Friday, October 28, 2011

Solar installations: How long will boom last?

Dr. Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst, PV, IHS iSuppli Corp., presented a paper at PV Taiwan 2011. Let’s take a look at how long is the boom in solar installations likely to last!

According to Dr. Wicht, the solar market is forecasted to reach 21.9 GW in 2011. In 2011, global installations will record again and reach 21.9 GW. Germany and Italy will remain the leading markets. The USA and China are growing strongly. Worldwide PV installation forecast, updated May 20, 2011 is currently at around 25 percent. It will then likely dip to -10 percent in 2012, before finally moving up to 32-33 percent in 2015. The upside potential of 6.5 GW in 2012 may result in 27 GW of installations.

Installations in 2012 are forecasted at 20.5 GW (-11 percent). However, historically the photovoltaic market never declined. Even in 2009, the most challenging year, the market grew by 33 percent. Can it repeat again?

In that case, what’s the situation in the world right now? He replied: “In China, the support of domestic supplier industry will be the driver, while there will be expansion of solar subsidy programs. The forecast for 2012 is 2.4GW and the upside potential for 2012 is 1 GW. Germany will see pro REE politics. There will be re-opening of the ground installation market segment; and lifting of installation target to 5 GW, the upper edge of the target corridor. The 2012 forecast is 5 GW and the upside potential for 2012 is 1 GW. Italy will also see pro REE politics. There will likely be a target corridor of 2-3 GW. The 2012 forecast is 2.5 GW and the upside potential is 2 GW.”

Also, Japan will see pro REE politics. There will be an expansion of solar subsidy programs. The 2012 forecast is 1.6 GW and the upside potential is 1 GW. The rest of the world (RoW) will see an enhanced support of REE at the expense of nuclear energy. There will also be implementation of incentives and funding for solar. The 2012 forecast is 9 GW and the upside potential is 1.5 GW. In total, the realistic upside potential (50 percent) is estimated at 24 GW for 2012, and the total upside potential is estimated at 27 GW.

“Now, if we re-look at the global PV installation forecast, it is likely to be 21.9 GW in 2011, 24.17 GW in 2012, 28.23 GW in 2013, 32.3 GW in 2014 and 43.05 GW in 2015. In 2011, the installations in Europe will reach 63 percent, but will decrease to 33 percent in 2015.”

Let’s have a look at the emerging solar/PV market situation at the moment. According to Wicht, the solar emerging markets in 2014 include: Americas at 1,300 MW, Europe/Middle East at 2,150 MW, Africa at 950 MW, Asia 3,440 MW and Australia 775 MW.

So, where are prices going for modules, cells, wafers and poly? He said: “First, module prices will not stop falling. At the end of Q3 2011, modules are offered at 0.8€/W (factory gate). The residential systems are priced at 2.0€/W in Germany.”

The year end 2011 forecast, as of July 2011 shows the silicon (spot) price at $50-55/kg, wafer at $0.54/Wp (multi), cell at $0.80/Wp (for tier 2 players) and module at EUR 0.85/Wp (multi, top 10 players). The year end 2011 forecast, as of Sept. 2011 will show silicon (spot) price at $48-55/kg, wafer at $0.43~0.48/Wp (multi), cell at $0.72/Wp (for tier 2 players) and module: at EUR 0.80/Wp (top 10 players). Currently, the most profitable segments of the value chain lies at the tail ends in polysilicon and in the balance of system/inverter.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lava Mobiles launches classy S12 smartphone!

Lava Mobiles has introduced the classy S12 smartphone. The phone's smooth curvature and slim arc back gives it an easy palm-fit. It is only 1.3cm thick and has a matte leather finish.The S12 runs on Android 2.2 (Froyo) and works on quad GSM band 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, UMTS 2100 MHz. It supports 3G, HSDPA 7.2 Mbps and HSUPA 384 kbps. It uses a Qualcomm 7227 600MHz processor, and is WiFi, A-GPS and EDGE/GPRS enabled. The Lava S12 allows connecting to the Internet with either 3G or WiFi. It has a 3.2-inch HVGA (480x320) display.

Some other features include 5MP camera with 2X zoom, Android music player, Android video player, Bluetooth v2.1, Android browswer, 120MB storage and extenal memory expandable up to 32GB.

The home screen has the feature to change to an engaging 3D user interface, allowing the user to switch between various screens using a single gesture.

Like many other smartphones, the Lava S12 allows users the opportunity to do much more than simply calling or messaging. For business, there is Moneycontrol, while users can access Gmail, as well as Google Maps and Latitude. There is Google Places as well, besides a Voice Search app.

Users can download froma a range of content, such as songs, ringtones, videos and wallpapers. Saavn allows you to listen to latest Bollywood songs, etc., and has a smart search that delivers fast results. TuneWiki is yet another app that plays music, and streams Internet radio and videos. Then, there is YouTube, and a year's free subscription of Zenga TV - that allows you to watch MTV, Colors, Headlines Today, Movies, etc. The TOI app provides news.

For those who book air or rail tickets, there's Ngpay. You can also use it to book movie tickets or for shopping. For the social networking buffs, the S12 has Facebook, Twitter and Nimbuzz apps built in.

Those looking to do some work on the move can take the help of Adobe Reader. The SlideIT feature is an innovative keyboard. It can be used to send/type emails, SMSs, or for chatting.

I could not find a stylus, and wonder how easy it will be for users to type. Perhaps, this is the only drawback.

The S12 has in-built smart sensor technology as well. Its Pocket Mode feature makes the incoming call alert convenient, and the Quiet ringer on gesture feature can silence phone calls by simply sliding a hand over the phones.

The phone uses a 1,300 mAh, Lithium-ion battery. It supports a talk time of GSM up to 650 minutes and UMTS up to 485 minutes, and a stand-by time of GSM up to 590 hours and UMTS up to 650 hours. The phone itself weighs 120g with the battery and measures 117 x 57.5 x 13.4mm. The Lava S12 can be bought online from Lava Mobiles' website for Rs. 8,500.

Friday, October 21, 2011

DIT outlines initiatives to promote ESDM in India

The Department of IT, Government of India, recently organized a workshop on electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM), conducted by the India Semiconductor Association (ISA). Dr. Ajay Kumar, joint secretary, Dept. of IT, Government of India, touched upon some major initiatives to promote ESDM. These include:

* Setting up two semiconductor wafer fabs for manufacture of chips.
* Introducing Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme to encourage manufacture of high-priority electronic products in India.
* Provide incentives for setting up of electronics manufacturing clusters.
* Setting up of the National Electronics Mission (NEM).
* Providing Preferential Market Access to domestically manufactured electronics products for government procurement and procurement by government licensees.
* Setting up of “Electronic Development Fund”.

Some of the other initiatives to promote ESDM include:
* Draft National Policy for Electronics, 2011 released for public consultation on October 3, 2011. Comments invited till end October.
* Additional items included under ESDM for benefit of Special Focus Scheme under the Foreign Trade Policy recently.
* Mandating health and safety standards for 16 major electronic items under finalization in consultation with BIS.
* Private sector participation in human resource development being promoted.
* Sector specific initiatives for set-top boxes, medical electronics, avionics, industrial electronics, automotive electronics, LEDs, strategic electronics for defense, space and nuclear.
* Awareness creation and interest generation domestically and globally.
* Renaming the Department as Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY).

The semiconductor design industry in India consists of VLSI design, board/hardware design and embedded software development. The size was estimated at $6.5 billion in 2009 and is expected to log a CAGR of 17.3 percent over the next three years to reach $10.6 billion in 2012. Nearly 2,000 chips are being designed each year and more than 20,000 engineers being engaged in various aspects of chip designing and verification.

2011 sales estimate could vary between $303.8 billion and $311.9 billion: Cowan LRA model

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

It’s that time of the month again; namely, time for an advanced showing of next month’s global semiconductor sales forecast updates for both 2011 and 2012 as gleamed from September’s “actual” sales expectation range by exercising the “look ahead” forecasting capability of the Cowan LRA forecast model.

September’s upcoming global semiconductor sales result should, therefore, be instrumental in determining the sales growth expectation not only for the third quarter of 2011 but also for the full year of 2011. In particular, one can ascertain whether 2011 will exhibit positive yearly sales growth for the industry or will it turn negative as a number of market researchers have recently forecasted based upon downward third quarter sales guidance recently announced by many semiconductor suppliers?

Therefore, presented here is a “snap shot” of 2011′s global semiconductor sales and sales growth forecast prospects as a function of September’s “actual” sales forecast estimate range as derived via the Cowan LRA forecasting model. Moreover, the model has been extended in order to include a view of what 2012’s sales growth prospects might look like, thereby, providing a six quarter look ahead horizon that allows the model to also capture the four quarters of 2012.

It should be mentioned that September 2011′s “actual” global semiconductor sales number is scheduled to be released by the WSTS via its monthly HBR (Historical Billings Report) on or about Friday, November 4th.

In advance of the WSTS’s release of its September HBR, here is the monthly outlook analysis leveraging the Cowan LRA forecasting model, which projects worldwide semiconductor sales for 2011 (as well as 2012); namely, by providing a “look ahead” scenario for year 2011′s sales forecast range as a function of next month’s (in this case September’s) assumed range of “actual” global semiconductor sales estimates.

The output of this “look ahead” modelling analysis is detailed in the scenario analysis matrix displayed in the table.Source: Cowan LRA model.

In order to facilitate the determination of these “look ahead” forecast numbers, an extended range in assumed Sept. 2011′s “actual” sales is selected a-priori. In this month’s scenario analysis outlook, a Sept. 2011 sales range from a low of $27.028 billion to a high of $33.028 billion, in increments of $0.250 billion, is pre-selected as listed in the first column of the table.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Game changers: New paradigms for future of electronic product realization

The Cadence Executive Forum, titled, 'Game Changers: New Paradigms for the Future of Electronic Product Realization', was held this evening in Bangalore, India. The speakers were Lip-Bu Tan, president and CEO, Cadence, and Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman of Microsoft India.

In the opening address, Tan remarked that there is likely to be challenging next 12 months in the USA and Europe. It may also impact the Asia Pacific region. However, from an EDA perspective, there will be new design, as companies would be involved in designing next-generation products and killer applications. There will also be more consolidation, which will continue. Another trend is that the number of start-ups has dropped.

There are two main drivers -- technology and market. The cloud is starting to present a big opportunity. Other key areas include green technology and power management. Video will be driving a lot of traffic. The impact on the electronics industry will be new product development, with the IP having expanded beyond processor cores, an increase in collaborations and a changing EDA landscape -- Cadence is investing on its decision to deliver the on the EDA360 vision.

Some of the recent highlights include Cadence's new software development suite that addresses the hardware-software design gap, expansion of the Palladium XP, and releasing the industry's first DDR4 solution, which includes controller, soft and hard PHY, drivers, verfication IP (VIP) memory models and signal integrity reference designs.

He spoke about horizontal collaborations such as app programing interface, and vertical collaborations, which creates differentiation in the end markets. It also engages foundries in EDA, IP, etc. As an example, Tan spoke of Spreadtrum achieving one-pass silicon realization for the first 40nm product. Some other examples highlighted include Samsung designing and implementing 20nm product, ARM and Cadence collaborating on GHz implementation of Cortex-A15, and ARM, TSMC and Cadence collaborating on the industry's first 20nm Cortex-A15.

Speaking on 'Consumerization of IT', Bhaskar Pramanik touched upon consumer trends driving IT. These trends include the economic system of computers, natural interaction, data explosion, social computing, pervasive displays, ubiquitous connectivity, and cloud computing.

Computers will adapt to us. They will enable computing interfaces that are far more easier to use. The key business requirement is to balance the user expectations with the enterprise requirements.

Designing systems to thrive in disruptive trends!

Srini Rajam, CEO, Ittiam Systems presented the guest keynote at the CDNLive! 2011 in Bangalore, India, titled 'Designing Systems to Thrive in Disruptive Trends'. According to him, key factors for design project success include scope definition, realistic targets, good estimation and right resources. Today, smart system design enables being a step ahead in the world of disruptive system demands.

The concergence decade saw an affordable convergence of media and functions. The world also moved from the PC in 2000 to the smartphone in 2010. There has also been a convergence of audio, video and communications. The SoC and system design require performance, quality and price to work in tandem.

In the imagination decade, we have come to expect electronics to do whatever we fancy. In the smart system design era, we have come to anticipate a future system that will also work perfectly today.

Today, we are in the world of IP video communication. First, everything is evolving. There have been advances in video technology, SoC and infrastructure. Technologies designed elsewhere are being brought in. There is a virtually infinite range in quality and price levels. The video communication system holds the key dynamics. The SoC, software and system have entered into a synergistic relationship.

For smart system design, there is a need to look at the big picture. Scaling down is easier than scaling up. Smart system is built to achieve efficiency in scale down. The reference platform is needed for the development roadmap.

For designing, the system may function as a module in other system. Also, critical components of the system may evolve outside. Parts of the system may also get replaced by the ecosystem. As for the SoC, there must be a roadmap enabling application software portability. There should be modular scaling with plug and play of IPs/components. Tools for hardware-software co-development must be available from the early stages.

All of this would enable you to being a step ahead in the world of disruptive system demands.

Realizing EDA360: Charlie Huang, Cadence

Long-term trends are strong for semiconductor and electronics. According to databeans estimate (Feb. 2011), semiconductor revenue will likely reach $450 billion by 2015 and electronics revenuw will likely reach $2,800 billion by 2015.

Speaking at the CDNLive 2011 event in Bangalore, India, Charlie Huang, SVP of Worldwide Field Operations, Cadence Design Systems Inc., said that the challenges in the near term are slowdown in Europe and USA. The weakness is driven by increasingly negative views on the global economy, end demand, orders and outlook. Key indicators are also showing that the economy is facing headwinds. The 2011 GDP growth projections have deteriorated since the beginning of the year. The economy has been marred by high unemployment and low consumer confidence.

As of now, innovation has been driving growth. Apps have been driving innovation, followed by video, mobility, cloud and green technology. The impact on the electronics industry is multi-fold. There is a new development paradigm and collaboration has been increasing. The IP is also expanding beyond cores and the EDA is changing.

The new development paradigm for system companies is to differentiate on applications and semiconductor companies must deliver on application-driven hardware-software platforms. IP has now expanded well beyond the core.

EDA is also changing, and Cadence is investing to deliver on the EDA360 vision. There are multiple silicon realization challenges. Cadence silicon realization solutions enable fast, deterministic, end-to-end path to silicon success.Source: Cadence.

As an example, ARM and Cadence have collaborated on the GHz implementation of Cortex-A15. ARM chose ARM Artisan physical IP, evaluated the Cortex-A15 RTL, and supported CPF. Cadence optimized the EDA flow, experienced support at EAC, and provided EDA tool releases and iRM.

ARM, TSMC and Cadence also collaborated on the industry's first 20nm Cortex-A15. TSMC provided the 20nm process qualification and A15 learnings. ARM handled the 20nm implementation experience, A15 considerations in 20nm and TSMC 20nm readiness milestone. Cadence provided the 20nm research to reality, contributed and grew the A15 expertise and TSMC 20nm readiness milestone.

The end result: the industry's first 20nm Cortex-A15 tapeout, thanks to a successful three-way vertical collaboration. ARM, Cadence and TSMC engineers worked side-by-side. The project priorities included 20nm DPT implementation schedule and 20nm readiness milestone.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What’s happening with ISA and Indian semicon industry?

What? The India Semiconductor Association (ISA) only has around 25 Indian companies in its list? This startling piece of statistic was recently conveyed to me by a company looking to enter India! I frantically contacted ISA to clarify. As of now, am yet to get a reply.

I look around, especially across Asia. There are so many local companies listed in China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, but the number drops drastically, when it comes to India!

Having spent a number of years in Asia Pacific and being more familiar with its ways definitely helps. Why, I remember meeting TSMC, back in 1998, in Taiwan. It was considered a small entity, with few takers. Where has it risen today?

Even Huawei, for example, showed off its 3G base stations, while still a young Chinese company, to me in 2000. I recall asking Richard Lee, then with Huawei, what's the company's expansion plans. Today, everyone knows how fast and wide Huawei has expanded!

Now, when you compare two of the biggest players today - TSMC and Huawei -- with Indian players, who do you come up with? Nothing?? Some may say, AirTel and Reliance? Excuse me, but aren't they telecom operators?

Now, I do know of several start-ups in the Indian semiconductor space, who have time and again given a negative response when asked the question: Are you an ISA member? The single biggest and telling response has been: "ISA caters to global companies or MNCs. What does it do or has done for the Indian companies? We are fine without its support!"ISA founder members in Oct. 2004!

Wow! If this is the response that the Indian semiconductor start-ups have toward the industry association, I wonder what lies ahead!

When the ISA had started off in Oct. 2004, things weren't this way! Going back to that year, India was said to have a major advantage in building fabless semiconductor companies. Some other advantages in favor of India at that time (Nov. 2004), were: local IC design service firms, who were creators of selective IP, development of smart chips with embedded software and the need for microelectronics as national agenda. Today, all of that seems to have been lost!

And now, the ISA has latched on to ESDM (electronics system design and manufacturing). That's really 'easy to say, but difficult to manage!' Going by the current happenings, one does not feel even this can happen! One wishes, it eventually does.

But hey, this post is not about ESDM! It is about having the number of Indian-born-and-bred semiconductor companies within the ISA! Take a good look at the image! Only one member of the Executive Council is currently present! Where are all the founders of ISA? Or, do you now want to tell me that the Indian industry does not even respect its founding fathers?

"The India Semiconductor Association is committed to including all players of the electronic system design and manufacturing (ESDM) ecosystem within it’s member base. As such, any company which plays in this ecosystem, irrespective of their country of origin, is welcome to join the ISA. Having said that, the ISA is particularly partial to getting more companies registered within India, and who are doing both R&D and development within India, to join it’s membership base. We are also very supportive of startups in this space and are very proud of the startups who are already members," said PVG Menon, president, ISA.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Altera launches SoC FPGAs

Altera Corp. has introduced SoC FPGAs that integrates an ARM processor with the FPGA. The SoC FPGAs are said to deliver reduced board space, power and system costs, as well as increased performance. Altera also launched the FPGA industry’s first Virtual Target that enables immediate device-specific application software development prior to hardware availability.

The ARM-based FPGAs integrate 28-nm Cyclone V and Arria V FPGA fabric, a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor, error correcting code (ECC) protected memory controllers, peripherals and high-bandwidth interconnect into a single chip. The Cyclone V and Arria V SoC FPGAs further extend the portfolio's reach into the embedded processing market. Embedded developers needs include increased system performance, reducing system power, and reducing board size as well as system cost. ARM + Altera = SoC FPGAs.

The SoC FPGA family highlights include the dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor, which includes hard memory controller, peripherals and high-bandwidth interconnect. Altera’s 28-nm FPGA fabric involves the Cyclone V SoC FPGA the and Arria V SoC FPGA, respectively. ARM’s ecosystem and Altera’s hardware development flow is also featured in the form of the Quartus II software and Qsys system integration tool. These also have a proven virtual prototyping methodology in form of SoC FPGA Virtual Target for device-specific software development.

The ARM processor has been combined with hard IP. The SoC FPGA uses the dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor that features 800 MHz per core (industrial grade), NEON media processing engine, single/double precision floating point unit (FPU), 32-KB/32-KB L1 caches per core and ECC-protected 512-KB shared L2 cache. The hard IP features multi-port memory controller with ECC, such as DDR2/3, mobile DDR, LPDDR2, as well as QSPI, NAND flash, NOR flash memory controller with ECC, and a wide range of common peripherals.

The advanced 28nm low-power (28LP) FPGA fabric is the optimal choice for addressing today’s power- and cost-constrained applications and boasts the lowest absolute power. The hard IP features up to three memory controllers with ECC, variable precision DSP technology, up to two hard PCIe Gen 2 x4 and high-speed transceivers operating up to 10 Gbps.

System-level benefits of SoC FPGA
System-level benefits of the SoC FPGA include increased system performance such as 4,000 DMIPS for under 1.8W, up to 1,600 GMACS, 300 GFLOPS DSP, >125 Gbps processor to FPGA interconnect and cache coherent hardware accelerators. It offers reduced power consumption -- up to 30 percent power savings vs. a 2-chip solution.

There is reduced board size with up to 55 percent form factor reduction and as few as two power rails. All of these lead to reduced system costs leading to lower component cost and reduction in PCB complexity and cost -- less routing with fewer layers. The SoC FPGA device portfolio is tailored to address diverse application requirements.

As for the SoC FPGA design flow, it features a standard hardware development flow using Quartus II software and Qsys system integration tool. The ARM software ecosystem is present with tools, OSs and middleware. The virtual prototyping environment enables immediate device-specific application software development prior to hardware availability. It moves the code quickly to final hardware and shortens time to market.

Boasting the FPGA industry’s first Virtual Target, there is immediate device-specific software development that are binary- and register-compatible. It uses proven virtual prototyping technology, and is Linux and VxWorks enabled, compatible with ARM tools. The SoC FPGA also has the FPGA-in-the-loop extension option.

It facilitates advanced embedded system integration by enabling rapid development of high-performance systems. Features include network-on-chip interconnect technology that supports ARM AMBA AXI interface, Avalon memory mapped and Avalon streaming interfaces. The SoC FPGA also leverages productivity-enhancing hierarchical design flow and simplifies IP re-use.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Emerging piezoMEMS apps and ion beam etch solutions for next gen MEMS and sensors

Yole Developpement of France recently organized a seminar on next generation MEMS. The speakers were Dr. Eric Mounier, project manager, Yole Développement, and Dr. Adrian Devasahayam, senior director, Technology, Veeco Instruments.

As performance requirements for MEMS and other devices become more stringent, the industry is encountering etch challenges that cannot be overcome with existing toolsets. The use of materials that are not readily etched reactively, combined with higher sensitivities to post etch corrosion in smaller devices, is driving a search for a more suitable etch solution for certain applications.

According to Dr. Mounier, Yole, it is estimated that until 2015, the ferroelectric thin film business will grow at rate of +7.5 percent per year with many current or new applications. In the MEMS field, these applications could be wafer level autofocus, IR sensors, RF switches, medical ultrasonic transducers. In other markets, applications would include IPD tunable capacitor, IPD hearing aids, FeRAM, optical switches, etc.MEMS ferroelectric thin films: Source: Yole.

Dr. Mounier added that the ferroelectric thin films global market growth is mainly driven by two high growth rate MEMS applications until 2015, namely, IR sensors and wafer level optic autofocus.

He added that many other applications are expected to emerge in 2014-2015. These would include RFMEMS and ultrasonic thin film technologies that are under development by large groups, such as IBM, Philips, Toshiba, etc. IPD high density planar capacitors with thin films are being evaluated all over the world by key companies, such as STMicroelectronics, Ipdia, On Semi, Maxim, etc.

Magnetometers using MEMS technologies are currently under development, such as at Bosch, VTT, etc.. They are likely to be integrated with accelerometers to create inertial sensing modules (combo sensors) for consumer/auto applications.

Dr. Adrian Devasahayam, Veeco, advised that Veeco has a broad portfolio of process technologies for various applications. Ion beam etch is a key technology for several applications, which use hard to etch materials. Veeco has developed IBE processes for several key areas, such as PZT etch, magnetic sensor materials, III-V materials, metal etch for ohmic materials and hard mask materials.

New uniformity, CD and damage requirements for emerging applications has been driving ion beam etch activity. A high uniformity across large areas, accurate end-point detection and etch profile shape control has been a common request.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Global semiconductor sales forecast estimates fall: Cowan LRA model

This is a continuation of my coverage of the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry. I would like to acknowledge and thank Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, who has provided me the latest numbers.

The WSTS posted August 2011's HBR (Historical Billings Report) on its website on Monday, October 4th, 2011, thereby allowing the calculation of the monthly update of the latest global semiconductor sales forecast estimates for 2011 and 2012 via exercising the Cowan LRA forecasting model reflecting August 2011's monthly sales including any revisions to previous months' reported sales numbers. According to the WSTS's August HBR, August's actual global semiconductor sales came in at $24.216 billion with a corresponding August 3MMA sales of $25.033 billion.

It should be highlighted that none of the previous seven months (January through July) experienced any sales revisions from last month's published HBR. Thus, the total YTD cumulative sales through August totaled $198.271 billion.Source: Cowan LRA model, USA.

This represents a 2011 YTD sales growth of 2.2 percent compared to the same time period in 2010 when August 2010′s YTD sales were $193.976 billion. This continues a downward trend in the month-to-month 2011 YTD sales growth numbers since the beginning of the year as shown in the table here.

The Cowan LRA model’s sales forecast estimates for the month of August as determined by last month’s model run were $26.177 billion (actual) and $25.686 billion (3MMA), respectively. Consequently, the model’s August MI (Momentum Indicator) came in at minus 7.5 percent, which ”degraded” from last month’s MI of minus 3.7 percent.

This indicates (mathematically speaking) that the semiconductor industry’s August actual sales came in much lower than the model’s previous month’s forecasted expectation by $1.961 billion. This implies that 2011′s sales growth could continue to trend downward for the rest of this year relative to this month’s sales growth expectation of 3.9 percent as discussed here.Source: Cowan LRA model.

The key take-aways from comparing the latest forecast estimates vs. the previous month’s projections (as displayed in the table) are highlighted here:

* 2011′s updated global semiconductor sales forecast estimate fell by $3.219 billion to $309.998 billion (from last month’s sales forecast estimate of $313.217).
* Correspondingly, 2011′s sales growth forecast estimate dropped by 1.1 percentage points to 3.9 percent (from last month’s 5.0 percent sales growth forecast estimate).
* September 2011′s actual sales forecast expectation is $31.528 billion, which corresponds to a September 3MMA sales estimate of $26.413 billion assuming no (or very minor) sales revisions to either July or August’s published actual sales compared to August’s just published HBR by the WSTS.
* 2012′s global semiconductor sales forecast estimate fell by $3.817 billion to $335.627 billion (from last month’s sales forecast estimate of $339.443 billion).
* Correspondingly, 2012′s sales growth forecast estimate dropped by 0.1 percentage points to 8.3 percent (from last month’s 8.4 percent sales growth forecast estimate).

Next month’s Cowan LRA model’s forecast update, which will reflect September 2011′s actual global semiconductor sales, is expected to be available on or about Tuesday, Nov. 8th, 2011 following the posting of the Sept. HBR on the WSTS’s website.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: Master of the game!

This morning, I woke up to find the headline staring at me: Steve Jobs has died! RIP, Steve Jobs!

I first had a look at the Apple Mac while at SBP Consultants & Engineers back in 1988. I was pleasantly surprised to find a computer that could do desktop publishing that well! By then, Jobs had gone out of Apple, fired by John Sculley, then Apple's CEO, sometime in 1985.

Jobs only returned to Apple in 1996, a time when he had floated PIXAR and of course, NeXT -- the company that Apple eventually bought and with that, returned Jobs to Apple. The rest, as they say, is history!

First, Jobs, and of course, Apple, brought color to computers, when the iMac line was launched. I remember seeing the entire line in Hong Kong! The iMacs were followed by the 'now very well known' iBook!

Next, Jobs focused on the music industry, and that led to the creation of the revolutionary iPod, as well as the Apple Store. I remember several suppliers in Hong Kong and China telling me that they were grateful to Apple for 'rewriting the musical devices history' with the iPod. Those suppliers were very much in business, and continue to remain so, till today.

And then, the iPhone happened in 2007! The iPhone 4S, launched yesterday, serves as a reminder of Jobs' vision and strategy. The iPhone caught everyone in the telecom industry napping! Suddenly, there was a rush to produce iPhone clones or iPhone-like phones. Of course, this also hit a major telecom player in a big way!

Today, smartphones are all the rage! But, believe it or not, no one, yes, no one, has actually come close to what Apple and Steve Jobs have managed to do with the iPhone.

The revolutionary iPad, which hit the streets in 2010, literally gave a new lease of life to computing! It also opened a new section - tablets - in front of the computing world. Today, all of the tablets that you get to see from numerous players is only because of Jobs and Apple!

This August, Jobs stepped down as Apple's CEO. Who knew that he would pass away to eternity in early October? There is a message on Apple's site, which I am pasting here:

"Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple."

Monday, October 3, 2011

ESDM all over again? When will Indian semicon and electronics industries learn??

Today, the government of India released the National Policy on Electronics titled: Policies to drive national agenda for ICTE: National policy on Electronics 2011 (NPE 2011). One glance is sufficient to note: it is the same old thing in new bottles! There is the dreaded 'ESDM' all over again! Easy to say, (but) difficult to manage -- electronics system design and manufacturing!

Oh! Where were those folks about 15-20 years ago, who have written this policy, especially when the world had started to make the first movements toward a solid electronics infrastructure back in the mid- to late-1990s? India was and still remains a good 15-20 years behind, as far as electronics and semiconductor industries are concerned! Yes, I am very well aware that there are certain Indian electronics manufacturing companies. They do creditable work for global MNCs!

Now, I've been requested to write nice things about ESDM! So be it!! First, ESDM does not exist!! Frankly, there is no need to coin any new and special terminology to boost the electronics and semiconductor industries!!! At least, I don't see any other booming global economy of the world that has coined a special term to do that!! So, why India? All that those nations have done is to focus on R&D and product development, instead of resorting to any terminology! Perhaps, it would be wise for India to follow that path, if it so wishes!

Second, please get specialists to develop the national electronics policy. Else, can I do it?? I am not qualified, though! Besides, I am just a small-time blogger who people don't really notice!!

Third, where is the electronic components industry in India? It has been said in the policy that 'electronic components, which are basis of an electronic product, are low volume low weight, cheap and easy to transport across the globe. Moreover, under Information Technology Agreement-1 (ITA-1) of the World Trade Organization, which came into force in 1997, a large number of electronic components and products are bound with zero tariffs making trade unrestricted across international borders. Also, the electronics manufacturing is characterized by high volume and low margins. All these have resulted in the electronics hardware industry being globally integrated with few large global players catering to a large part of the world.'

I am sorry, I don't agree!

Can you show me one single Indian company manufacturing quality electronic components? There used to be some, in the early 1990s, but those have long vanished! Has anyone ever wondered why? Were their components not good enough? Were the tariffs higher than average? Was it global competition that forced them to exit? Please find out the reasons!

Without the presence of a solid local electronic components industry, forget about ever developing a good, strong and robust Indian electronics and semiconductor industries!

Just a few days ago, I interviewed Soni Saran Singh of NMTronics. He had said: "There are few products like MP3 players, flat panel displays, memory cards, gaming consoles, cameras, etc., which are yet to be see light in Indian manufacturing. When I see this, I feel there is a lot yet to come to India," he said. Singh also asked the question, "How India will compete in marketing of these products compared to Chinese or Taiwanese manufacturers, who have more than 30 years of experience in these industries?"

Well, as of now, nothing has been said about marketing of the products that 'are proposed to be developed in India'!

I am glad, though, that this new electronics policy has touched upon the setting up of semicon wafer fabs, although I am not sure what the outcome will be! One wishes that India had at least two fabs by now. Perhaps, my wish will someday be granted! There is a need for continuous and uninterrupted electricity and water to make that possible, so there's a pressing need to focus upon.

The ISA was set up in October 2004. MAIT and ELCINA have been around much longer. These industry bodies are set up to lead the specific industries into the future. I am sure MAIT and ELCINA have made proposals to the government in the past. Have those seen light? You answer!

Semiconductor supply chain dynamics: Future Horizons @ IEF2011

The last decade heralded a dramatic transformation in supply chain dynamics, driven by the complexity challenge of staying on the More Moore curve. On the demand side, the high cost of fabs persuaded almost all integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) to use foundries for their leading-edge wafer supply.

The ever-increasing process complexity and its negative impact on manufacturing yields forced the adoption of sophisticated foundry-specific design-for manufacturing (DFM) techniques, effectively committing new chip designs to a single foundry and process.

At the same time, the industry adopted a much more cautious lagging rather than leading demand approach to new capacity expansion, resulting in under-supply and shortages in leading-edge wafer fab capacity. To make matters worse, the traditional oxide-based planar transistor started to misbehave at the 130nm node, as manifested by low yields and higher than anticipated power dissipation, especially when the transistors were supposed to be off, with no increase in performance, heralding the introduction of new process techniques (e.g., high-k metal gates).

Even before these structural changes have been fully digested, supply chain dynamics have been further disrupted by the prospective transition to 450mm wafer processing, to extreme ultra violet (EUV) lithography, and from planar to vertical transistor design.

Transistor design
Since the start of the industry, adding more IC functionality while simultaneously decreasing power consumption and increasing switching speed—a technique fundamentally known as Moore’s Law—has been achieved by simply making the transistor structure smaller. This worked virtually faultlessly down to the 130nm node when quite unexpectedly things did not work as planned. Power went up, speed did not improve and process yields collapsed. Simple scaling no longer worked, and new IC design techniques were needed.

While every attempt was made to prolong the life of the classic planar transistor structure, out went the polysilicon/silicon dioxide gate; although this transition was far from plain sailing, in came high-k metal gates spanning 65nm-28nm nodes. Just as the high-k metal gate structure gained industry-wide consensus at 28nm, it too ran out of steam at the 22nm-16nm nodes, forcing the introduction of more complex vertical versus planar transistor design and making the IC design even more process-dependent (i.e., foundry-dependent). Dual foundry sourcing, already impractical for the majority of semiconductor firms, will only get worse as line widths continue to shrink.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Welcome to Durga Puja @ Jayamahal, Bangalore!

Ya Devi Sarva Bhutey Shu...
Shakti Roopena Sanasthitha
Namas tasyai, Namas tasyai, Namas tasyai, Namo Namaha!

To the Goddess who abides in all beings as power: Salutations to thee!

Friends, welcome to Durga Puja @ Jayamahal Extension, Bangalore! Today is Maha Shashti, the first day of the Puja. Goddess Durga is awakened from slumber in a program known as 'Agomoni'. She then goes on to slay the infamous 'Mahishasur or the demon king'!

In Hindu mythology, it is said that the evil Mahishasur started terrorising Heaven and earth. He invaded heaven, defeating Indra, the king of Gods, and drove all the other Gods out of heaven. This led the Gods to convene a meeting and come up with Goddess Durga. She fought with the Mahishasur for nine days. On the 10th day, Goddess Durga finally killed Mahishasur, who had taken refuge in the shape of a Mahish (buffalo).

Given below is a map - with driving directions - to Jayamahal Durga Puja, Bangalore.Naturally, I am involved here. Should you happen to drop by on any of the next three days, especially during afternoon Bhog, or community lunch, I may even serve you! ;)

Welcome, my dear friends, to the 2011 Durga Puja celebrations @ Jayamahal Extension, Bangalore.