Sunday, June 29, 2008

10-point program for Karnataka semicon policy

A very interesting question was recently thrown at me: what sort of semiconductor policy should Karnataka adopt as a state! I shall attempt to highlight some of the activities the Karnataka government can look at implementing in the semicon/EMS space.

Let us first go back to last September, when the Indian government issued fab guidelines. Besides wafer IC and solar/PV fabs, the Indian government is seeking investments in ecosystem units for LCDs, OLEDs, PDPs, photovoltaics, solar cells, storage devices, advanced micro and nanotech products, etc.

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

For starters, the Karnataka state needs to have a long-term semiconductor policy in place, running 20-25 years or so. This cannot be a short-term plan! It would be prudent to have the top Indian leaders from Indian firms and MNCs, e.g., Ittiam, MindTree, Synopsys, Cadence, TI, Analog Devices, as well as the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) and some other leading technology institutes, be the part of a core state semiconductor policy team to oversee the implementations. Future state governments would only need to update the status and keep it rolling forward.

Incentives need to be built in as well, including more tax holidays, etc. Whether it needs to be 25-30 percent or higher, is to be debated. Next, the focus of a semicon policy should be aimed at solving some particular local problem, which can go on to solve a much bigger national problem.

All of this should be done with, keeping in view to improving the infrastructure in the state, such as roads, water, electricity, etc. Foreign investors would shy away if infrastructure issues were not tackled first.

In this context, the Karnataka government should first look at having some solar/PV fabs in the state, as well as those in the nanotech space. Next, it would be prudent to pursue a policy of attracting companies in the verification and testing domains. Rather, have companies in the ATMP space, a pointer, which has been coming up in most of the discussions.

As an example, last year, an Israeli company -- Nova Measuring Instruments -- was keen on entering India. Nova develops, produces, and markets advanced monitoring, measurement and process control systems for the semiconductor manufacturing industry. It should be pursued to start assembly and testing of products in the state.

Wafer IC fabs are going to be a tough act to follow. Unless a company can get the requisite funding for a 300mm fab, it is not advisable to follow that path. However, there is room for developing 200mm fabs, or even 150mm and 180mm fabs. These can be used to develop indigenous and simple applications. If such fabs are developed, those companies offering fab-related services can be attracted as well.

The Indian semicon policy statement speaks about having ecosystem units. It would be advisable to attract smaller companies and look at setting up manufacturing units. As an example, Synopsys's Subhash Bal had once pointed out how RFID can be used in a host of applications. That's not all. Why not pursue companies in the OLEDs/LEDs and PDPs spaces as well, besides those manufacturing LCDs, even if smaller-sized.

Finally, consider attracting and promoting companies in the fabless space, as it looks to be the way ahead for the semiconductor industry.

Here is a 10-point program for the Karnataka government to consider as a likely semiconductor policy.

1. A long-term semiconductor policy running 20-25 years or so.
2. Core team of top Indian leaders from Indian firms and MNCs, as well as technology institutes in Karnataka to oversee policy implementation.
3. Incentives such as government support, including stake in investments, and tax holidays.
4. Strong infrastructure availability and management.
5. Focus on having solar/PV fabs in the state.
6. Consider having 150/180/200mm fabs that tackle local problems via indigenous applications.
7. Develop companies in the assembly testing, verification and packaging (ATMP) space.
8. Attract companies in fields such as RFID, to address local problems and develop local applications.
9. Pursue companies in the PDP, OLED/LED space to set up manufacturing units.
10. Promote and set up more fabless units.

There should be some steps to create specific zones for setting up such units -- for fabs, fabless, ATMP, manufacturing, etc., all spread equally across the state.

On a personal note, I would be keen and willing to work with the Indian/Karnataka government, or the concerned parties, in formulating such a policy, should I am invited. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing India, and Karnataka, shining in the semiconductor space.

Friday, June 27, 2008

India leads world in semicon: S. Janakiraman

Irrespective of the debate raging within the semicon community regarding the IC wafer fabs in India, the strength of and the talent within the Indian semiconductor industry has never ever been in doubt.

Delivering the welcome note at the recently held ISA Technovation 2008 awards ceremony at the Indian Institute of Science, S. Janakiraman, the former Chairman - India Semiconductor Association, and President & CEO – R&D services, MindTree Ltd, elaborated the fact that India now leads the world through execution of most complex and latest technology designs.

Former president of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was the Chief Guest at the function.

Commenting on the ISA's role, Janakiraman said that it has been an industry driven body focused on the unique needs and progress of the semiconductor and related industries in India to make it vibrant and project India as a global leader. The ISA's journey began four years back, in late October 2004, in Bangalore, under the mentorship of Dr. Sridhar Mitta, when like minded industry leaders gathered together and debated how India can achieve leadership position in the semiconductor space similar to IT and software.

Janakiraman said: "We have come a long way since then and today ISA is recognized by everyone in the country and all such bodies outside, as the sole representation of the Indian semiconductor industry. This has been a significant achievement and made possible by all."

Today, there is a good presence of both Indian and MNC organizations, large as well as start-up companies, design, as well as manufacturing organizations, with the members of ISA now totaling 130! The ISA also works closely with central and state governments to give shape to the aspiration of our industry. It had played a key role in framing the semiconductor policy that enables larger investments in the semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem.

He added: "India has excelled in areas that are knowledge intensive. Semiconductor design is no exception, and today, we lead the world through execution of most complex and latest technology designs. The market size of the IC design and embedded software industry in India was $6 billion in 2007 and has the potential to grow into $43 billion by 2015. It currently employs around 130,000 engineering professionals."

ISA Technovation Awards
One of the primary charters of the ISA is the talent initiative. This initiative focuses not only on generation of quality talent aligned to the needs of the industry, but also to recognize innovation and research, that further nurtures talent.

The Technovation Awards were created in 2007 to recognize excellence in Academia that has made us what we are today. These awards have been created to honour semiconductor research in India and to create role models in core technology areas.

The award categories are:
1. TechnoVisionary for life time achievement in the semiconductor area
2. TechnoShield for research entity, lab or a department for excellence in a semiconductor domain of interest
3. TechnoMentor for recognizing academician/researcher for contribution in the semiconductor area
4. TechnoInventor for individual excellence in doctoral/masters researchers

This year, ISA has created two special awards for recognizing researchers from Karnataka which have been instituted by VLSI 2007 committee, under two categories:

1. Best Faculty award
2. Best PG student award

The number of nominations went up multifold in this year and an able set of panelists had a tough task of selecting the award winners.

"Given the vibrant scenario of the industry and importance of the event, we have our great leader and visionary Dr. Abdul Kalam with us today evening to recognize the award winners in person'" added Janakiraman.

"Dr. Kalam had been a role model especially for the younger generation – who are the future of this country. Dr. Kalam has been a visionary and a great inspiration for the community present here. It is a great honour for ISA to have Dr. Kalam amongst us."

The Award Winners @ Technovation 2008


Juzer M. Vasi, Deputy Director, Indian Institute of Technology, IIT Bombay


Bhargab B. Bhattacharya, Professor and Officiating Deputy Director, ISI Calcutta

TechnoShield 2008 (Rolling Shield)

Indian Institute of Technology, Madras -- Semiconductor Devices Circuits & Systems Group (SDCS)


(Ph. D category)

Debdeep Mukhopadhyay, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur
Thesis : Design and Analysis of Cellular Automata Based Cryptographic Algorithms

BP Harish, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Thesis: Process Variability –aware Performance Modeling in 65 nm CMOS

D. Mahaveer Sathaiya, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Thesis: Modeling of Gate Leakage in Aigan/Gan hemts and nitride oxides

(M Tech category)

Rakesh Gnana David J, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Thesis: Adaptive Keeper Design for Dynamic Logic Circuits Using Rate Sensing Technique

Nayan Bhogilal Patel, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Thesis: Performance Enhancement of the Tunnel Field Effect Transistor for Future Low Stand-by Power Applications

Former president of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Chief Guest at the function, advised the Indian semiconductor industry to develop tailor-made chips so that electronic equipment could become more cheaper and competitive.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Premature to write off Indian fab story: Dr. Pradip Dutta

The previous blog was focusing on SemIndia and the notice it has received on the Fab City in Hyderabad, along with NanoTech. BV Naidu, a friend and an industry colleague, has put up a strong front, and is trying his best to ensure things get going in the IC wafer fab space in India. Best of luck to him and SemIndia. India needs a fab, much more than ever, now.

I also happened to have a brief chat with Dr. Pradip K. Dutta, Corporate Vice President & Managing Director, Synopsys (India) Pvt Ltd, another friend and an industry colleague. Although from the EDA industry, Dr. Dutta has great thoughts and ideas regarding the future of semiconductors in India.

According to him, building wafer fabs in India involves an element of national pride and should also make business sense, simultaneously. The government has to look at fabs from a national policy perspective. If there were any company breaking ground in India, to build a clean-room, we would have known, he states, which is very correct.

We all know that a fab is a highly capital intensive project. He says: "I hope we can see some concrete proposals by this time next year. It is too premature to say that the Indian fab story is disappearing."

There is a need to bear in mind that fabs in India have a three-year window. So, there is no reason for getting worked up right now, as the window is still there and existing. Dr. Dutta adds: "The business people will only open up their cards in the final stages. I have reasons to believe by summer of 2009, there will be some actual stakeholders."

A fab is a very economically complex business. In the next five-10 yrs, there is a strong feeling that there may be only three to four companies globally, as IDMs, and the rest move into foundry. Dr. Dutta stresses: "To expect India will have a 5bn, 45nm, capable fab is something that needs to be examined. The business case has to be the driver."

The semicon policy has definitely been a good start. What has since happened since that the ancillary manufacturing industry has been taking advantage of the policy.

"The government is quite optimistic that as we reach next year, by this time, companies will firm up their plans, as the industry window is three years. We believe that concrete proposals will come in by that time," reiterates Dr. Dutta.

The government wants to see a state-of-the-art facility come up as well. He notes: "Maybe, 50 percent of all ICs sold globally, can be built on 0.25-micron technology. However, under the current semicon policy, we want to encourage state-of-the art manufacturing."

Given the current global economic scenario, it will take real effort on part of all the stakeholders and come up with a wafer IC fab. India seriously needs a fab! There's a huge market out there, which needs to be tapped. Delays will only add to our slipping back.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

India fab story not disappearing: SemIndia

According to B.V. Naidu, managing director, SemIndia Systems, and Vice Chairman - India Semiconductor Association (ISA), the Indian fab story is well on track. Here, he speaks about the FabCity, the status of fabs in India and SemIndia's initiatives.

On the status of setting up of IC wafer fabs in India, he says that a couple of companies are in the process of raising the money for setting up the wafer fab in India. We still do not know the timelines for the same.

On India's fab story is disappearing, Naidu feels that it is always difficult to raise the money for such large capital-intensive projects, which are happening first time in the country. "One of the large industrial groups also announced their plans to set-up the fab. This shows that the fab story is not disappearing," he says.

The Andhra state government had recently sent notices to SemIndia and NanoTech over FabCity. Pertaining to the status of the project, he adds that any capital-intensive new projects of this kind will take some time. It is also quite natural that the government generally issues such notices more to put pressure so as to expedite the project implementation. It is good that the governments are closely monitoring the progress of the project implementation.

According to him, SemIndia's ATMP project construction has started. The FabCity has already come-up and many solar PV fabs are being set-up in the FabCity. This shows that efforts of SemIndia, ISA and the government of AP have yielded the successful results to make FabCity a successful project.

The India Semiconductor Association (ISA) can only indicate that such government communications are common for wherever there is government support. The ISA will continuously put in their efforts for attracting the new investments to India and work along with the governments to make sure that their efforts are fruitful.

"SemIndia's ATMP project construction has started and we are still looking for the investors for their fab project," says Naidu.

So, what sort of planning is now required from the Indian semicon industry? As per the SemIndia managing director, the Indian semicon industry should continuously work with the government to make sure that the government of India's semicon policy is successful and efforts are various state governments in attracting the new investments in this area are fruitful.

The ISA will continuously strive for creating the balanced eco-system for the semicon design industry, high-tech manufacturing and talent nurturing.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Has the Indian silicon wafer fab story gone astray?

The recent news of the Hyderabad Fab City giants -- SemIndia Fab Pvt Ltd and Nano-Tech Silicon India Pvt Ltd -- being served notice by the local state government and to explain the reasons for their delay in setting up the Fab City in Shamshabad on the outskirts of Hyderabad, does not come as a surprise at all!

Setting up of a silicon wafer fab takes up a lot of time and money, and I am not sure how this bit is perceived by many. Also, the rate of return is not exactly immediate! Maybe, it is time for everyone to realize that semiconductor is a very different industry from any other, and there is a need to understand how it really functions! Besides, one needs to keep an eye on the global semiconductor industry and associate movements there with what kind of value would a fab in India bring to the world.

This May, I'd done a reality check on where the global semiconductor is placed. Several folks have contacted me since, pointing out my accuracy. While it is good to be spot on with the assessment of the global (and Indian) semiconductor industry, the assessments should serve as a warning for the global (and Indian) semiconductor industry -- that it is not going to be an easy ride ahead!

On the same note, I had earlier questioned whether this was the right timing for setting up fabs in India. Perhaps, there is a need to examine whether we started on the fab path a bit too late! If we are found to be wrong or hasty in our assessment, let us feel no anguish in accepting that! This is not the first time such a thing will happen in the semiconductor industry, nor will it be the last. Having said that, if a wafer fab or two do start functioning in India later in 2009 or beyond, that would be exemplary!

Let us hope that the Indian silicon wafer fab story does not go astray for the overall benefit of the Indian semiconductor industry. There is a need on part of the Indian semicon planners to integrate clear vision with careful planning.

Yes, several solar fabs are coming up globally, and investments in solar/PV are rising as well in India, but that was along expected lines.

It was also pointed out earlier that investments in photovoltaics (PV) had somewhat eased the pressure on capital equipment makers and spend. In fact, 2007 is now well documented as the year when the PV industry emerged as a key opportunity for the subsystems suppliers and provided a timely boost in sales for those actively addressing this market.

Perhaps, here lies an opportunity for India, and I'm repeating this to the extent of sounding boring!

Further, even though it has been quite a while since the Indian semicon policy was announced, some feel that India should continue to focus on design services and embedded -- its well known strengths, rather than go after something as mature as wafer fabs. We don't have to 'force ourselves to believe' that we are good at product development? We are not!

Yes, like most things, it can change, but that would need great effort on part of all industry stakeholders. The question is: are we ready to bring about that change?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Semicon half year over, what next now?

Wow! A majority of my predictions made on this blog for the global semiconductor industry have so far turned out correct -- in December 2007 and again in May 2008.

Recently, I'd done a check on where are we today, in May, and earlier, via a Webcast from Semiconductor International, I had mentioned about the semiconductors market situation. Around that time, I had attempted my hand at predicting the top 10 global semiconductor trends for 2008.

There have been several folks, who've contacted me via this blog. Each one of them has his and her opinion about the semiconductor industry, and now want me to take this up a little bit more ahead. Let's see what more I can do!

While all of these makes me feel proud of having been spot on with my assessment of the global (and Indian) semiconductor industry, it should also serve as a warning for the global (and Indian) semiconductor industry -- that it really needs to pull up its socks! It is not going to be an easy ride ahead!

For starters, you simply cannot wish away the rising oil prices. The oil prices impact will be immense, and DRAM and flash are still wobbling. Besides, the ASPs are a wobbly lot and will continue to remain so. Interestingly, several forecasts from various quarters have been revised or re-assessed. Didn't you all see it coming?

I'd also like to touch upon the Indian semiconductor industry. In all likelihood, the wafer fab story has all but disappeared. Very few comments are now being made about the wafer fabs, although, how this topic was played up, rather, hyped up about a year ago is quite well documented. In fact, I'd also written about whether the timing was right for having fabs in India!

No, it is not a failure on part of the Indian industry or the India Semiconductor Association. Perhaps, we started on the fab path a bit too late! Let's all accept that!! Having said that, if a wafer fab or two do start functioning in India later in 2009 or beyond, that would be simply great!

Yes, several solar fabs are coming up and investments in solar/PV are rising, as also in India, but that was along expected lines.

I'd mentioned earlier that investments in photovoltaics (PV) had eased the pressure on capital equipment makers and spend somewhat. In fact, 2007 is now well remembered as the year when the PV industry emerged as a key opportunity for the subsystems suppliers and provided a timely boost in sales for those actively addressing this market. Perhaps, here lies an opportunity for India! I'm repeating this to the extent of sounding boring.

Further, even though it has been quite a while since the Indian semicon policy was announced, some feel that India should continue to focus on design services and embedded -- its well known strengths, rather than go after something as mature as wafer fabs. Also, why do we have to 'force ourselves to think' that we are good at product development? We are not! Yes, it can change, but that would need great effort on part of all industry stakeholders.

So, what next? For now, I will not try and predict again what's the way ahead for the semiconductor industry, as I've recently done a self check on where the global semiconductor industry stands today. That assessment will be left for another day!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

EDA as DNA of growth

The EDA industry today is abuzz with the proposed takeover bid by Cadence Design Systems for Mentor Graphics, and the reported rejection of that bid by Mentor.

This is a consolidation within the EDA industry waiting to happen. My gut feeling is that it will happen, though it may take some more time.

Those in the semiconductor space are well aware of the role EDA plays as far as chip designing is concerned. With India's growing might in semiconductors, the EDA companies in India are witnessing consumption rising than ever before.

I recently happened to get into a discussion with Rahul Arya, Marketing Director, Cadence Design Systems (I) Pvt. Ltd, on how the industry has been performing, and how are the EDA companies addressing the design challenges, a few days before the Cadence-Mentor story surfaced.

Following the semiconductor industry trends, the consumption of EDA technologies is growing in regions outside of the US and Europe. According to Arya, the size of the EDA market worldwide is estimated to be about US $5 billion today.

The top three EDA companies -- Cadence, Mentor and Synopsys -- command three-quarters share of the entire EDA market worldwide. Imagine, what it would do to the EDA industry and to Cadence, if Cadence were to take over Mentor!

EDA in India
Coming to the status of the EDA industry in India, it is a pretty good reflection of what's happening worldwide. The industry in India is growing and it is healthy. As per the ISA F&S Report 2005, the EDA market in India was estimated at US$110m.

The reasons for this growth are multiple. For instance, Cadence's customers are growing and hence, so is Cadence. "With all of the major semiconductor MNCs having expanded their footprints by setting up India design centers, more EDA software is getting consumed in India. Indian design services are also growing. Also, some startups are coming up, like Cosmic Circuits, Sankalp, etc., and they are gaining momentum," added Arya.

So how exactly are the EDA companies addressing 45nm (and 32nm) design challenges? If you look at the work being done in India, it is now pretty cutting edge, and very comparable to the rest of the world.

Arya added: "Our customers are looking for the 3Cs -- complexity, cost and convergence. The end users are asking for more features. For example, in their mobile or any other electronic device, which is driving our customers to pack in more functionality on the chips.

"Our customers have multiple challenges at 45nm and below, notably low power, analog-mixed signal and Design for Manufacturing (DFM)."

Challenges in 45nm and below
And what are those? As the industry pushes toward smaller process geometries, the existing design infrastructure must be upgraded holistically to automate power-lowering design techniques. Most power-control methods in use today are manual and implemented ad hoc, leading to an increased risk and cost.

Across the design and manufacturing chain, an urgent need has emerged for an automated, power-aware design infrastructure. To facilitate and support a new era of low-power design innovation, Cadence has formed the Power Forward Initiative (PFI).

Drawing from the collective expertise of leading technology companies, the Power Forward Initiative will create a more systematic, integrated approach to low-power design, providing a platform for higher-level exploration and IP re-use.

The PFI members are already at work on validating the Common Power Format (CPF), a new open specification language that captures all power-specific design, constraint, and functionality requirements, such as multi-supply voltage and power shutoff, in a single file.

Arya noted: "By linking design, verification, and implementation domains, the Common Power Format enables automation of power-reduction techniques and increases predictability. No longer constrained by the risk of low yield or costly re-spins, design teams can focus their time and resources on what matters most —- innovation. Achieving both functional and structural verification before incurring manufacturing costs, and with greater time-to-market opportunities, companies across the design and manufacturing chain can adopt new process geometries and start low-power design projects profitably.

On the subject of DFM, EDA companies are trying their utmost to improve yield. Cadence is trying to bring lot of analysis early in the cycle. The designer has more visibility on those effects, before they get manufactured. It has a host of technology offerings to enable the designers make early decisions.

For example, Cadence has recently worked with TSMC on 9.0 reference flow. It has also worked with ARM on a low-power methodology. The idea is that an industry-wide collaboration will ensure that EDA companies like Cadence are able to provide value to customers.

As customers grapple with technology and time-to-market challenges, the EDA industry will be the DNA of growth.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Semicon special: Global and Indian scenarios, design trends

I've been blogging on semicon for some time now, and it is also going to be a year since the CIOL Semicon site was launched.

This special edition looks at the global semiconductor scenario -- how is the industry dealing with the 'deep trauma' it finds itself in, along with certain forecasts. Will the recession bring the industry down, or is there light at the end of the tunnel? We also look at some predictions made in the past and evaluate where the semiconductor industry stands today.

In the Indian context, the special analyzes India's growing might in the global semiconductor market, the emergence of India as an embedded superstar, the growing strength of the Indian design services segment, and a quick look at how planners need to take the semicon policy forward.

The special also addresses some leading design trends, such as the use of graphical system design for embedded control systems, trends in video compression, and why designers and developers need to go parallel. It also touches on some recent developments in 22nm.

All articles can be found on the CIOL Semicon site. Some of the posts are available on my blog as well. Enjoy!

Global Semiconductor Market Scenario

1. Top 10 global semicon predictions: where are we today
While the chip industry is equipped to take on the challenges ahead, do watch out for weaker DRAM and NAND markets.

2. Semicon likely to grow 12pc in 2008
If there will be an economic recession, the chip industry (but not all firms) is in the best shape possible to weather the ensuing storm.

3. Semi trends 2008: Fab spend lower, ASPs stabilizing
The call on global fab spend was for a 10 percent reduction, and this is now getting to be closer to 20 percent.

4. Global semicon to grow 4.9pc
These forecasts are based on April's WSTS sales numbers, as per the Cowan LRA (Linear Regression Analysis) model.

Indian Semiconductor Market Scenario

1. India's growing might in global semicon
India is fast becoming the world's destination, and increasingly the source too, for semiconductors.

2. Indian design services to touch $10.96bn by 2010
Total design services market in India is said to have grown at 21 percent year on year.

3. Indian semicon industry creating its niche
The Indian semiconductor industry has established itself as a leading provider for design services outsourcing.

4. Indian semicon needs concrete planning
India should produce a good plan to take semiconductors forward and be realistic about what can be done.

5. India the emerging embedded superstar
We are witnessing a strong trend from companies slowly moving from 'Service Only' model to 'Service + Product/IP' model.

6. Emerging trends in embedded market
High-performance, low-power embedded systems are moving to platforms based on multicore and mobile processors with low thermals.

7. IBM-Telelogic to extend embedded offerings
Acquisition of Telelogic fortifies Rational development at India Software Lab, opens door for company to gain foothold in embedded.

8. EDA healthy and growing in India
Consumption of EDA technologies is growing in regions outside of the US and Europe.

Semiconductor Design Trends

1. Graphical system design for embedded control systems
Graphical system design (GSD) is a revolutionary approach to embedded design that blends intuitive graphical programming and flexible commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware.

2. Video compression: trends in encoding/decoding chips
High-quality video transmission is creating challenges for designers, and this article seeks to address these challenges.

3. Be parallel, or perish!
Parallelism offers new doors, and creativity is required to open these new doors, says Intel.

4. Fascinating developments in 22nm!
These augur well for the global semiconductor industry, even though the field could get much narrower.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Global semi to grow 4.9 percent: Cowan

This is a new addition to the continuing coverage on the global semiconductor industry forecasts in form of a monthly update to the Cowan LRA Model's global semiconductor sales forecast numbers.

According to Mike Cowan, an independent semiconductor analyst and developer of the Cowan LRA model, the "momentum indicator" dropped to 1.8 percent from March's number of 6.1 percent; but still remains in positive territory.

Consequently, the updated forecast numbers increased very slightly from March's results with the 2008's sales forecast estimate increasing to $268.249 billion (from last month's estimate of $267.318; up a modest 0.35 percent) thereby yielding a year-on-year (YoY) sales growth forecast estimate of 4.9 percent (up from last month's sales growth forecast expectation of 4.6 percent).

This newly updated sales growth forecast estimate of 4.9 percent as per the Cowan LRA model compares quite favorably with both Gartner's most recent forecast update of 4.6 percent and the WSTS's Spring 2008 forecast update of 4.7 percent.

Cowan adds: "It should be highlighted that these Cowan LRA Model's forecast numbers are a "snapshot in time" (for a given month) and will "change" as each new month's results are made available and digested by the dynamic Cowan LRA Model as the year evolves."

Cowan LRA model
A new semiconductor sales forecasting model has been developed to facilitate the determination of future global sales of the semiconductor industry. The Cowan LRA (Linear Regression Analysis) Model, which forecasts global semiconductor sales, is a mathematically based model that features statistical analysis of the past 24 years of historical, monthly global semiconductor sales numbers that are collected and published by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) organization.

Mike Cowan is a 45-year semiconductor industry veteran. He has a 36-year history at IBM's Microelectronics Division in East Fishkill, N.Y., where he was involved in many facets of semiconductor development and manufacturing engineering, including both technical and management responsibilities.

Over his last 10 years at IBM, as a senior technical staff member, he has been involved in strategy development and competitive analysis focused on the semiconductor industry, and has developed a number of top-down and bottom-up models to predict the dynamics of the semiconductor industry.

After retiring from IBM in 2002 he became an independent semiconductor industry analyst providing his monthly forecasts to The Semiconductor Reporter Web site from 2002-2006, and presently to Future Horizons.

May I also take this opportunity to welcome Mike Cowan on my blog.

Friday, June 13, 2008

India's first plug-in hybrid car -- Chimera

This is something readers would surely enjoy, especially those with an interest in cars! And especially those, who are concerned about rising fuel prices!!

Introducing, Chimera -- India's first plug-in hybrid car! And, I need to thank National Instruments, for this. Not to speak of how proud I am about Bangalore's RV College of Engineering, whose students have developed the prototype!

Students of RV College of Engineering, Bangalore yesterday unveiled the prototype of Chimera, India's first plug-in hybrid car for its city roads. The project was undertaken by 11 engineering students from the RV Colege of Engineering, supported by companies such as REVA, National Instruments and Robert Bosch.

This is a unique example of some classic collaborative effort between the university and the industry to 'facilitate experiential education leading to innovation'.

According to NI, the project code named 'Chimera' involved the development of an energy efficient hybrid electric vehicle based on the REVA electric vehicle platform. It is among the very few prototypes that uses both electric energy and bio-diesel, thereby maintaining an eco-friendly tag. The car also has the feature of on-board charging, is fitted with a 440cc diesel engine sourced from Lombardini India and houses a hybrid controller.

National Instruments (NI) supported the students with virtual instrumentation software, hardware and technical training for design and testing of the project.

Using NI LabVIEW-a graphical programming environment and NI CompactDAQ-a USB data acquisition system, the team automated the system completely. NI LabVIEW acts as the brain of the car. It was used to create the user interface on which the driver can monitor conditions of the car such as temperature, battery voltage, rpm, etc, thus acting like an in-vehicle data acquisition system.

NI LabVIEW was also used to program the hardware, NI CompactDAQ, to charge the batteries and provide automatic engine switching functionality. The students plan to make the above automated system a standalone one by moving it onto NI CompactRIO which is an intelligent embedded data acquisition and control system.

Robert Bosch also provided both technical and monetary aid for the project. Chetan Maini, Deputy Chairman & CTO, REVA said that the hybrid electric vehicle is yet to be refined and further developed before commercialization.

Nonetheless, this is a superb development, and the right path toward tackling the growing menace of the escalating fuel prices. We need more such initiatives, more options for hybrid cars and alternatives for hybrid fuels.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Indian semicon needs concrete plans

The Indian semiconductor market is still in a nascent stage. In the Indian context, while we are very good in design services, we have yet to achieve the required capability to build products.

In this context, Subhash Bal, Country Director, Synopsys (India) EDA Software Pvt. Ltd says: "One has to first understand the dynamics of the semiconductor market. The key is: if you grow a market here, it will also grow somewhere else. That's where the trick lies!"

The Indian semiconductor industry really needs to figure out what will work! "It would be better to think about solving a particular problem, which will go on to solve a bigger problem for India. There is also a need to build incentives to go along with al of this," adds Bal.

He states: "We should produce a plan to take semiconductors forward in India. We need to be realistic about what we can do with the semiconductor industry. India should better be up there, at the top, in terms of technology as well. For example, RFID can be used in a whole range of applications."

Way forward
What can be the way forward for the Indian semiconductor industry? First, there is a need to create a plan for Indians residing in the USA to return home and start something. They should be offered a lot of incentives as well. Next, there is a need to allow developing schemes where Indian applications become the focus, especially for high-volume government applications, such as traffic light controls, ID cards, toll tax applications, etc.

"Such things will only trigger demand. It will also see the rise of Indian product companies, and later, those will grow into semiconductor companies," advises Bal.

Indian fab story disappearing?
Is the Indian fab story disappearing from sight? Not exactly! There will be a lot of solar fabs coming up, while it is still early days for wafer IC fabs. Fabs for PV cells are relatively easy to set up. Undoubtedly, PV has a huge market potential.

On the subject of fabs, Bal says: "The technique of management of fab technology is crucial. There should be some government schemes for smaller fabs as well. It does not matter whether these are 150mm or 180mm fabs. Indigenous applications can source simple applications, such as autorickshaw meters, toll tax applications, etc."

Bal, like many others, believes that the next decade clearly depends on the youth of India. Therefore, this plan for semiconductors has to be long term -- for about 25-30 years -- and action oriented. This has to start from an end solution, and thereafter, semiconductors should be able to take off!

"Apart from such a plan, it is also important that sufficient attention is given to developing the right infrastructure. Infrastructure needs to be fixed as well. Should these be addressed, the semiconductor industry in India will likely take off," adds Bal.

Globally, Synopsys has been growing steadily. In fact, the Q1-08 revenue is likely to close at $325 million. Synopsys India has a current headcount of over 600 employees, located in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Noida. The activities of the Hyderabad center is global in nature.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Top semicon articles of 2008

A very kind reader left a comment yesterday that he (or she?) spent three hours on my blog! I am simply overwhelmed and humbled!!

It has really been a pleasure writing and maintaining a semicon blog! Plenty such are around carrying very valuable information, and I salute those bloggers.

It is really tough to contend with all the other technology-related information, but then, semicon has its own charm, and its own set of dedicated readers -- who DO go on to become extremely loyal.

I am even more touched by another request by a friend to list all the top articles I've written this year. Wow!!

It is very difficult for me to say, which ones are the best! However, I am listing the articles here. They all link back to CIOL. Of course, I've blogged here first, so, those who are familiar with my blog pieces, will identify them immediately.

Here goes then -- starting from the latest back down to very late last year -- in terms of relevance. Enjoy!

Semi trends 2008: Fab spend lower, ASPs stabilizing
The call on global fab spend was for a 10 percent reduction, and this is now getting to be closer to 20 percent.

UK, India aim for semicon collaboration
ISA-UKTI study examines collaboration scope between India and UK in design, applications and devices.

Dubai an emerging silicon frontier
The government of Dubai has set up the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) as the engine for propelling Dubai into the knowledge economy.

Be parallel, or perish!
Parallelism offers new doors, and creativity is required to open these new doors, says Intel.

Altera first @ 40nm FPGAs
The company has announced two product lines -- the Stratix IV FPGAs and the HardCopy IV ASICs.

Semicon likely to grow 12pc in 2008
If there will be an economic recession, the chip industry (but not all firms) is in the best shape possible to weather the ensuing storm.

India's growing might in global semicon
India is fast becoming the world's destination, and increasingly the source too, for semiconductors.

Fascinating developments in 22nm!
These augur well for the global semiconductor industry, even though the field could get much narrower.

Indian design services to touch $10.96bn by 2010
Total design services market in India is said to have grown at 21 percent year on year.

NXP India achieves RF CMOS in single chip
The entire analog and RF work done has been in Bangalore by NXP's single-chip design team.

LabVIEW 8.5 delivers power of multicore processors
With LabVIEW, designers and engineers can assign different tasks on different cores -- which are independent.

Multi-nationalization of product development process
Indian designers lead in transaction level design, and can play big role in EDA.

Can we expect exciting times in 2008? Some trends
Blurring lines between PMPs and PNDs, semicon rush or hush; Netscape's end -- all are in store!

Semicon outlook 2008: Global market likely to grow 6-11 percent in 2008
Some predictions are for 2008 to be flat year or a year of negative growth; EDA to grow 7.8pc!

That's about it! If there's anything I've missed out, kindly let me know. Thanks for all your continuing support, dear readers. It is very humbling and touching.