as well as moves, additions and/or changes (MAC)? ;)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quite a few challenges before Indian semicon industry!

Anyone, who has the slightest interest in the Indian semicon industry, will agree with my statement. As of now, there are multiple challenges facing the Indian semicon industry. That's where the India Semiconductor Association's (ISA) Vision Summit comes into play! It assumes much larger importance!

Right now, there are no fabs or foundries in India. There aren't even too many fabless companies. Okay, let's face it! There aren't even that many locally bred LCD or OLED or PDP players. Are there?

Let's refresh your memory once again! Back in September 2007, the Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Communication and IT, Government of India, came up with the Special Incentive Package Scheme (SIPS) to encourage investments for setting up semicon fabs, and other micro and nanotechnology manufacturing industries in India!

The “ecosystem units” were defined as units, other than a fab unit, for manufacture of semiconductors, displays including LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, any other emerging displays; storage devices; solar cells; photovoltaics; other advanced micro and nanotechnology products; and assembly and test of all the above products.

What has since happened? There has been a spiralling growth of solar PV firms -- that too, largely owing to the Indian government's Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JN-NSM)! Now, that's not semiconductors!! I know there will be some disagreements with several folks, and so be it!!!

Recently, the ISA organized a one-day workshop on the Karnataka Semicon Policy. There was a presentation, which proposed the following features for 2010-11:
* Semiconductor focused school and research lab in IIITB: Rs 650.00 lakhs.
* Augmenting orchid tech space in STPI to characterization lab: Rs 200.00 lakhs.
* Implementation of agreement with MATIMOP, Israel (Fund for Semiconductor Excellence): Rs 100.00 lakhs.
* Various subsidies/incentives/concessions under industrial policy 2009-19: Rs 50.00 lakhs.

Perhaps, Israel will help out India for the time being. However, the Indian industry needs to closely look at itself and start to stand up and be counted!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Innovation enables every milestone at Ittiam!

I first met Srini Rajam, chairman and CEO, Ittiam Systems, back in 2002-03 — a time when I’d just returned from Hong Kong and Singapore, having finished my first stint with Global Sources, and was still with Reed Elsevier (EDN Asia).

Today, I am proud to report a huge milestone in Ittiam’s journey — the company has completed a decade’s existence, and still remains India’s leading semiconductor company!

Technology for people
Today, Ittiam celebrated its journey of a decade and beyond! Speaking about technology for people, Rajam said, “Our technology has reached farther than we imagined!”From the use of audio, video and communications in flight, train and car, it has moved on to personal communication, tablets and enterprise.As an example, it has gone beyond from beginner’s recording to home recording on to professional recording.

Do note that all of this hasn’t really been about fun and leisure only! For instance, Ittiam’s solutions have made their way into head mounted display for industrial applications, DVR unit for surveillance recording, IPTV encoding for broadcast head end, and WLAN SoC for automotive application.

Over the years, Ittiam has gained recognition as a key technology player. Today, it boasts of one of the widest range of technologies for embedded systems development (see figure).

Ittiam has gained a lot of headway in IP and system design, and chip design IP. Currently, it boasts of 45 patent filings and 28 patent grants.

IP business model
On the IP side of things, Ittiam has emerged as the model IP pioneer for India! Ittiam pioneered the IP licensing model from India. Ittiam retains the IP rights and shares the market risk with customers. Rajam added: “Royalty is like pricing a cricket bat on runs scored. The star players drive your success!”

He added that Ittiam had managed to touch the ‘sweet spot’ in terms of IP royalty in the range of 30-40 percent. There has been a steady growth in Ittiam’s royalty share of revenue, and is forecast at 25 percent as of 2010-11 estimates. Sustained growth in design wins has led to a situation from the year ending March 2004 revenue $4.8 million or Rs. 22 crores to year ending March 2010 with a revenue of $11.5M or Rs. 52 crores. From 2004-10, it witnessed six years of 15.7 percent CAGR.

From starting its India headquarter in Jan. 2001 and the US subsidiary in Feb. 2001, Ittiam has since gone on to open a France (Europe) subsidiary in Jun. 2007, and a Japanese branch office in June 2009, righ up to Singapore — where it set up the Asia subsidiary in Aug. 2010.

The next convergence!
Ittiam has set its sight on the new home for the best of multimedia and communication. The smartphone is now the next PC for convergence. Around 6 million mobile phones and tablets are likely to be shipped in 2010-11 with Ittiam’s HD video.These would be 720p HD video record and playback devices on SoC devices rated only for SD resolution.

Ittiam says that it has a lot to offer for smartphones and tablets in the coming year. The future is said to be powered by twin engines for industrial electronics and mobile communications. Industrial electronics should see complete applications and systems, while smartphones and tablets will likely witness a 3X growth over the next three years of OEM units with Ittiam IP.

All the best wishes to Ittiam in the new year, and the years ahead!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

WSTS Dec. 2010 results boringly predictable!

This is a summary by Malcolm Penn, CEO, Future Horizons. For those who wish to know more, please get in touch with me, or, with Future Horizons.

December’s WSTS results were as boring as they were predictable, with no serious data revisions (thankfully) and the results right where we expected. December’s year-on-year IC unit growth was 8.9 percent that, with the 3.5 percent growth (yes GROWTH) in ASPs, yielded a respectable double-digit value growth of 12.8 percent.

And this, on the back of a weak Q4 memory market that saw ASPs fall 13.1 percent vs Q3-10! The yearly growth vs 2009 weighed in at 31.8 percent, hitting $298.3 billion, just shy of the elusive $300 billion threshold.

The market is right where we said it would be at our recent 2011 Forecast seminar; we reiterate our position that 2011 will be a good year for the industry. Choppy first-half waters for sure, but watch out for a whopping 2H-11 ricochet.

Already the early warning signs are there: HP has warned of slipped Q1 PC shipment due to component shortages, from sensors to CPUs; TSMC and UMC are curtailing their Chinese New Year annual maintenance programmes due to serious capacity shortages; there is no excess inventory in the pipeline and capacity is maxed out; the front-end book-to-bill has now dropped back below unity; and memory prices have rebounded sharply in the pre-Chinese holiday period.

The whole industry food chain is now an overstretched taunt spring … with no easy roll back option. The 21C10 industry model is way past its sell by date … time for a radical rethink? Plan A is NOT sustainable.