Friday, January 30, 2009

Intel's retail POS kiosk provides unique shopping experience

Imagine walking around a retail store, when you come across a retail POS kiosk, which suddenly springs into life with your image! It also shows you a welcome message, even as you are probably checking out of the store, swiping your credit/debit card on the machine/kiosk, or merely going around the store, browsing stuff!

The POS system then goes on to show you either various alternatives of items for you to choose, either based on your previous shopping experience, or also apprise you of the many new offerings and other great discounts available within the store!

How does this POS system do all of this? Well, there is probably a Star Customer card possibly kept inside your handbag or pocket, which has been provided to you by the store that you have been frequenting so often. As you come in line with this POS system, its in-built sensor reads your customer card and springs into life, and action!

Find this kind of a shopping experience hard to believe? Well, all of this can now be possible, and now in India itself, thanks to Intel's retail point-of-sale (POS) proof-of-concept system. Intel recently unveiled an energy-efficient retail POS proof-of-concept system, which promises to do these, and much more!

According to Sanat Rao, Marketing Director, Emerging Markets, Embedded Computing Division (ECG), Intel Technology India Pvt. Ltd, this retail POS proof-of-concept system exhibits the latest in digital signage and POS technology in a kiosk form-factor.

This system demonstrates how technology can enhance the retail shopping experience by including customer preferences, real-time inventory access etc. It also demonstrates how the total cost of ownership (TCO) for a retail store can be lowered by using energy-efficient devices. Rao added that the reference design is available for India customers as well.

Need for retail POS
The need is obvious! Legacy POS systems are basically fixed-function devices that are primarily used for billing and retail. These also lack the intelligence about the user preferences.

Besides, the new retail POS system will use significant less power and energy, as compared to the legacy POS system.

Benefits for retail
Elegant and refined, the retail POS adapts and integrates into the retail environment, enabling personalized customer service and an engaging sales experience. Its built in security enables secure transactions as well as additional insurance against theft. The adaptable, eco friendly and modular system boasts of the following benefits:

Reconfigurable system: Configurable as a POS, Kiosk or combination.
Modular design: Swap out components for easy maintenance.
Power savings mode: POS instantly wakes up displaying signage.
Targeted promotions: Unit displays targeted promotions via digital signage. Utilizes prior shopping history with video analytics.
Cross-selling: A sales associate can up sell with related product inventory, promotions, and/or customer reviews.
Interactive product explorations: Customer can explore merchandise, view promotions, read customer reviews, etc.
Remote manageability: eliminates expensive maintenance trips & helps reduce TCO.

The retail POS system uses Intel's Core 2 Duo 45nm processor with vPro technology. This enables larger CPU Cache (6 MB), enables 70 percent reduction in power, and doubles the amount of raw processing power, and uses next-generation graphics.

The vPro technology enables supporting remote management and diagnostics as well as remote software upgrades and security. Devices can be turned off, as and when required.

India opportunity
Intel's retail POS system can be used by both organized retail (aka modern retail) as well as the high-frequency retail. For modern retailers, this can be an opportunity to provide a unique shopping experience to customers. Besides, there will be cost-savings through energy efficiency and remote management.

For the high-frequency retail shops, they can expect a trickle-down from the organized sector. Also, they stand to benefit from energy savings and customer preferences. That's the power of embedded computing folks!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Consumer MEMS shine amid gloom: iSuppli

I was fortunate enough to attend a webinar on MEMS organized recently by iSuppli. The webinar looked at the growth potential of this segment, especially during the downturn, as well as some top MEMS suppliers.

According to Jeremie Bouchaud, director & principal analyst, both consumer and mobile MEMS supply has been exploding. The overall MEMS market is likely to grow from $1 billion in 2006 to $2.5 billion in 2012! There will be strong acceleration due to growth of cell phones -- a hotbed for MEMS, he said.

However, the share of MEMS for rear projection TV is vanishing. A market worth $300 million in 2006 is slowly disappearing, and will, in fact, disappear by 2012. Among other growth areas, personal navigation devices (PNDs) and remote controllers will also see growth.

Consumer and mobile market by MEMS device
The main segments include accelerometers, as well as gyroscopes, RF MEMS switches and capacitors, microphones, etc. The penetration of MEMS devices in CE products is said to increase quite fast.

MEMS growth in cell phones will be faster. It will grow from 3 percent in 2007 to 10 percent in 2008. All of the new, best selling smartphones, such as the iPhone, Nokia N95 and N96, Samsung Omnia, HTC Diamond, Google G1, Blackberry Storm, new Palm OS, etc., have accelerometers. A number of mid range phones also have accelerometers, eg. Sony Ericsson's models.

MEMS usage is also growing in gaming. From 1998-2005, there was technology push with limited success. However, in 2006, Nintendo showed the way with its Wii, as did the Sony PS3. Microsoft did not enter this field back then!

Interestingly, 2006-08, motion sensing unveiled new, untapped target groups for gaming -- the so called casual gamers. In Xmas 2008, Microsoft also embraced motion sensors with accessories. Hence, the penetration of motion sensors has really improved. The next third generation platform will include accelerometers and gyroscopes.

Top 15 MEMS suppliers
The key question: who all are shipping these products? According to iSuppli,The top 15 MEMS suppleirs for CE and mobile phones are: STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Avago Technologies, Knowles, Analog Devices, Murata, Kionix, Epson Toyocom, Invensense, Panasonic, Bosch Sensortec, Freescale, Hokoriku, VTI and Memsic.

Some other companies to watch are:
Accelerometers and gyroscopes: Qualtre, Oki, Wacon, Alps, Virtus, Ricoh.
Pressure sensors: Intersema (MEAS), Metrodyne.
Microphones: Infineon, Wolfson, Memstech, Yamaha, Omron, Panasonic, MEMSensing, AAC, Goertek.
Pico-projectors and other MEMS displays: Microvision, Nippon Signal, Samsung, Konica Minolta, Scanlight, Qualcomm, Pixtronix, Unipixel
RF MEMS switches and capacitors: Wispry, Epcos, RFMD, Baolab.
MEMS oscillators: SiTime, Discera, NXP, Seiko, Intel.
BAW filters: Triquint, Skyworks, MEMS Solutions.
MEMS actuators for autofocus and zoom: Simpel, Sony.
Micro-fuel cells: Angstrom, Tekion, Medis.

It is understood well that not all of these companies will be successful. However, they all need to be monitored carefully.

Commenting on cell phones as a hotbed for inertial and magnetic sensors, Dr. Richard Dixon, senior analyst MEMS, iSuppli, said that the market for accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers is in cell phones. This market will reach $730 million in 2012. Gyroscopes are not in the market yet, and are likely to enter by 2010. The total growth rate is very fast. In units, the annual growth rate is said to be 97 percent.

Interestingly, Apple has contributed significantly to growth of MEMS. The iPhone had a great application. Other vendors followed suite with a 'me too" strategy. Apple also had sustainable business model with downloads on the Apple Store. The chicken and egg issue of price was solved. Also, with the iPhone, there was a free field test of motion sensing based applications.

Major suppliers of accelerometers for cell phones today, include STMicroelectronics, Bosch Sensortec, Analog Devices, Hokuriku, Kionix, MEMSIC, Freescale, Oki. Of these, ST has really been very impressive, while Bosch saw impressive growth in 2008. MEMSIC dropped share in 2008.

Navigation in cell phones next big thing
According to Dixon, navigation in mobile phones is the next big thing. Leading navigation markets by platform are: mobile phone navigation, smartphone navigation, PNDs, car aftermarket and car OEM in-dash, respectively. By 2010, the mobile phone/smartphone navigation segment will account for over 60 percent of the market.

Similarly, magnetic sensors will take off in 2009 for e-Compass. There has been penetration of magnetometers in GPS phones. They have been around since 2003 in Japanese phones. These rather esoteric applications and also had technical issues.

There were successful implementations in 2008 for navigation. Eg., the G1 Street View, and the Nokia 6210. Also, 3D compass in combination with 3D accelerometers.

The leading suppliers in this space today, include AKM, Honeywell, Yamaha, Aichi Steel. In the R&D segment, the leading players are said to be Alps, Omron, Memsic, Oki, ST, Freescale, Demodulation. Growth will be steep from 2009 onward, and take off from 2010 up to 2012.

Another growth are is the multi-sensor packages and IMUs (Inertial Measurement Unit) for navigation. Today, we have six-axis e-compass combining magnetic sensors and accelerometers. In future, there will be IMU for LBS and indoor navigation also using gyroscopes.

The issue with gyroscopes is of: performance, price, size, power consumption and no availability of three-axis. Companies that need to be watched in this space are said to be Invensense, ST, Bosch Sensortec, Qualtre, Oki, Virtus.

Other opportunity areas
Later, Jeremie Bouchaud highlighted two other opportunity areas.

MEMS microphone market presents a major opportunity. It will reach close to $400 million by 2012. In 2008, already 325 million units were selling in cell phones and laptops. Leading players in this segment are said to be Knowles, Akustica, Infineon, Sonion, Memstech, AAC. Knowles has over 90 percent of the market share.

MEMS pico projectors is another growth area. Companies have made lot of progress in this segment. The pico projectors come in various varieties.

In the MEMS scanner based segment, the R&D is led by firms such as Microvison, Konica, Minolta, Scanlight, Nippon, Signal, Symbol. These solutions came first as stand alone projectors. Later, it will come on cell phones. The best opportunity is said to be at the module level.

Another sub-segnent is the DLP based projectors. First it will be in form of a pico-projector, later, followed by usage in cell phones.

Bouchaud advised watching out for non-MEMS alternatives, such as Light Blue Optics,
3M and Logic Wireless.

Coping with commoditization and price erosion
The ASP of MEMS devices for CE and mobile phones is dropping at -13 percent per year. So, what are the ways to get profitable?

To be profitable, there is a need to achieve economies of scale by combining consumer and automotive. Also, there is a need to move wafer size to 8-inch. Next, there is a need for externalizing to foundries. ADI and TSMC have already showed the way. Now, USMC, Tower, Dongbu, Magnachip, Omron, etc., are following.

Innovation, in terms of packaging and 3D integration, test, multi-sensor packages, is another way for making profits. There is an opportunity for the equipment suppliers as well.

Consumer MEMS is currently glowing as a light in today's dark times! It is said to grow from $1 billiom in 2006 to $2.5 billion in 2012, with 19 percent CAGR. This optimistic forecast has already started. Accelerometers are present in 10 percent of cell phones in 2008 as against 3 percent in 2007.

There exist a number of opportunities. Small companies can be successful, eg. Kionix and Invensense. There are still opportunities for newcomers. These can be large companies, fabless startups, foundries, software companies, equipment suppliers, etc. Consumer MEMS is an extremely dynamic market, having fast design cycles.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Global semi to dip by 28pc in 2009; Indian semi to grow at 13.4pc by 2010! Don't get carried away!!

Contrasting numbers, isn't it!

Let's start! Yesterday, Malcolm Penn, CEO and founder of Future Horizons, said at the International Forecast Seminar (IFS) in London that the global semiconductor market will fall by 28 percent in value and by 26 percent in unit shipments in 2009 after the unprecedented collapse of Q4 2008.

Penn has added that Q2 2009 will be the bottom of the dip, with a 15 percent increase forecast for 2010 and 28 percent in 2011.

This afternoon, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) released the ISA-Frost & Sullivan report update 2008-10", the third report on the subject and the second update, which stated that the total revenues of the Indian semiconductor market are likely to grow from $5.9 billion in 2008 to $7.59 billion in 2010 at a CAGR of 13.4 percent. The total available market (TAM) revenues are anticipated to climb from $2.53 billion in 2008 to $3.24 billion in 2010 with a CAGR of 13.1 percent.

Be aware that these numbers do not include India's strength in embedded and design services. This will be covered in a separate report. Nor do these numbers include any potential growth for India in the solar photovoltaics space, which also has its separate report.

Now, these ISA numbers should make anybody wonder: the Indian semiconductor industry is in for a boom time! Far from it!! India's contribution to the global semiconductor industry is still quite small for it to really make an impact.

Some other points to note!

First, according to the ISA-F&S update, the decline in CAGR, from 26.7 percent, in the earlier report of 2007, to 13.4 percent, in the current report, is on account of revised investment and manufacturing scenario seen in the second half of 2008.

Also, as Ms Poornima Shenoy, president, ISA, indicated: "India is a story of growth and this is important in such times though growth may be below past projections. The current slowdown will impact manufacturing investment prospects. A low manufacturing index for electronic products leads to higher imports and thus lowers the local potential for semiconductors, their key component."

Next, India's electronics industry manufacturing index of just 0.39 forecast for 2010 will result in an opportunity loss of $4.35 billion for semiconductor sales in India.

I haven't seen many new start-ups and Indian product companies. While IT/office automation (IT/OA), wireless handsets and communications segments are going to define the semiconductor market growth, it remains to be seen how much of these come out from Indian, home grown companies. Perhaps, Indian entrepreneurs are averse to risk taking in semiconductors. We also have India's wafer IC fab story, which didn't really take off as expected.

It would be advised not to overlook these points and rejoice in the numbers for the Indian semiconductor industry. We still have many, many miles to go!

I would personally be much more pleased, and am sure, most of you will agree, if all of these numbers for the Indian semiconductor industry came more from the Indian based companies, rather than the Indian arms of multinationals. Besides, I am still waiting to see what sort of steps are being taken to incubate such companies.

I will be writing more about the global and Indian scenarios in depth, especially, the Indian scenario, in separate posts.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

NI LabView solves embedded and multicore problems!

Some time ago, National Instruments (NI) introduced LabView 8.6. LabVIEW is a very data flow programming tool! And inherently, it has always been parallel processing!

Take note folks, as parallel is now increasingly becoming regular! And your multi-core problems could well be solved by NI's LabView.

Given the ongoing recession, interestingly, NI projects double digit growth in 2009 for the region comprising India, Arabia and Russia. Jayaram Pillai, MD, India, Russia & Arabia, NI, says that these places have been traditionally strong in localization. The key is: what can NI's technology bring in for indigenization!

Pillai notes: "We have always talked about virtual instrumentation. How can you bring the local content into the system?" NI's LabView's ability has generally been to create a program out of a non-program. "Images are your natural language. We feel engineers can express themselves using graphical language," he adds.

LabView inherently meant for parallel programming
Most embedded systems provide quick and easy solutions. NI is trying to put electronics into every problem that it confronts. About 98 percent of the processing environments are used elsewhere, other than the PCs. What embedded can do today is tremendous! NI's LabView is inherently meant for parallel programming.

Pillai says: "When you are running two cores, it is important how you share the data between the cores. We have multi-core for Windows. We can do multi-core programming for embedded as well." NI's tools perform multi-core programming, which itself is a software program.

Besides targeting particular silicon and other resources, there are other problems or areas to deal with, such as test maths, state chart and data flow programming, etc. NI has built all of these components into LabView 8.6 -- things such as programming MCUs, FPGAs, Power PCs, etc., can be handled.

Solve embedded problems by developing simpler systems!
Coming back to embedded systems, there are two requisite steps -- programming the electronics and programming the system. "We see ourselves getting into the space of solving multi-core problems," adds Pillai. "Everything today is software enabled. We intend doing for T&M what spreadsheet has done for financial analysis."

Definitely, software is the instrument in virtual instrumentation. "It means, to solve 98 percent problems of the embedded applications, there is a need to make the development of embedded systems even simpler," he contends, and rightly so!

"As we went higher in abstraction, we found that we were able to solve more problems. You've got to get into a high level of abstraction, which can be done by LabView, called system design platform. LabView today, is the platform for test and embedded," notes Pillai.

In grahical system design, there is a need to leverage and collaborate in parallel. Graphical programming harnesses multi-core processors. LabView has also been the runaway software tool for DAQ and instrument control. As a result, more and more people can now do embedded programming.

Pillai advices: "If you want to build systems, you need to integrate NI design tools with third-party design tools to share the data. The integration of data has to be seamless."

Benefits of graphical system design
Graphical system design should do for embedded what PCs did for desktops. "We are a graphical design company and are now building systems," he adds. The concepts of graphical system design include design, prototype and deploy.

So, what are the product lifecycle benefits of graphical system design? There are multiple hardware systems priced at different cost points based on performance. A LabView user can install the software into an expensive system for testing purposes, and later, deploy on to a lower platform.

Legacy problem and major paradigm shift
Sharing of data between cores is key! Parallel programming in sequential does not make sense. Rather, data flow programming makes a lot of sense. However, there is a legacy problem as far as multi-core programming is concerned. That is: how do you shift so much of the sequential programming knowledge into data flow? This will require a major paradigm shift.

Besides, there are a lot of sequential tools as well. There is a need to integrate all of that into multi-core. So far, multi-core problems have been addressed in test and embedded systems. It is still on in gaming, though! Maybe, this too will be cracked in a matter of time!

To all of my Chinese friends, Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama strikes right chords for science and technology!

Finally, the USA has Barack Obama as its 44th president! There are bound to be lots of expectations from the new president of the United States.

Very interestingly, and aptly, Obama referred to science and technology in his inaugural speech. Surely, it is not a place for any US president to detail his policy, but from what everyone heard, the new President struck the right chords.

Savor some of these extracts from his inaugural speech:

"The state of the economy calls for action—bold and swift—and we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids, and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together."

"We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost."

"We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories."

Wonderful! The US President clearly hinted at the role science will play during his tenure. Also, his suggestion of 'harnessing the sun and the winds' points to the growing importance of renewable energy, hybrid cars, and of course, solar photovoltaics.

I've indicated in an earlier blog post that Obama's, "New Energy for America Plan" could have a significant impact on the US solar industry.

The plan's provisions include:
• A federal renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires 10 percent of electricity consumed in the US to come from renewable sources by 2012.
• A $150 billion investment over 10 years in research, technologydemonstration and commercial deployment of clean energy technology.
• Extension of production tax credits for five years to encourage renewable energy production.
• A cap-and-trade system of carbon credits to provide an incentive for businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The focus on healthcare could see more attention on medical electronics -- just my guess -- and use it to provide affordable healthcare services.

I'd be very interested to see even more activity on hybrid cars. Closer to home we have had two great prototypes of hybrid/fuel-efficient cars last year -- the Chimera, said to be India's first plug-in hybrid car, and the Garuda.

As I am about to unwind for the day, I received a press release from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), USA, where the CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro congratulated Barack Obama on becoming the 44th President of the United States of America, saying: "On behalf of its 2,200 consumer technology member companies, CEA congratulates President Obama, our first digital president, on his inauguration."

Indeed, Obama is the USA's and the world's first digital president! I'd go on to add that he's the world's first Web 2.0 president! For instance, the amount of activity on Facebook has been overwhelming. Oh, in case you happen to visit the White House web site, it's brand new! The site says: " will be a central part of President Obama's pledge to make his the most transparent and accountable administration in American history."

Monday, January 19, 2009

What the semiconductor industry should do in 2009!

What should the global semiconductor companies do to combat the current downturn? Is the lack of exit options in semiconductors really stunting innovation, especially in EDA? Is the Indian semiconductor industry really mature enough to enable product development? Do we have an ecosystem that encourages product development?

These are just some of the questions buzzing in my mind, and within the industry. While there is maybe an answer to the first one, and maybe no ready answer for the second one, I would probably agree with what Dr. H.V. Ananda former managing director of Synplicity said to me in August 2007, that the Indian ecosystem will not enable faster product development cycles!

At least, I haven't seen any good or great Indian company or startup from India in the recent years to accept that we have learned the art of developing products! I am still waiting and sincerely wish that this situation changes very soon!

I recently got into a discussion with Abhi Talwalkar, the President & CEO, LSI Corp., post the 22nd international conference on Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) design and the 8th international conference on Embedded Systems in New Delhi, India, and quizzed him about LSI's thoughts on these and much more.

Three things to do for semicon firms
First up, what should the global semiconductor industry do in 2009? If there are three key things for semiconductor companies to do in this downturn, what would those be?

According to the LSI president, semiconductor companies should carefully manage their expenses and conserve cash. They should also develop conservative financial plans, which in turn will help them stabilize their balance sheets.

"Companies with strong financial capabilities and strong balance sheet will look to become stronger through this downturn. They should try to accelerate their market share through innovative practices.

"This should also be an opportunity for all companies to get closer to the customers, focus on their strategies and collaborate with them to help them come out stronger through this recession. Agility to innovate and meet with the customer requirements will help companies in developing a clearer focus on R &D and stronger executions," he said.

Does India have a product development ecosystem?
I still don't quite believe that India boasts a product development ecosystem, and am waiting for this to happen! On being asked this question, Talwalkar said that a product development ecosystem is dependent on the maturity of the end markets.

He added: "The Indian market is growing and will continue to grow both in terms of consumer and enterprise demand. This growth in demand will enhance the product development ecosystem as it will rationalize the cost of development. India still needs to fill in a lot of gaps to have a stronger product development ecosystem within semiconductor marketplace."

Continuing in the same vein, why haven't more startups happened in India, especially in semiconductors, especially in the recent years?

Referring to the ecosystem angle, Abhi Talwalkar noted that the success of startups is dependent on the existing ecosystem. "The growth of end markets will continue to encourage local ecosystem, especially in regards to native systems companies in areas of semiconductors. Currently, the system development is in its infancy in India, and with the growth of system MNC in India, it will grow.

The third point I had was: Is the lack of exit options in semiconductors really stunting innovation, especially in EDA? As I said, this is a very tricky one, and well, there has really been no answer to this one, as yet. Maybe, the answers will come in and be clearer as the year goes on!

The global semiconductor industry has had several headlines related to job cuts in the recent months. All of these layoffs have made me wonder whether there is going to be a drop in R&D, globally, due to the recession! If not, then why all of these layoffs? This is a point I've raised earlier!

Talwalkar said: "There will be drop in R&D with reduction in the top lines across the industry. There will be reduction in R&D budgets as companies will look to manage their expenses carefully as well as balance sheets."

Outlook 2009: India and global
Coming down to 2009, what is LSI's outlook for the Indian and global semiconductor industry?

Abhi Talwarkar said: "In the near term, the MNC India design centers will have to play significant roles. Their role is under appreciated and there are opportunities for them to grow further in the current economic scenario. The captive capability will grow as the cost structure and talent availability remains favorable here.

As for the global semiconductor industry, he added that the near term outlook will be challenging given the downturn and the rapid softening of product demand, especially in PCs, handsets, servers, consumer electronics, etc.

"In the long term, there will be positive growth in the semiconductor industry as the newer technologies get adopted in new product categories, -- automotive, healthcare, solar, consumer electronics, telecommunication infrastructure, etc., as well as the continued growth of electronic products, especially in India, China, Eastern European and BRIC countries," he added.

Several analysts have offered contrasting dates for an industry recovery. Even I am asked this question by several friends. My take is: do try and wait out this year, and consolidate, and try to continue to innovate, and prepare for the next industry upturn!

Perhaps, it is quite in line with what Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, said recently, "Now, more than ever, is the time to work smarter not give up; the market will rebound, better start planning for that now!" Hope the industry is listening!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dramatic price forecast to reshape PV industry: iSuppli

I was very fortunate to attend a webinar on solar PV a couple of days back, thanks to iSuppli, USA. The webinar looked at:

* Polysilicon -- what is going on in the market?
* Cells and modules -- where will the prices go?

Dr. Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst, iSuppli, made it clear that the intention was to show what's coming out of primary industry research.

He said: "We believe that solar is a fantastic market. It has been growing over the last four years by revenue. It will continue to grow! There are not many industries with a growth path like that! However, in last the 18 months, the supply has been disconnected from demand."

This is exactly the point iSuppli addressed in its webinar. Dr. Wicht was accompanied by Stefan de Haan, senior analyst, photovoltaics, iSuppli.

iSuppli's recent findings are:
* Severe supply chain imbalances exist at polysilicon/wafer and cell/module levels.
* Short term polysilicon and module prices will decrease significantly.

Polysilicon: What's going on with supply and pricing?
If you looked at the global solar PV industry, many plants are under construction, and there are huge capacity expansion plans. There has been a dramatic decrease in production. In 2008, iSuppli estimated total production of solar PV at 60,000 metric tons. In 2009, about 100,000 metric tons will be produced!

What are the reasons for this supply situation? In 2005-06, the high margins of this industry attracted several newcomers. The cycle time to ramp up a polysilicon plant is 24-36 months, and including another 12 months to get finance, it takes about four years.

He said: "The decisions taken in year 2005-06 are coming to the market now. This is also why we see the big ramp in 2009-10. This is also the reason why the industry will have big difficulties to react on a short term notice. The polysilicon industry is a big super tanker, which has difficulties to maneuver on short term."

Looking at the demand side of things, iSuppli showed a graph where the two curves -- polysilicon supply and polysilicon demand meet, or rather cross, in early 2010. From that point on, the supply line passes the demand line. "That means, from that time onward, we definitely see prices for polysilicon decreasing," he said.

What will happen in 2009?
The key point to note is that the ramping rates of polysilicon and solar cells are completely different! The ramping rate of polysilicon is much steeper, than on the cell side. Polysilicon is more than doubling, while the cell industry is growing at 34 percent.

According to Dr. Wicht, the gap between demand and supply is already shrinking fast in 2009, which will lead to a price decrease in 2009.

Coming to prices, the polysilicon market boasts two kinds of prices -- long term and spot market. According to Dr. Wicht, the long term prices are already decreasing from around $100/kg in 2008, and it is expected to be around $80/kg in 2009.

On the other hand, the spot market price peaked in 2008 at around $400/kg. Now, it has already dropped. It will continue to drop, far beyond today's long term contract price, which will then, from 2010 onward, make up another round of discussion. This is because companies might tend to get out of their long term contracts to secure their silicon on the spot!

Summarizing, he said that polysilicon production will increase heavily. Next, supply will pass demand from 2010 onward, and then the industry will enter the oversupply situation for the next three to four years. The polysilicon industry will also react. In fact, iSuppli anticipates a recent announcement from a solar PV company to expand production capacity would be the last for quite a while!

What about projects on the way? These projects have to come on to the market and many of those will! This is precisely the reason why the industry will see silicon passing solar cells in capacity over the next few years.

Stefan de Haan added that the output of the PV modules industry will grow. The total module prod will likely grow to 11GW this year and to 20GW in 2012. Thin film modules will continuously gain market share and it probably account for 1/3rd of the total market by 2012. Production of crystalline cells will run in parallel. It is likely to reach 9GW for 2009 and 18GW for 2012.

Commenting on the competitive landscape, he added that many new players would be entering production in 2009, especially in the thin film business. "However, the current leaders -- QCells, Suntech and First Solar -- will increase their edge over the competition in terms of absolute production volumes," he said.

In general, it is a good thing that the industry is growing and that all of this capacity is coming online. However, this raises the question: can demand can keep up with the supply?

According to iSuppli, in 2009, the installation market will be flattening. In the sense, iSuppli projects that 4.2GW will be installed this year, or about 10 percent growth. However, this growth is much smaller in comparison to the previous years. Some of the reasons for slower growth in 2009 include changes in sustained feed-in tariffs and the global economic slowdown.

Hann added, "In H2-2010, module demand will probably return to the previous growth rates, of more than 20 percent per year."

Combining demand and supply, there is a massive oversupply of modules that has already been building up since early 2008. Back in 2008, this did not impact on the module prices as there was short term heavy demand from countries like Germany and Spain, from project developers and installation companies, etc. So, this was not noticeable earlier. However, in 2009, the oversupply situation is quite serious!

As a consequence, many suppliers will not be able to react to this situation in the short term. They will still need to run their factories to try and generate some revenue and satisfy the industry. Many had bet on some strong demand coming from USA and also China.

This year, the module prices will decline. Consequently, the declining prices will also create some additional demand. However, for the next two years, this fundamental oversupply situation will not change.

How far will prices drop?
So, what are the message for 2009? First, crystalline module prices will drop to about $2.50 per watt, and second, cost is going to be the differentiating factor! This was a point emphasized strongly by the iSuppli analysts.

Further, how should companies manage this situation, where supply is disconnected by demand? According to Dr. Wicht, there is 11.1GW of module supply vs. 4.2GW of installations. "We do not see that the demand is elastic and that everything will be good after the end of 2009. The gap is too large between demand and supply, and will last till end of 2010."

Installation capacity will surely become a bottleneck. There will be falling prices for silicon, as well as solar cells and modules. Also, the demand is not that elastic enough to absorb all modules produced.

Therefore, given this situation, what are the options for success, rather, what are the ideas to re-orient the solar PV business?

The first option could be to shut down 50 percent of production till price recovers. However, this is not a realistic option. Another could be to put expansion plans on hold. Yet another option for producers would be to become the best in class in production cost, an option, which is excellent, but difficult!

Probably, the best option would be for makers to integrate downstream. This includes new demand simulation in established markets as well as developing new markets.

Dr. Wicht said: "Anticipating bottlenecks are key for solar. The next bottlenecks are the bureaucracy and installation capacity. The production capacity would not be influential. Production cost and downstream integration are key." He advised solar PV producers to monitor their PV market demand and supply situation regularly.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cadence's Encounter and how it matches up to Synopsys' Galaxy!

Early December 2008, Cadence Design Systems launched the Cadence Encounter Digital Implementation System, said to be a configurable digital implementation platform that delivers an incredible scalability with complete support for parallel processing across the design flow. Will it change the fortunes of the struggling EDA industry? EDA industry stats for Q3-08 given at the end of this post!

My first thoughts immediately went to Synopsys' Galaxy Custom Designer solution. This is the industry’s first modern-era mixed-signal implementation solution. Is the Cadence Encounter an answer to Synopsys' Galaxy? This is worth a shot!

Obviously, why has Cadence released Encounter now? How will the Encounter take on Synopsys' Galaxy? I managed to engage Rahul Deokar, Product Marketing Director, Cadence, to find out more.

The Encounter Digital Implementation System is a next generation high-performance, high-capacity RTL-GDS-II design closure solution with the industry's first end-to-end parallel processing flow that enables all steps of the design flow to be multi-CPU enabled -- from floorplanning, placement, routing, extraction to timing and signal integrity sign-off. He said, "At its core is a new memory management architecture and end to end multi-CPU backplane that provides scalability with increased performance and capacity to reduce design time and time-to-market."

Does it intend to take on Synopsys' Galaxy? Well, Deokar said: "Yes, it surpasses the other solutions available in the marketplace based on the following capabilities and features, which are:
* Ultra-scalable RTL-to-GDS-II system with superior design closure and signoff analysis for low-power, mixed-signal, advanced node designs.
* End-to-end multi-core infrastructure and advanced memory architecture for unparalleled scalability of capacity, design turnaround time, and throughput.
* Robust design exploration and automated floorplan synthesis and ranking solution.
* Embedded signoff-qualified variation analysis and optimization across design flow.
* Integrated diagnostic tools for rapid global timing, clock and power analysis/debug

Here’s a list of benefits that it provides designers:
* Significantly reduces design time, schedule and development risk.
* Increased productivity through automation; superior quality of results.
* Configurable and extensible platform that ensures maximum utilization and ROI -- upgrades proven design flow and amplifies existing expertise.
* Interoperability across package, logic, custom IC design, and manufacturability.

Harnessing power of multicore computing
According to Cadence, it provides complete support for parallel processing across the design flow. Does this mean that designers can fully harness the power of multicore computing? It would also mean that today's EDA tools capable enough to meet the multi-core challenge.

Deokar added: "Yes, the end-to-end parallel processing flow is supported across the entire design flow and consequently. Also, designers can fully harness the power of multicore computing. Today's designers commonly have dual CPU or even quad CPU machines on their desktop. The Encounter Digital Implementation System allows the designers to leverage their multi-CPU hardware and gain significant TAT improvements on the design cycle time and overall development schedule."

The Encounter end-to-end multi-CPU backplane delivers ultra-scale performance gains up to 16X in key areas such as routing and timing closure. All steps of the design flow are multi-CPU enabled. For instance, on a production design, when the Encounter is run on four CPUs, the user can get a 3.2X performance boost across the entire, end-to-end design flow.

Encounter deployed by over 15 customers?
Designers are said to be reporting dramatically improved design time, design closure, and faster time-to-market for advanced digital and mixed-signal devices. By what factors, and against which other tool(s) has Encounter been rated?

Deokar said that the Encounter Digital Implementation System has been developed in close collaboration with over 15 customer partners who have extensively used, validated and now, deployed it.

"Customers are already seeing overall design cycles significantly shorted by 25-30 percent, which translates to multiple weeks or even months. These significant improvements are against competitive tool flows in their current methodology," he added.

Encounter is also said to be offering new technologies for silicon virtual prototyping, die-size exploration and RTL and physical synthesis, providing improved predictability and optimization in early stages of the design flow.

Regarding this aspect, he pointed out that large scale design complexities (increased functionality, predictability, productivity, etc.,) pose some of the biggest challenges. Designs are getting huge at 100M+ gates, 100+ macros in the design, putting significant requirements on design tools, particularly, floorplanning of these macros, and the whole design becomes a huge challenge.

"The new Silicon Virtual Prototyping capabilities of Automated Floorplan Synthesis and Die Size Exploration help out exactly on that front. These can quickly provide floorplanning for that large 100M+ gates, 100+ macro design.

"And not just one floorplan, but designers can provide multiple criteria (say, along the lines of timing or power or area or congestion) and you will get multiple floorplans with their rankings…-- all this in a matter of minutes! Essentially, you could finish your breakfast or lunch (depending upon how fast you eat!) and be back to have multiple floorplans that you can then pick and choose from, and then proceed to implementation."

Addressing new problems at 45nm/40nm/32nm
Obviously, targeted at 45nm/40nm/32nm, etc., how can or how does Encounter anticipate and address the majority of the new problems associated with these geometries across the entire flow?

Deokar noted that its main customers include semiconductor companies working on 45nm and 32nm designs, with aggressive design specifications including 100 million or more instances, 1,000-plus macros, operating speeds exceeding 1GHz, ultra-low power budgets, and large amounts of mixed-signal content.

"The challenges facing these designs comprise of an increasing demand for design tool performance/capacity and design features for challenging ultra-large scale designs in the areas of low power, mixed signal, advanced node and signoff analysis. In addition, small market windows and product life-cycles and the cost pressures further exacerbate the situation," he noted.

The Encounter Digital Implementation System’s core design closure capabilities, plus the new advanced node technologies, including litho-, CMP-, thermal, and statistical-aware optimization provide comprehensive manufacturing- and variation-aware implementation, and an end-to-end multi-core infrastructure for fast, predictable design closure even on the most challenging designs.

Reducing memory footprints
It will be interesting to learn about the kind of work that has gone into reducing the memory footprint of the most memory-retentive applications.

Deokar said that an innovative memory architecture is at the core of the Encounter System that enables capacity and performance gains of 30-40 percent for full flat and hierarchical designs, even if you are running on a single-CPU machine.

Cadence's R&D team has developed an advanced memory defragmentation algorithm that allows the applications to be extremely memory-frugal …and that memory-efficiency enables designers to handle their biggest 100M+ instance designs.

Parallels with Synopsys' Galaxy Custom Designer?
There seem to be parallels with Synopsys' Galaxy Custom Designer for AMS. Also, there could be some chance of Cadence's Virtuoso and Encounter coming together in future.

According to Deokar, Synopsys’ Custom Designer for AMS is its entry into the full-custom/analog design marketplace, where the Cadence Virtuoso platform is a strong incumbent.

He said: "The biggest challenge for mixed signal designers is the efforts/resources involved in taking design data from the full-custom/analog tools to the digital implementation tools, and back and forth…in never-ending iterations.

"Now, with the Encounter Digital Implementation System, designers get the seamless full-custom/analog and digital design implementation interoperability…with unified constraints handling, mixed-signal floorplanning and ECO. It executes off a common design database (OpenAccess), enabling edits made in one design environment (e.g. Virtuoso) to be easily seen in the other design environment (e.g. Encounter). It also enables the design team to easily transfer the design data, to determine the optimal floorplan based on analog and digital constraints."

For example, the analog design team moves pins on the analog block, when the design is opened in Encounter, the modified pin locations are easily seen and the digital design team can execute a pin optimization to re-align the pins at the top-level.

In addition, the user can enter routing constraints in either Encounter or Virtuoso, and implement mixed signal routing in either environment. Top-level routing constraints could be defined within Virtuoso, then the top-level routing completed using the mixed signal routing functionality within Encounter.

Customers are already seeing their overall design schedules significantly reduced, added Deokar.

Postscript: Well, as expected, the EDA industry has taken a hit again. As per the EDA Consortium (EDAC) Market Statistics Service (MSS), the EDA industry revenue for Q3 2008 declined 10.9 percent to $1,258.6 million compared to $1,412.1 million in Q3 2007. The four-quarter moving average declined 2.8 percent.

Now, does Cadence's Encounter have the ability to turn around the EDA industry's fortunes? I don't think so! Much more needs to be done by Cadence and all of the other EDA companies!

Friday, January 9, 2009

D-day's here for TD-SCDMA! Take a bow!!

It is indeed a major triumph for TD-SCDMA! After years of waiting, this 3G technology has finally been awarded a 3G license -- in the form of a license from the MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology), China, to China Mobile -- China's biggest mobile phone operator.

I recall late 1999, when a good friend, Shih ying Tan, of Siemens, first apprised me about this particular technology, and I was able to discuss it in-depth with first, Siemens, while at Global Sources, in 2000, and later, with Dr. Li Shi-he, while at Wireless Week, the next year. Dr. Li is apprised as the father of TD in China! Sorry, I could not locate that link on Wireless Week.

I also spoke with Marco Principato at Siemens, while at Wireless Week, in 2001 The link will take you to that interview. So, it's been a personal delight for me that this technology has finally arrived!

I also traveled to Munich, Germany in August 2001, to meet Klaus Maler, who was then general manager, TD-SCDMA, for Siemens Information and Mobile Communications. I've also mentioned earlier that it was way, way back in September-October 2002, when the Chinese government allocated 155MHz of spectrum to TD-SCDMA!

What you should appreciate and be amazed about is the tremendous foresight of the Chinese government! Way back, it had decided to go ahead with TD-SCDMA! Way back, it allocated spectrum for this 3G technology! And well, most China followers, including yours truly, were aware that China Mobile would probably get the 3G license!

Knowing China reasonably well, China Mobile will surely leave no stones unturned in making TD-SCDMA its top priority, and developing it extremely well. Also, I am sure, China would be looking to sell this technology to other countries.

If you compare this with India, the differences are stark! TD-SCDMA is hardly talked about, and most dismiss it as a 'China' technology! Two, we have wonderfully entangled ourselves in the famous 'spectrum tangle' for years. So, allocating separate frequency for any technology is absolutely unheard of! Three, developing our own technology -- far from it!

Anyhow, I am sure the Indian regulators will think their way through, as they've always done, and proper 3G would be a reality soon.

Coming back to China, the MIIT needs to be lauded for its great work and backing for TD-SCDMA! The technology itself has been close to being written off on so many instances, only to come back strongly! And how!!

I am certain that in the forthcoming telecom shows, such as those organized by the ITU, as well as CommunicAsia, we will get to see more of TD-SCDMA. More press coverage will be surely happening.

The D-day has arrived. Take a bow, TD-SCDMA!

MelZoo joins the search engine pack!

Interesting! Melzoo is the latest search engine on the block!

I tried various searches on this site, starting by typing my name ;) ! Well, the first result was of this very blog... and another surprise -- the results appear on a split page! The first (or left) part of the page lists the results, while the second (or right) part of the page opened my blog's page!

When I moved the mouse over to the second search result -- my Newsvine page -- the page on the right changed automatically -- to my Newsvine index page. And then on to the next result -- my page on BlogCatalog!

Okay, so the search lists all results on one side, and previews the page for each result -- as you move the mouse over -- on the other side.

One of the search results led me to an EDN Global Roundtable of early 2004! This page, especially, brought back several memories! I'd participated in this roundtable sometime in Q3 of 2003, and it was published early January of 2004. I've lost track of some of those participants, but it was good to see this roundtable all over again!

Another search result led me to an EDN Global Report 2, which had been done before I left for Hong Kong in Q3-05.

Some pages were unable to show the preview, though my guess is, either the Internet was slow or the pages were taking time to download, or, the previews were not yet fixed. Am sure, those would be taken care of!

By the way, I was extremely thrilled to see this blog's name appear on the very first page, when I tried another search using 'semicon blogs'. Also, when I tried searching for TD-SCDMA, the results on the first page displayed, among others, my own article, written for Wireless Week, US, back in 2001.

However, I'm wondering what is the MelZoo team going to do to make this search engine popular among users? Google, like Yahoo, spread by word of mouth. Later, Google added several features (and keeps adding) that greatly enhanced its image! We keep comparing any search engine invariably with Google, don't we?

There have been other search engines like iRazoo, Cuil, etc., but they don't seem to have gained many followers so far! On Alexa, Cuil was ranked 9,596 and iRazoo 21,865. Melzoo does not have a rank yet, so it is a brand new starter!

Also, the names of these popular search engines! The names for the new search engines are a bit difficult to remember, isn't it so? Yahoo and Google, and perhaps, even Alta Vista, Lycos, etc., before them, have been fairly easy to remember. Even the logos, I guess, were more user friendly.

Perhaps, MelZoo would do something different over the next few weeks or months! Since the site is still in beta, except some more goodies to be added. And, even better search results to show up!

After all, any search engine is known for the quality of results it throws up! This means -- showing the interesting and latest, along with the uninteresting, and maybe, equally related to the search. How recent are the updates? How frequently are new articles added on to the search results?

For instance, any online media would check MelZoo to see if the site is picking up all of its news with each passing hour. If MelZoo can cope up with this challenge, it would have done its job admirably. Best of luck to the team!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Seeking jobs in embedded! Can anyone help?

Ever since I have blogged about embedded companies in India, I've received a few messages, regarding jobs in the embedded segment in India. Some others have dropped hints about companies who haven't made my list!

It seems the companies are not hiring, or they've put hiring on freeze. Does it mean that not many projects are going on currently? Or, is there a way for freshers to make a start somewhere? For starters, those who want their companies listed in any top 10 list, are they even trying to help freshers or those looking for better jobs in the embedded space? What is their policy for hiring?

Or, are they too dependent on design services, so much that they do not have enough products to work on or develop! Or, maybe, they don't have many ongoing projects? I have had so many people tell me "India should do product development in semiconductors!" So, is that really happening? Or, is it merely a statement?

I did come across this web site called Dev Seeker, which is said to list jobs in embedded. DevSeeker also has a page that lists some of the embedded companies in India.

I also came across a blog on Monster, which lists several posts from some freshers, as well as some others who have actually asked folks to send in their resumes.

There is another web site from KBS Consultants, which has listed some jobs in the embedded segment. Another site, called GotAChance, also has links to jobs in the embedded space. Another search led me to a site called ITJobs.

By the way, I've no way of knowing whether any of the sites are updated, or, if they are, how frequently are those getting updated with the latest information. Sincerely hope that all of these sites are getting updated frequently!

Whenever I speak with semiconductor professionals, they don't stop raving about India's might in embedded. If that's the case, why are so many talented people not being able to find jobs? Or even worse, how do freshers get to make a start? I am not sure if companies offer freelance work for embedded software engineers. However, it is an option that could be considered.

There are several companies in China and Japan who are seeking fresh and good talent in the embedded space. A Japanese delegation visited India last August for the India-Fukuoka (Japan) IT, Embedded Software and Semiconductor Business Workshop 2008. Some of companies are:

* Daichi Institution Industry Co. Ltd
* DISCO (Dai Ichi Seitosho Co. Ltd) Corp.
* Inoueki Co. Ltd
* JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization)
* Kyushu Economic Research Center
* CLAIR (The Japan Council of Local Authorities for International Relations), Singapore

Prior to that, last May, the India Semiconductor Association (ISA) and the UK Trade & Investment and Science & Innovation Network launched a study titled "Scope for collaboration between India and the UK in semiconductor driven industry 2008.

I am also aware that China and Taiwan require lot of talent in embedded software and systems. They can surely make use of the talent available in India.

I am sure that all of these folks would be able to help out at least some of those looking to make a career in embedded systems and software. Otherwise, what's the end result of making such trips to India and talking about India's talent in embedded! Freshers need to make a start somewhere, so please help as many as possible.

To all of those freshers starting out to make a career, try and get the relevant experience, and the money will follow. Do not pursue it the other way round.

This is a request to the global embedded systems and software fraternity -- there are quite a lot of talented and fresh engineers in India in the embedded systems and software segment, who are also seeking jobs. Give them, or at least, some of them, a chance! Can you kindly help them?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Top 10 embedded companies in India

Right then! This topic should be of interest to several folks in India as well as overseas! Especially, those who are looking to tap the renowned Indian talent in embedded systems and software.

It is very well known that all the leading MNCs are present in India, and well, do great work in embedded systems and software. Definitely, any top 10 list of such companies would include the likes of:

* Intel
* Texas Instruments
* Freescale
* Philips
* Samsung
* LG Electronics
* And some of the other leading multinational companies.

However, my exercise is NOT to look for the leading MNCs in this domain, but to find out who are the leading Indian companies 'working' in the embedded systems and software space.

Some immediate ones that would spring to mind could be the likes of Ittiam, Sasken, Mistral, KPIT, Symphony, Mphasis, eInfochips, Infosys, TCS, HCL Technologies, Wipro, etc., perhaps.

There are so many others, including Yindusoft, Dexcel Designs, Ample Communications. Ibex, EmLabs, eSpark Infotech, i Micro System, Adamya Computing, etc.

However, I am not very sure how all of these companies are currently performing, nor is it possible for me to find out in a short time. Nevertheless, having been in close touch with some of these companies, it is quite possible that the downturn could be hitting some of the smaller companies, and maybe, even the bigger ones. Well, it is a downturn after all, and spends are not that high!

It is widely hoped that the very strong Indian embedded industry will overcome these problems and shine brightly in the new year.

In my list of the leading Indian companies in the embedded space, I am clubbing some of the larger companies, which are also into other activities, such as IT and outsourcing services.

In no particular order, my top 10 companies in the embedded systems and software space in India would be:

1. Tata Elxsi/Sasken
2. Ittiam Systems
3. Infosys/TCS
4. HCL Technologies/Wipro
5. KPIT Cummins Infosystems
5. Mphasis/BFL
6. Symphony
7. Sonata Software
8. Mistral/eInfochips
9. Dexcel Designs
10. Robosoft/Yindusoft

Yes, do feel free to disagree, friends! :) Again, I know this may not be a perfect list!

There are several companies in the embedded space within India who have been really doing outstanding work. I will try my best to contact as many of these companies and find out what these folks are presently working on!

I will also TRY and revise this list, IF I am able to round up as many companies, and am able to rank them, based on the solidity of their current projects, and NOT on the revenue gained in 2008. Again, I agree, this criteria may not appeal to all, but then it is my list :)

Therefore, feel free to disagree, folks... and please add several names of these great Indian companies in the embedded systems and software space, along with their email IDs, so I can easily touch base with them!

PS: One reader has mentioned about whether these companies have great products! Well, would be great if the companies could come up and say how great their products are!!

Thanks for the feedback, Mr. Nair, and good to have new names... :)

Another reader had mentioned ProcSys! Many thanks for those names, friends!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Reviewing global/Indian semicon industry in 2008 -- top posts

Greetings, dear readers and friends, in the new year. May you all have all the success and prosperity in 2009!

An eventful year in semiconductors has passed by us. For me, personally, it has been a tremendous 2008, ending with Electronics Weekly of UK selecting my blog (Pradeep Chakraborty's Blog) as the world's best in the Electronic Hardware category.

Lot of people have asked me since, how it feels to be a world champion! Well, I do feel elated! However, one point, more of the congratulatory notes have come from overseas, than from India. Perhaps, it is an apt indicator of how semiconductors is perceived in India -- though, I may be wrong.

Friends have also asked me how I've managed to blog on such a difficult subject sitting in India. Simply put: It has not been easy!

First, I'm just a simple person, and not some brand name. Second, my blog does not represent any large, well known media house, or a big brand semiconductor magazine. Hence, maintaining a semicon blog, with the help of contacts from all over the world has been tough, at times. Why, some folks, with whom I wished to speak with, never even responded to my emails and requests. Quite understandable!

Third, I've only managed to blog, when I have the time, unlike many other great bloggers who post regularly (or daily)! Fourth, there have been several instances, where my location has been my weak point. I was unable to blog on several instances simply because I had no way of reaching people whom I wished to speak with, while sitting in India. And, as I said, I did get cold snubs on several instances! :) As a result, I could not present my views at specific instances, even though I dearly wanted to!

However, the unconditional and loving support and encouragement of my family, friends, well wishers, industry leaders and loyal readers such as you have helped overcome all of these deficiencies. It is only because of these people that I've managed to come this far! I hope each one of you continues to have faith in me. I shall try my best to provide you with the best information (hopefully) the global semiconductor industry has to offer.

To start off the new year, may I present, what I feel, are the top blog posts on semiconductors during 2008, as a review for the past year.

Being indisposed at the start of 2008, I only managed to pick up speed from April onward. As the year progressed, the Indian fab story with SemIndia started worsening, before finally disappearing, even as fabless India held on sttong, as did the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry, which incidentally, did look quite good till September last year.

I have arranged the blog posts, from January to December 2008, so they will present a better picture of how 2008 behaved! These posts are set in no particular order or preference, otherwise. Some of you may have your own favorites, so kindly let me know, in case those haven't made the list.

JAN 2008
Power awareness critical for chip designers
LabVIEW 8.5 delivers power of multicore processors

MAR 2008
NXP India achieves RF CMOS in single chip
VLSI as a career in India
Using 'semicon' simulation for drug discovery

APR 2008
New camps promise exciting times ahead in memory market
Indian design services to hit $10.96bn by 2010
Staying ahead of clock a habit at Magma!

MAY 2008
Dubai -- an emerging silicon oasis
Developers, go parallel, or perish, says Intel
Think AND not OR; Altera first @ 40nm FPGAs
Top 10 global semicon predictions -- where are we today
Semicon to grow 12pc in 2008
India's growing might in global semicon

JUN 2008
10-point program for Karnataka semicon policy
Has the Indian silicon wafer fab story gone astray?
Semicon half year over, what next now?
EDA as DNA of growth

JUL 2008
Semicon is no longer business as usual!
Cadence C-to-Silicon Compiler eliminates barriers to HLS adoption
Practical to take solar/PV route: Dr. Atre, Applied

AUG 2008
What India brings to the table for semicon world! And, for Japan
NAND update: Market likely to recover in H2-09
E Ink on every smart surface!
RVCE unveils Garuda super fuel-efficient car
Indian fab policy gets 12 proposals; solar dominates

SEP 2008
90pc fab investments for 300mm capacity: SEMI
Synopsys' Dr Chi-Foon Chan on India, low power design and solar
Magma's YieldManager could make solar 'rock'!
Motion sensors driving MEMS growt
BV Naidu quits SemIndia; what now of Indian fab story?

OCT 2008
Top 20 global solar photovoltaic companies
IDF Taiwan: Father of the Atom an Indian!
TI Beagle Board for Indian open source developers and hobbyists
Cadence's Virtuoso vs. Synopsys' Galaxy Custom Designer!
Synopsys' Galaxy Custom Designer tackles analog mixed signal (AMS) challenges
Solar, semi rocking in India; global semi recovery in 2010?
No fabs? So?? Fabless India shines brightly!!

NOV 2008
AMD's roadmap 2009 provides lots of answers... now, to deliver!
Embedded computing -- 15mn devices not so far away!
FPGAs have adopted Moore's Law more closely!

DEC 2008
My blog is the world's best!
Semicon outlook 2009: Global market could be down 7pc or more
Altera on FPGAs outlook for 2009
Solar sunburn likely in 2009? India, are you listening
Outlook for solar photovoltaics in 2009!

I found it difficult to select the Top 10 posts. If any one of you can draw up such a list, it'd be great!