ATIC cash draws chip research to Abu Dhabi

ATIC cash draws chip research to Abu Dhabi.

LONDON – The Semiconductor Research Corp. (SRC) has announced it is extending its university research partnership to serve the needs of technology ecosystem in Abu Dhabi. Under the agreement SRC member companies will conduct research in Abu Dhabi, sponsored by the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC).

Abu Dhabi is becoming a significant player in the semiconductor industry through its majority ownership and funding of foundry GlobalFoundries Inc. (Milpitas, Calif.) and it has previously stated its intention to bring semiconductor manufacturing to the emirate. The Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), the parent of GlobalFoundries, was created in 2008 as a technology investment company wholly-owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.

Under the terms of the partnership ATIC will sponsor university research in Abu Dhabi focused on low-power microelectronic applications. As part of the agreement, SRC and its member companies will increase their research activities in Abu Dhabi in partnership with key Abu Dhabi education institutions. The announcement follows a conference co-hosted by SRC and ATIC in Abu Dhabi – the MEES Forum – that was focused on the development of minimum-energy electronic systems.

The value of the sponsorship and the period over which it would be offered were not disclosed by SRC or ATIC.

“For almost 30 years, the semiconductor industry has been sponsoring precompetitive basic research at universities,” said SRC president Larry Sumney, in a statement. “As the semiconductor industry has expanded globally, the sponsorship of basic research has spread beyond U.S. borders to Europe and Asia. Now that the semiconductor industry is active in the Middle East, it is natural for SRC to establish a relationship with ATIC in Abu Dhabi.”

“The development of Abu Dhabi as a hub for leading-edge semiconductor capabilities, research and development is enabling the emirate to realize its vision to diversify its economy away from dependency on oil and gas,” said Sami Issa, ATIC’s executive director responsible for Abu Dhabi ecosystem development, in the same statement. “ATIC is working on developing an R&D ecosystem for advanced technology, and our partnership with SRC is a definitive step in this direction.”

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Achronix to Deploy Intel 22nm Process Technology

Achronix to Deploy Intel 22nm Process Technology.

 

Achronix Semiconductor Corp., a fabless provider of field programmable gate arrays (FPGA)announced that it has acquired strategic access to Intel (News – Alert) Corporation’s 22 nanometer process technology, on the basis of which it will be able to develop advanced FPGAs.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company builds fast FPGAs that are capable of up to 1.5 GHz peak performance, and has its sales offices and representatives in the United States, Europe, China, Japan, and Korea.

The new Achronix Speedster22i FPGA family will be much ahead of the currently available FPGAs, and will enable the enterprises to achieve cost effective production of high performance devices over 2.5M LUTs in size, equivalent to an ASIC of over 20 million gates.

Intel’s 22nm process technology will offer enhanced performance and power savings to enable the Speedster22i in achieving enhanced FPGA speed and power efficiency, providing a maximum of 300 percent higher performance, 50 percent lower power, and 40 percent lower cost than other FPGA deployed in different process technologies.

Helpful in a number of applications in the telecommunication, networking, industrial and consumer markets, Achronix Speedster22i will allow enterprises to deploy advanced applications such as 100G, 400G Ethernet networking and LTE (News – Alert) mobile communications. It will be the first commercial FPGA family that can be manufactured in the United States of America, so that the military and aerospace applications requiring ‘on shore’ silicon will also be able to benefit from the platform.

In the words of Sunit Rikhi, vice president, Technology and Manufacturing Group, Intel, company’s manufacturing strengths and lead in process technology offers leadership cost, performance and power efficiency benefits, giving its manufacturing customers such as Achronix an opportunity to design products with superior capabilities.

According to John Lofton Holt, chief executive officer at Achronix, Intel has the best process technology in the world and Achronix is privileged to have formed this strategic relationship, which enables simultaneous improvements in speed, power, density and cost. Holt noted that the combination of the advanced 22nm process from Intel and the advanced FPGA technology from Achronix enables Speedster22i to eclipse other FPGA solutions expected to hit the market in the next few years.

In August 2010, Achronix Semiconductor and Opticomp, a high throughput optical module provider jointly readied a reprogrammable development platform for developing, characterizing and demonstrating state-of-the-art optical data communications. The new development system leveraged Achronix’s Bridge100 FPGA board and Opticomp’s 120-Gbps multi-port system that is expandable to 160-Gbps and can be used with individual optical modules.

Analysis: Why Renesas is creating mobile IC spinoff

Analysis: Why Renesas is creating mobile IC spinoff.

Renesas Electronics’ decision to spin out its mobile semiconductor products into a separate subsidiary is motivated not only by the differences between the markets for microcontrollers and baseband chips, but also to help protect Renesas’ power amplifier business. SAN FRANCISCO—Renesas Electronics Corp. is spinning out its mobile semiconductor into a wholly owned subsidiary because of the markets formicrocontrollers and modem chips are worlds apart, and because executives want to improve the chances of its power amplifiers being designed into reference designs from other baseband suppliers, according to executives and market analysts.

Renesas, the leading vendor of microcontrollers and the third lagest chip company by revenue, said last week it would spin off its mobile chip unit into a new subsidiary, Renesas Mobile Corp., effective Dec. 1. The products being spun out into the new subsidiary include the company’s Mobile Multimedia SoC Business Division and most of the wireless modem business that formerly belonged to Nokia Corp., which Renesas is set to acquire by Nov. 30.

The spinout announcement caught some people off guard because Renesas executives have spoken about the modem chip technology being critical to the company’s future success, and because the acquisition was widely hailed as a bold and aggressive move.

Will Strauss, principal analyst at Forward Concepts Inc., applauded the spinout announcement. Setting up the wireless products in a different business makes sense because the market for wireless chips is such a dramatically different market than Renesas’ core microcontroller business, Straus said. Whereas many microcontrollers are marketed for years to industrial, automotive and other markets, wireless technology is changing so fast that products can become obsolete within a year, he said.

“It’s a good move,” said Strauss, adding that he was also impressed with the speed of Renesas’ operational execution.

Dan Mahoney, president and CEO of Renesas’ U.S. unit, Renesas Electronics America Inc., said the primary reasons for the move were the fast-moving nature of the mobile communications market and the fact that the new unit has the potential to help Renesas with its top-line objective of growing sales outside of Japan. Renesas’ corporate strategy includes a clear directive to by 2012 increase revenue from outside of the Japanese market to 60 percent of the company’s total from 45 percent at the time of the merger between NEC Electronics and Renesas Technology which formed the company.

But a second, equally compelling reason for the move, according to Mahoney is that Renesas’ important power amplifier business depends on the company having its power amplifiers incorporated into reference designs created by baseband chip vendors such as Qualcomm Inc. These suppliers might feel more comfortable sharing technical information with Renesas with the “firewall” of Renesas’ own baseband chip business residing in a separate company, Mahoney said.

Strauss said the strategy makes sense. Baseband suppliers would feel more comfortable doing business with Renesas because it will have “arm’s length” separation from its baseband business.

Linley Gwennap, principal analyst of The Linley Group, said baseband suppliers like Qualcomm would probably try to avoid incorporating Renesas’ parts in their reference design if they can even with the spinout because they would still view Renesas as a baseband competitor.
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Gwennap described the spinout as more of a marketing move, with a goal of giving more visibility and branding for Renesas’ mobile products. While U.S. and European companies typically spin out businesses into subsidiaries largely in preparation to sell them, Japanese companies are structured differently and tend to have a lot of subsidiaries that are wholly owned, he said.

Gwennap said Renesas is making some aggressive moves, particularly for a Japanese company, because Japanese companies in general are not known for marketing. “They are making some moves that you wouldn’t expect from a Japanese company,” Gwennap said. “But at the same time, this is kind of just marketing 101 for an American or European company.”

Renesas is making a huge push into the mobile space, Gwenapp said. The company has the potential to be a significant player based on the strength of the Nokia technology, he said, but the company lacks legacy products and key relationships that competitors already have.

“They are just at the very beginning of what they need to do become a major worldwide player in the market,” Gwenapp said. “They have a long way to go and it’s kind of late in the game for them to break in. 3G is pretty well set. What Renesas is hoping is that they can take advantage of the 3Gg to 4G transition to break into the market.”

Prior to acquiring the Nokia baseband unit, Renessas was becoming a bigger supplier to Nokia of other parts, primarily power amplifiers and RF transceivers, Strauss said. Renesas viewed the baseband acquisition as a way to solidify its relationship with Nokia and “get a bigger slice of the pie,” Strauss said. Acquiring the unit also gave Renesas the opportunity to market the technology to other customers besides Nokia, he said.

Mahoney said the Renesas Mobile spinout came out of the “100-day plan” developed by Renesas President Yasushi Akao, but that the company was not ready to disclose it until last week. During Renesas’ recent developers’ conference, Akao said that while some aspects of the 100-day plan had already been made public, other aspects would be forthcoming.

Renesas said that more than 75 percent of Renesas Mobile employees would be based outside of Japan.

Integration is winning in smartphone processors

Integration is winning in smartphone processors.

 

Peter Clarke

10/15/2010 5:56 AM EDT


LONDON – Baseband-integrated applications processors are gaining market share in the smartphone market, according to market research firm Strategy Analytics.

The consultancy has said that baseband-integrated applications processors accounted for 28 percent of the total applications processors shipped to smartphones in 2007 and was up to 70 percent in unit terms in the first half of 2010.

The two different partitions cover two different market approaches: baseband-integrated applications processors serve a broad market with a cost competitive solution while stand-alone applications processors tend to serve high-performance devices with support for the latest features. This is because software and its supporting application processors can develop faster than broadband modem requirements.

Baseband integration can result in performance penalties and reduce the flexibility of an applications processor, tying it to a particular air interface. However, Qualcomm and ST-Ericsson are responding to this challenge and attempting to provide leading-edge performance in baseband-integrated chips.

“Qualcomm is driving the baseband-integrated applications processor market and is also closing the performance gap against stand-alone vendors such as Texas Instruments, Nvidia and Samsung,” said analyst Sravan Kundojjala in a statement. “By our estimates, Qualcomm’s smartphone applications processor unit shipment share increased from just 3 percent in 2007 to 19 percent in first half 2010.”

Stuart Robinson, Director of the Handset Component technologies service, said that smartphone OEMs are also divided on this issue with Nokia, RIM and HTC prefering integration while Apple, Samsung and Motorola prefer to use stand-alone applications processors.

Intel CEO: ARM’s way is no way to make money

Intel CEO: ARM’s way is no way to make money.

Intel Corp. sees no risk to its business from ARM Holdings and has no intention in participating in any alternative processor architectures to its own, says CEO Paul Otellini.

LONDON — Intel Corp. sees no risk to its business from ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England) and has no intention in participating in any alternative processor architectures to its own, according to CEO Paul Otellini.

Speaking to an audience of analysts and investors on Tuesday (May 11) Otellini also criticized as inferior to its own, a business model that splits the creation of value between multiple players including the IP licensor, the chip designer and a foundry.

When asked about the competitive landscape and the fact that ARM is beginning to enter what has traditionally been Intel’s territory in notebook and server computers Otellini said:

“All architectures live under the same laws of physics. There’s nothing unique about ours or theirs. At the end of the day it is the quality of the architecture and the quality of the implementation of the silicon it goes on. Today we have the most popular architecture in terms of the installed base of cores and the best silicon in the world,” said Otellini.

“If you look at Intel margins versus, say, foundry margins, which is what you would get if you are building ARM-based devices or MIPS-based devices, we are substantially higher. So we get paid for our intellectual property and for our silicon. To me, that’s a better value proposition,” he continued. “It’s very difficult to make money in that [IP licensing] environment,” he concluded.

During his 45 minute talk to the investors meeting Otellini stressed that Intel was much more than a chip company and was now a computing company that encompasses processors, platforms, software and services.

Otellini said that over its entire history Intel had shipped 3.3 billion processor cores by the end of Q1 2010. By the end of this year that number will be closer to four billion cores, he said. “The architecture, which is the most popular on earth, the one that has 14 million developers writing to it today, is getting more popular every day.”

He added: “We’re still the only high volume architecture that offers backwards and forwards compatibility generation to generation to preserve that software investment.”

Otellini emphasized that the Internet, with 1.8 billion users, is still the driver of its business, dropping the fact that 18.8 trillion minutes were spent on the Internet in 2009, a number that is going up by 21 percent year-on-year. And although the growth of the user base has slowed to 4 percent in the U.S. in the BRIC countries growth is in the 20s of percent per year. China, which has nearly 400 million users Otellini described as “the mother of all markets.”

“It is still the fundamental driver of computing for the foreseable future,” Otellini said.

Intel calls for U.S. manufacturing tax breaks

Intel calls for U.S. manufacturing tax breaks.

LONDON – Paul Otellini, the president and CEO of Intel Corp., has called for the U.S. government to provide tax concessions for companies that build factories in the United States, according to a Reuters report.

Otellini, speaking during a presentation at a Council on Foreign Relations event in New York on Tuesday (Oct. 5), said that the concessions, either in the form of tax credits or tax holidays would help create jobs and would make the United States competitive with other countries, the report said.

Building and operating a wafer fabrication facility for semiconductors can cost up to $1 billion more in the United States than in some other countries, with 90 percent of the difference being down to tax and incentives rather than labor cost, the report referenced Otellini as saying.

“We should offer tax credits or a five to 10 years tax holiday to companies, domestic or foreign, that want to set up factories in the U.S.,” Reuters quoted Otellini as saying.

The majority of Intel’s wafer fabs are in the U.S. It also has fabs in Ireland and Israel. Intel’s latest wafer fab is under construction in Dalian China and government incentives were part of the reason, the report quoted Otellini as saying.

Qualcomm’s Not a Shoe-In at Apple – TheStreet

Qualcomm’s Not a Shoe-In at Apple – TheStreet.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Qualcomm (QCOM) is in the running for a slot in the next Apple(AAPL) iPhone, but reports of a victory could be greatly exaggerated.

Apple appears to be lining up its field of parts suppliers for the iPhone 5 due out next year, and Qualcomm may be in the mix. A report by Taipei’s Economic Daily News Thursday cited by AppleInsider suggests that Qualcomm may provide the so-called baseband or wireless communications chips for the iPhone 5 and a new version of the iPad.

The reports helped send Qualcomm shares up 2.5% to $45.44 and knocked down chip shop Cirrus Logic(CRUS) 8% in Thursday morning trading.

While it’s no doubt certain that Qualcomm is among the field of designated suppliers for the upcoming LTE 4G version of the iPhone, it’s very likely that the primary vendor has yet to be chosen, say analysts familiar with Apple’s bake-off contests.

Infineon’s(IFX) wireless unit, which agreed to be acquired by Intel(INTC) a month ago, is the incumbent chip supplier to Apple’s iPhone and a leading candidate for the 4G job.

Also vying for the business is ST Ericsson, a 4G chip-making joint-venture between STMicro(STM) and Ericsson(ERIC).

If true to its track record, Apple will have a demanding list of feature requirements and prices to narrow the field to one primary vendor, say analysts.

The problem for Qualcomm is political.

The San Diego chip giant has been a key supplier to Motorola(MOT) and HTC for Google(GOOG) Android devices that compete against the iPhone.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor is also expected to be in some of Microsoft’s(MSFT) Windows Phone 7 devices coming next month, putting it squarely in the wrong camp.

The favorites in this race are Infineon and perhaps more attractively ST Ericsson, which is expected to be very eager to gain the iPhone design win and the primary supplier role, say analysts.

So while Qualcomm is certainly in the field, it’s doubtful to be the outstanding winner in Apple’s eye.