Tag: Taiwan

MediaTek wants to sort out China rules

mediatek-generic-chipMediaTek has slammed Taiwan’s rules regarding its domestic semiconductor companies investing and merging overseas, particularly in mainland China,.

MediaTek chief executive MK Tsai said the rules are too strict and should be reconsidered.

He said that Taiwan risks falling behind in the global race to develop the best chips if it does not invest more overseas to recruit talent and access large markets like China’s.

Rivals like Qualcomm and Intel have ploughed billions into China, Tsai said, but Taiwan’s rules prohibiting the export of advanced chip technology to the mainland risked its business prospects there.

“China is such a huge market … if everyone else is going and you have to stay on the sidelines, you’re in a weaker position,” Tsai said.

Taiwanese regulations prohibit chip design firms like MediaTek from investing any funds in China for research and development purposes, let alone for mergers and acquisitions, according to the company.

Tsai moaned about Taiwan’s “passive” stance amid a recent wave of mergers in the chip world.

“You have to keep up with the technological advancements or you’ll become irrelevant,” he said.

MediaTek-designed chips are doing well among Chinese phone vendors like Xiaomi.

Unlike chip design, investment in chip manufacturing in China is allowed, though heavily regulated..

TSMC flees Chinese unions

tsmcTSMC is set to invest US$15.8 billion in the Central Taiwan Science Park (CTSP).

The outfit is set to start building its 18-inch wafer foundry in March which will apply the 10 nanometre manufacturing process with a target for mass production in 2017.

However the location of the plant, away from mainland China has raised an eyebrow or two.

Last year the BBC ran a yarn about how China’s labour unions were getting antsy at Apple’s broken promises on work conditions.

Apple’s response to the BBC’s report at the time was that it strongly disagreed: “We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions. We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done.”

However, another news site in China is reporting that “in response to the growing criticism of Foxconn’s treatment of its employees, the company has invited its critics to visit its production bases to get a better understanding of its operations”. During the visit, the critics could also talk to the employees to hear their views,” Foxconn said.

But it is starting to look like another row is flaring up between Foxconn via the labour unions – this time  it is about overtime. It seems that there has been a rash of suicides at its plant, and the unions are blaming them on the overtime.

So it does seem that Foxconn is avoiding any conflict with the Chinese unions getting in the way of its relationship with Apple by shifting its new plant to Taiwan.


US rules China, Taiwan dumping solar panels

solarsTrade protection organisation the US International Trade Commission (ITC) has confirmed that Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers of photo voltaic products are dumping them.
Both anti-dumping and countervailing duties will be levied on imports to the USA from China, while anti-dumping tariffs will be imposed on product from Taiwan.
According to market intelligence firm Trendforce, Chinese PV models will face swingeing minimum tariff of 70 percent.
Taiwanese manufacturers get off much more lightly, with rates in between 12 to 27 percent.
The US ITC acts to prevent home grown manufacturers from being penalised when supplies exceed demand.
Trendforce said that solar cell firms in Taiwan are operating zero margins.
Some Chinese vendors have already relocated their PV manufacturing facilities, and that’s something Taiwanese firms will have to do a similar thing in order to stay afloat.

Notebook sales slow in the third quarter

notebooksWhile the computer industry saw comparatively small growth for notebooks in the second quarter, it looks like the third quarter will be much slower.

The third quarter always used to be buoyant for PC sales until sales started to slow a few years ago as smartphones and tablets came into their ascendancy.

Taiwanese wire Digitimes reports that ODMs (original design manufacturers) largely based on the island has fallen quite short of expectations.

It attributes the growth in the second quarter not to a rise in interest in the platforms any more, but because Windows XP was phased out in the spring.

People realised that if they were going to buy a notebook, it would be as well to do it then and move to a new Windows operating system.

Reports earlier this week suggested that sales of tablets in North American and western European markets had reached a degree of stasis too.  Most people who wanted a tablet have got one.

Boffins print memory onto paper

postitA group of researchers from Taiwan has emerged from smoke filled labs with a method that uses ink-jet technology to print working memory on an ordinary piece of paper.

If the invention takes off then electronics printed on paper could could lead to applications such as smart labels on foods and pharmaceuticals or as wearable medical sensors.

While engineers have managed to print transistors and solar cells on paper, in the past, they have been unable to do memory.

Paper is made of fibre making it difficult to lay down the thin, uniform layers of materials that typical memory technologies need.

To get around this problem, the team, led by Ying-Chih Liao, Si-Chen Lee, and Jr-Hau He of National Taiwan University decided to build resistive random access memory (RRAM), a relatively new type of memory with a structure simple enough to cope with such surface variations.

In an RRAM device, an insulator can be set to different levels of electrical resistance by applying a voltage across it; one level of resistance corresponds to the 1s of digital logic, the other to the 0s. So each bit in RRAM consists of an insulator sandwiched by two electrodes.

The device was built with silver, titanium dioxide, and carbon, although other combinations of a metal, an insulator, and a conductor could be used. They started by using a screen-printing process to coat a carbon paste onto the paper to form the bottom electrode. The process was repeated 10 times to reduce roughness, then the coated paper was cured at 100 °C for 10 minutes in a vacuum.

Ink was made by mixing TiO2 nanoparticles in acetyl acetone and used an ink-jet printer to deposit a layer of the particles on top of the carbon, where it would act as the insulator. Once that dried, the researchers used a solution of ethylene glycol and water containing silver nanoparticles, and they printed silver dots on top of the TiO2 layer to serve as top electrodes.

The memory paper was robust and could be bent at least 1,000 times with no degradation in performance.

Taiwan slows notebook shipments

notebooksThe tiny island of Taiwan accounts for 83.91 percent of global notebook shipments through original design manufacturers (ODMs).

And according to a report from Digitimes Research, all is not well on the notebook front.  The report claimed that ODMs will ship 33,476 million notebooks in Q2 of this year.

But that’s down 8.4 percent compared to the equivalent period last year.

The usual suspects remain Quanta, Compal and Wistron – and, Digitimes Research said – of those three Compal is likely to see the most growth in the second quarter.

Tough times ahead for notebook ODMs

ancient-laptopSoft demand for notebook PCs and the relentless tablet juggernaut will continue to drag down shipments of Taiwanese ODMs in the current quarter and beyond, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The bank said the outlook for the second half of 2013 remains challenging.

Shipments are expected to grow at a rate of two to three percent, which is very bad news for Acer and Asus. According to analysts, both companies suffered a 40+ percent plunge in unit sales last quarter in the European market. BoA Merrill Lynch said Acer and Asus are suffering from the rise of cheap tablets. Ironically, Asus was one of the pioneers in the Android tablet space and it produces Google’s 7-inch Nexus tablets, but it appears that more and more people are simply turning to even cheaper, white-box tablets.

Analyst Robert Cheng wrote in a note that Acer is likely to see losses over the next four quarter. He did not have many kind words for Asus, either.

“Asustek looks relatively fine, but notebook guidance is quite weak,” he said. Cheng added that Asustek’s “product mix” will become worse in the second half of the year.

As for contract manufacturers, Compal and Wistron should stay flat in the third quarter, while Quanta and Inventec still expect growth. Pegatron will get the worst of it. It is expected to lose some share and client orders, hence its notebook shipments will drop by 5 to 10 percent this quarter.

3D printing market worth $4.45 billion by 2016

taipeiThe market value for 3D printing could zoom past $4.45 billion as soon as 2016, according to Taiwan’s Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute (MIC).

The figure is roughly double its value in 2012 at $2.15 billion – itself 22.2 percent growth from the previous year.

MIC notes that the current picture it’s a long way since the initial rounds of investment into 3D printing in the 80s, including from companies like 3D Systems, Stratasys and Helisys. But an injection of R&D cash in recent years has been progressive for the technology and lead to an expansion in the application market.

Now, thanks to R&D progress, a wide range of materials can be printed, including metals, ceramics, resins, plastics, nylon, PVC, ABS plastic and wax.

Since these developments, 3D printing has found itself being used for the production of metal modules, personalised goods, automobile and airplane parts, medical apparatus, gadgets, consumer goods and jewelry.

MIC points out that governments are expressing their support for advances in 3D printing and other big players, including in the Asia Pacific region, have entered the scene.

Taiwan fears Nexus doom

NexusThe second generation Nexus 7 should do rather well, but some vendors fear it is going to be walloped by tough competition.

It has been predicted that up to eight million second-generation Nexus 7s should be sold globally in 2013, but, according to Digitimes, that figure might prove tougher than many thought.

Supply chain makers in Taiwan claim that many vendors will launch competing models.

The next generation Nexus 7, co-developed by Google and Asustek Computer is expected to be in the channel by the end of the month.

It features a 7-inch 1980 by 1200 display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, 5-megapixel rear and 1.2-megapixel front cameras.

The expected price will be around US$199 or $249 if you want Wi-Fi support.

While it is a good spec, and a reasonable price,  the naysayers say that the first-generation Nexus 7 only managed six million units because it was as cheap as chips.

Since there are now loads of 7-inch devices with competitive prices, the second-generation Nexus 7 will no longer have a pricing advantage.

It will have to see off competition from sub-US$169 7-inch tablets from Acer, HP and Lenovo.

Apple on schedule for next gen iPad

applecoreSupply chain whispers in Taipei assert that Apple is on schedule to gets its next generation, 9.7 inch iPad out for September.

The iPad mini, meanwhile, may be tinkered with to improve the specs and make it more appealing.

Digitimes thinks the 9.7 inch tablet will sport a slimmer bezel design to make the viewing area larger, with improved battery and half the LED tubes. Upstream suppliers, Digitimes’ sources say, are done with the preparation so last minute spec updates are unlikely. A slimmer bezel would be more in line with Samsung and HTC smartphone designs.

The rumour is suppliers haven’t had word from Apple on the amount they should put out just yet are are shipping for pilot productions, but that will be able to meet initial launch demand. Shipment estimates are expected early August at the latest.

Apple, the sources say, is pondering whether or not it wants to bung a retina display on the 7.9 inch iPad mini. If so, this could lead to delays.

Disties offer gourmet delights

Big snail in Old TaipeiComputex 2013 begins next week – a jamboree where there’s a chance to meet a plethora of industry types from all over the world and those at the heart of the supply chain.

We’ll be covering all the important announcements on both ChannelEye and our brother pub TechEye.net.

And here we’ll be bringing you all the gossip and yak yak we hear on the grapevine and on the Nangang strasse.

Let’s start with a juicy story that demonstrates how business is done differently in Asia than in Europe. Well, we think UK vendors [what vendors, Ed?] wouldn’t find themselves in an analogous situation.  A well known vendor from Old Taipei found himself being entertained in the Philippines recently, with lashings of very strong beer and a delicious goulash like soup.  At the end of the evening, the vendor asked his hosts about the delicious stew – to be told that they’d been supping speciality dish horse penis soup.

All the main news  buzz over here is about aggressive acts by the Philippines against a Taiwanese boat recently.  That led, we hear, to a Canadian woman being unceremoniously ejected from one of the famous Taipei cabs because the driver thought she was a Filipino.

You might remember the other week that several HTC suits in America were beamed out of the company – prompting speculation that there was something afoot in the beleagured Taiwanese company. It turns out many of the suits were ex-employees at the Redmond Volehill and, strangely enough, the Microsoft culture didn’t fit with the HTC culture.  Once, of course, Microsoft and HTC were very pally indeed, introducing a smartphone superficially very similar to a really pioneering smartphone from a British company that ended up successfully suing Microsoft.

Meanwhile, some folks are very enthusiastic about Intel’s announcements next week of its Haswell technology.  Bitter and twisted hacks over at sis pub TechEye believe the chip giant isn’t going to do Haswell as people expected.  That, of course, remains to be seen but expect that Intel’s new CEO, already dubbed “Special K” and who was speedy to institute a purge of positions at Chipzilla, will be watching its progress with some degree of trepidation.  So will we, Mr K, so will we.

More – and there will be much more – later.

* If you’re new to Computex and to Taiwan, check out this site – We View Taiwan – for some really useful information.

Bird Flu may well disrupt the supply chain

Ostrich_male_RWDThe bird flu epidemic could have a knock on effect on the supply chain if rates of infection continue to rise, disties have said.

The warnings come as China has confirmed 108 cases of what the World Health Organisation describes as the “most lethal” viruses seen so far since March 31.

The H7N9 strain of the virus has also caused 22 deaths.

Yesterday, Taiwan also reported it had seen its first case of the virus in a man who had recently returned from working in eastern China where most cases have been reported.

And as things continue to get messy for the medical world it seems business could also be affected.

“Bird Flu is one of the most feared diseases of this century,” one distie told ChannelEye.

“While we’re currently chugging along there is a big risk of disruption if the disease continues to spread,” he added.

Others shared his sentiments. “There’s not really been much change at the moment in terms of the bird flu outbreak. But we’ve seen slower sales and delayed shipments in the past when there was problems with things like SARs,” another added.

Another told ChannelEye: “It depends how mad the world goes. If we start having to quarantine things then supply of products will be severely altered. But let’s see how far this scare mongering goes.”