Tag: semiconductors

Freescale-NXP merger challenges the giants

renesas-chips (1)The proposed merger of Freescale and NXP will result in a semiconductor company that challenges the giants.

That’s according to chief analyst Dale Ford at IHS, who said the merged entity will be in the top 10 semiconductor companies in the world, outranking other giants such as Broadcom and ST Microelectronics.

He said the strength of uniting Freescale and NXP will be shown in automotive applications particularly.

NXP, formerly the semiconductor division of Dutch giant Philips, used to compete in the same market, said Ford.

But the new top 10 will look fundamentally different. By revenues, Intel will remain number one with 14.14 percent, followed by Samsung, Qualcomm, SK Hynix, US DRAM firm Micron, Texas Instruments and Toshiba.

The merged company will be second place in the micro controller market, and it will also have significant share in the digital signal processing (DSP) market, much used in consumer applications.

IHS noted in its report that Freescale is practically an exclusive source for power architecture processors – and although its share in this market is tiny compared to ARM and X86 semiconductors, it has big wins in the military aerospace market.

Two chip companies in $40 billion merger

shut-up-and-take-my-moneyTwo chip companies have surprised the world by agreeing to merge.

While the tech press focused on Apple’s watch, and non-existent car, NXP Semiconductors, and Freescale Semiconductor hatched out a super-merger in comparative quiet.

TechCrunch’s excuse for its hacks not spotting the mega-merger was because “no-one has heard of the two companies anyway.”

In the interests of educating hacks – Freescale makes embedded chips, the Internet of Things, while NXP is best known for its chips headed for cars. They are both huge and were both expected to get bigger under the trend for mobile and automotive chips.

Under the deal the two companies announced a “definitive agreement” that will see Freescale shareholders pick up 0.3521 NXP shares and $6.26 in cash for each of their current shares.

Freescale made $1.10 billion in revenue, and $63 million in net profit last quarter. NXP is larger, recording $1.537 billion in revenue, and $149 million in net income in the quarter.

Either way, this deal is huge and could put the fear of god into companies that US tech hacks might have heard of, such as Intel and AMD who would really like to get their feet under the table of the embedded market.

Now they are now facing a rival who is not only comfortably been in the market for years, but now is big enough to play the sorts of games that they play in the x86 market.

It looks like the US tech press might have to make themselves a little more familiar with the new outfit – what ever it ends up being called.

Freescale warns of insecure Internet of Things

Internet of ThingsChip company Freescale said that people are facing “the most dire challenge” the internet of things (IoT) has faced so far – the lack of guidelines for security.

Freescale said that US agency DARPA had managed to hack into a car manufacturers braking system, while the US Federal Trade Commission raised concerns about the security of interconnected systems and devices.

So what is Freescale doing about it?

The company said that it teaming with an industry body called the Embedded Microprocessor Benchmarking Consortium (EEMBC) to help IoT manufacturers and system designers bring better security to transactions and endpoints for the IoT.

It also said that it was establishing a series of security labs worldwide to work on making more secure technologies from the cloud to the end point. Freescale said it will allocate up to 10 percent of its annual R&D budgets on the Internet of Things.

It is also starting a programme to educate startups on best practices on IoT security.


Semiconductor spending inches up

nand-chipsCapital spending by semiconductor companies grew by 12.9 percent last year, but will only grow by 0.8 percent this year.
That’s according to market intelligence company Gartner which said capital spending will generate revenues of $65.7 billion this year.
Bob Johnson, a VP at Gartner, said that equipment spending outstripped capital spending last year and will do the same this year. 2016 will be a different kettle of fish. Manufacturers will exercise caution this year.
This year, chip foundries will outspend logic device manufacturers but there’s a danger of the mobile market being saturated and that will dampen the need for new capacity.
Memory manufacturers are likely to switch their manufacturing from NAND to DRAM because the market is more favourable for the latter than the former. But that will switch net year, because DRAM will be in oversupply.
Demand for solid state drives will mean more capacity shifts during the next three years.


GloFo takes aim at China

renesas-chips (1)Abu Dhabi foundry company Global Foundries (GloFo) is seeking to make more partnerships in mainland China.
GloFo, which was spun off by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) some years ago, recently bought IBM’s foundry business, along with a large number of patents for $1.5 billion.
A report in the South China Morning Post quoted senior GloFo VP Chuck Fox as saying the firm would use IBM’s previous presence in mainland China to continue to grow its business in the country.
He said that his company is already in talks with a number of partners in China and is expected to announce deals when they happen.
Competition to win contracts from so called fabless chip companies comes from the like of Taiwanese major TSMC, mainland company SMIC, and even Intel.
Golf already has a partnership with Samsung in a bid to beat TSMC for orders to manufacture chips.


Euro semi sales show growth

nand-chipsThe European Semiconductor Industry Association (EISA) released data for November 2014 which showed sales were up by 3.4 percent compared to the same month a year before.
EISA said combined sales between January to November showed a growth of eight percent compared to 13 percent.
The trade organisation said that these figures showed healthy demand for chips in Europe, with the figures representing a three month rolling average.
The value of sales in Europe rose to $3.183 billion, contrasting with worldwide sales in November of $29.670 billion.
Sales were driven by optoelectronics used in part cards, MOS microprocessors and memory devices.
But exchange rate differences between the US dollar and the Euro continued to affect sales during November, EISA said.


Chip sales up in 2014

Sales of semiconductors rose by 7.9 percent in 2013, with Intel continuing to rule the chip roost.
intel_log_reversedA report from Gartner said the top 25 vendors revenues rose by 11.7 percent, with those vendors grabbing 72.1 percent of the entire market revenues.
But it was DRAM sales that really shone last year.  Gartner said the market grew by 31.7 percent during the year and undersupply and stable pricing continued to be the order of the day.
Andrew Norwood, a VP at Gartner, said all device categories grew in 2014 but the memory market outstripped them all.
Norwood said Intel saw a return of growth in 2014 after two years of seeing its revenues decline.
Intel’s Datacenter Group was the most stable of its different business units.
While Intel will reach its target of selling 40 million tablet microprocessors in 2014, they’re being sold at big discounts and with subsidies for vendors buying them.
Intel’s been the number one chip company for the last 23 years and owns 15 percent of the 2014 semiconductor market.
The next four top semi companies are Samsung, Qualcomm, Micron and SK Hynix.


Chip market starts to boom

nand-chipsRevenue from worldwide sales of semiconductors will rise by nearly 10 percent this year, its strongest performance since 2010.

Figures released by IHS Technology show that global revenues will be worth $353.2 billion this year, a rise from $322.8 billion in 2013.

Dale Ford, chief analyst at IHS, said the growth is broad based – a nearly all semiconductor suppliers have benefited.

IHS segments the semiconductor market in 28 ways, and Ford said that 22 of those have grown this year, compared to 12 showing growth in 2013.

DRAM and flash memory were the movers and shakers in the market, and while revenues for those sectors have risen by around 20 percent, other segments are also showing healthy growth.

DRAM and light emitting diodes (LEDs) have shown growth, and microprocessor markets are also showing strong growth.

Mediatek and Avago are showing strong growth in the semi league table.

The top five players, as the following table shows, are Intel, Samsung, Qualcomm, Micron, SK Hynix and Texas Instruments.

Germanium displaces silicon

This graphic depicts a new electronic device created at Purdue that uses germanium as the semiconductor instead of silicon. Germanium is one material being considered to replace silicon in future chips because it could enable the industry to make smaller transistors and more compact integrated circuits. (Purdue University image) Chips today use complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) based on purified silicon substrates to do their magic work.

But scientists at Purdue University claim to have created the first modern germanium circuit that cuts silicon out of the equation.

The first transistor, created by Bell Labs, used purified germanium cooked up in the Purdue labs in 1947.  That was superseded by silicon but as devices get tinier and tinier, silicon is reaching the end of its long innings, according to Peide Ye, a professor at Purdue.

He said: “The industry will soon reach the limit as to how small silicon transistors can be made, threatening future advances.  Germanium is one material being considered to replace silicon because it could let the industry make smaller transistors and more compact integrated circuits.”

Ye said germanium has other advances over silicon, including the ability to make superfast circuits.

Ye didn’t talk about the price of germanium. Chips made by giants like Intel use purified silicon but ultimately based on sand. And sand is cheap.

Semiconductors to become one atom thin

silicon-waferScientists at North Carolina State University (NC State) have released research which allows the transfer of one atom thin semiconductor films onto arbitrary substrates.

The researchers claim that the method will perfectly transfer the thin films from one substrate to another, without defects.

The material in question used for the thin films is molybdenum sulphide (MoS2) which is inexpensive and has similar optical and electronic properties to existing semiconductor materials.

Dr Linyou Cao, a professor at NC State, said: “The ultimate goal is to use these atomic layer semiconducting thin films to create devices that are extremely flexible, but to do that we need to transfer the thin films from the substance we used to make it to a flexible substrate.”  He added that the thin film can’t be made on a flexible substrate because they won’t tolerate the high temperatures required.

The MoS2 films can be up to five centimetres in diameter and the scientists found a way to move the thin film without wrinkling it or crackling it.

Existing tech for transferring thin films from one substrate to another use chemical etching but that can contaminate the film.

The researchers said that the thin film uses room termperature water and a pair of tweezers.

The University has started work on developing devices that use the tech the scientists invented.

Internet of things spurs semiconductor growth

Internet of ThingsA research paper from Gartner said that devices used for processing, sensing and communications will grow by 36.2 percent next year, speeding ahead of the overall semi market that will grow by 5.7 percent.

Processors will be the largest slice of the revenue cake, worth $7.58 billion in 2015.

Alfonso Velosa, a research analyst at Gartner, said: “The demand for billions of things will ripple throughout the entire value chain, from software and services to semiconductor devices.  These things will drive huge demand for individual chips.”  He said the growth would cover industries including consumer, industrial, medical, automotive and others.

He said LED lighting will grow in volume and that will lower costs and allow new services to be provided through connecting, networking and sensing the environment.

He predicts smart glasses and smartwatches will also see .

Gartner forecasts nearly 30 percent growth up to 2020 for semiconductor revenues related to the internet of things.  “The truth is that inexpensive devices are one of the biggest enablers of the internet of things.”

Semiconductor firms have Moore’s Law hope

minionsOne of the problems with semiconductor firms like Intel continually shrinking the size of chips is that soon they’ll be up against the limits of the lithographic methods used to make microprocessors.

But scientists at UC San Diego may have an answer which will let Intel engineers sleep easy in their bunny suits at night.

Nanoengineers at the university claim to have invented a new type of lithography in which – they say – nanoscale robots swim over the surface of light sensitive materials to create the surface patterns that conventional lithography produced.

The scientists said that not only does it solve some of the lithography problems of the future, but it also is a simple and more affordable way of doing the trick.

Electron beam writing is very expensive and complex.

How does it work?  The nanorobots are chemically powered, self propelled and magnetically controlled.  Jinxing Li, a student at UC San Diego said: “All we need is these self propelled nanobots and UV (ultraviolet) light. They work together like minion, moving and writing and are easily controlled by a simple magnet.”

GloFo gets a Big Blue boost

IBM logoAs we reported yesterday, IBM has sold off its semiconductor business giving Global Foundries (GloFo) a considerable leg up in the foundry business.

IBM spelled out the details saying that GloFo will get its intellectual property, technology and technologists formerly part of Big Blue’s IBM Microelectronics business.

GloFo also gets some business from the deal because it will act as its exclusive server processor provider for 22 nanometre, 14 nanometre and 10 nanometre processes in a 10 year deal.

IBM was eager to say that despite it disposing of its Microelectronics division, it will still work on semiconductor research. And as part of this commitment, IBM will continue to invest $3 billion over the next five years in semiconductor technology research.

GloFo will get primary access to the research through the investment, will get thousands of patents and other benefits including technology related to advanced geometries at 10 nanometres and below.

Dr Sanjay Jha, CEO of GloFo, this gives his company leadership in the semiconductor business.  “This acquisition further strengthens advanced manufacturing in the US and builts on established relationships in New York and Vermont,” he said.

IBM will take a charge of $4.7 billion in its third quarter financial results because of the acquisition. Most former employees of IBM Microelectronics will keep their jobs.

Semi spending set to soar

Samsung rules the roostSemiconductor capital spending will be worth $64.5 billion this year, up 11.4 percent from 2013.  And capital equipment spending will increase 17.1 percent in 2014.

So says market research firm Gartner in a report that indicates that the increases are driven by strong memory average selling prices (ASPs) as well as higher consumer demand for gizmos and gadgets.

The report said that there’s undersupply on  DRAM and that will continue next year, but then we’ll see one of the characteristics of semiconductor swings and roundabouts.  Companies build extra capacity in times of drought only to find they’ve built too much.  Gartner said we’ll see oversupply in 2016.

Samsung, and SK Hynix are both ready to ramp up DRAM manufacturing in order to meet the pent up demand.

Memory capital spending will increase by 4.5 percent this year, but in the long time demand will be flat, said Gartner.

Euro semi sales shoot up

12-inch silicon wafer - Wikimedia CommonsThings are on the turn in the chip business, and it’s a turn for the better.

The European Semiconductor Industry Association (ESIA) said today that sales hit $3.231 billion in August, that’s up 10.9 percent compared to August last year.

Its figures represent a three month rolling average.

ESIA said the logic market was pretty strong – that continues a trend that emerged early this year.  MOS (metal oxide semiconductor) based microprocessors grew strongly compared to July. And flash and NAND memory also showed good performance compared to July.

The chip market is, of course, affected by exchange rates with trading in Euro and in dollars affecting the mix.  But, nevertheless, in August this year semi sales were 2.393 billion Euro – which represents a 0.4 percent decrease over July, said ESIA.

ESIA is bullish. It said worldwide sales for August 2014 amounted to a not insignificant $28.435 billion – up 9.4 percent compared to August 2013, and up 1.3 percent compared to July 2014.