Monday, December 31, 2012

ITC to review initial determination in Cypress-GSI SRAM patent infringement case

USA: Cypress Semiconductor Corp. announced that the International Trade Commission (ITC) has agreed to review the entire Initial Determination issued by Chief Administrative Law Judge Charles E. Bullock in the pending patent case between Cypress and GSI Technology. Cypress has asserted that GSI SRAMs infringe multiple Cypress patents.

The Commission also remanded the case back to Judge Bullock for a ruling on the validity and the enforceability of Cypress’s patents. After Judge Bullock completes his ruling, the Commission will review his initial findings on non-infringement as well as his rulings on validity and enforceability.

“We are pleased that the Commission has decided to review the judge’s initial findings with respect to all four patents,” said T.J. Rodgers, Cypress’s President and CEO. “We remain confident that our intellectual property is being infringed and welcome further examination of the facts by the full Commission.”

The ITC case in question is Investigation No. 337-TA-792. Cypress has asserted that GSI’s SigmaQuad-II, SigmaQuad-III, SigmaDDR, standard Synchronous, and NBT SRAMs infringe Cypress patents.

Cypress has also filed a district court suit against GSI, and will continue to vigorously pursue it. That case is No. 11-cv-00789, filed March 30, 2011, before Judge Patrick J. Schiltz in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Worldwide semiconductor revenues will grow 4.9 percent and reach $319 billion in 2013: IDC

USA: Semiconductor revenues worldwide will see nominal growth this year at less than 1 percent reaching $304 billion according to the year-end 2012 update of the International Data Corp. (IDC) Semiconductor Applications Forecaster (SAF).

The SAF also forecasts that semiconductor revenues will improve by 4.9 percent to $319 billion in 2013 and log a CAGR of 4.1 percent from 2011-2016, reaching $368 billion in 2016.

Weakness in PC demand, DRAM and overall memory price deterioration, and semiconductor inventory rationalization, coupled with continued global macroeconomic uncertainty from lower global GDP growth, a slowdown in China, the Eurozone debt crisis and recession, Japan's recession, and ongoing fear of fiscal cliff negotiations' impact on IT spending by corporations have all been levers affecting global semiconductor demand this year. Bright spots for the semiconductor market include smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes, and automotive electronics, which IDC expects will continue to be key drivers of growth over the coming years.

IDC expects semiconductor inventories to come into balance with demand in the second quarter of 2013 with growth to resume in the second half of 2013.

"We expect lower, but positive global GDP growth in 2013. Semiconductors for smartphones will see healthy revenue growth as appetite for data, multimedia processing, and multitasking will drive high-end smartphone demand in developed countries while an ongoing transition to 3G networks will accelerate smartphone adoption in developing regions. PC demand will continue to remain in a period of transition next year until more technology and design innovation begin to change the course of demand," said Mali Venkatesan, research manager for Semiconductors at IDC.

Regionally, Japan and Europe continue to be the two weakest regions. Although GDP growth has slowed in China, India, and Brazil, demand for smartphones, tablets, and automotive electronics remains strong. In the U.S., 4G phones, mobile consumer devices (tablets and e-readers), network infrastructure, and set-top box deployments will drive a healthy semiconductor growth cycle over the next five years.

Other key findings from IDC's Semiconductor Application Forecaster include:

* Semiconductor revenues for the Computing industry segment will log year-over-year growth of 1.7 percent for 2013 and will show a muted CAGR of only 1.7 percent for the 2011-2016 forecast period. Semiconductor revenues from mobile PC demand will register 5.5 percent year-over-year growth in 2013, after declining 7.7 percent in 2012.

* Semiconductor revenues for the Communications segment will grow 6.5 percent year over year in 2013 with a five-year CAGR of 5.5 percent. Semiconductor revenues for 4G phones will experience annual growth of 140.1 percent in 2013 and a CAGR of 103.4 percent for 2011-2016.

* Media tablets, e-readers, set-top boxes and blu-ray players, will continue to see above average semiconductor revenue growth. Sales of traditional devices such as DVD players, DVD recorders, DVD players, portable media players, and game consoles will continue to erode. Overall, semiconductor revenues for the Consumer segment will record year-over-year growth of 9.8 percent in 2013 and a 2011-2016 CAGR of 6 percent.

* Driven by strong global demand for automobiles and increased semiconductor content (i.e. applications such as in-vehicle infotainment, automobile body electronics, and driver safety systems), semiconductor revenues for the Automotive segment is expected to grow 5.9 percent (CAGR) for the five-year forecast period. Regionally, Asia/Pacific will continue to grow its share of semiconductor revenues, with year-over-year growth of 5.5 percent in 2013 and a five-year CAGR of 5.3 percent.

Friday, December 28, 2012

JTAG @ Embedded World, Nuremberg

THE NETHERLANDS: JTAG Technologies BV, a vendor of test and debug tools based on boundary-scan, will showcase the following JTAGLive products as well as brand new systems upgrades in Hall 4, booth 617.

Autobuzz: JTAG Technologies is  showcasing Autobuzz, a totally unique tool that effectively learns a connectivity signature of all boundary-scan parts within a design from only the BSDL models of those parts.

Autobuzz expands the "seek and discover" mode of BuzzPlus and automatically gathers circuit data of a known good board and then performs a full connectivity compare against the faulty circuit. Autobuzz is a useful tool for repair and rework technicians, especially when design data is missing or incomplete.

JTAGLive CoreCommander: By using JTAGlive CoreCommander engineers can activate the on-chip debug modes of a range of popular cores to affect kernel-centric testing.  CoreCommander support includes ARM, Cortex, XScale, PowerPC and TriCore architectures. CoreCommander routines are suitable for diagnosing faults on "dead-kernel" boards in either design debug or repair, since no on-board code is required to set memory reads and writes.

CoreCommander is Python-based and complements the established JTAGLive Script product, allowing access to mixed-signal parts such as ADCs and DACs and also synchronised testing to full boundary-scan devices. Python-embedded mode uses a similar structure to that featured in the JTAGLive Script product, allowing CoreCommander functions to be embedded into Python code to create re-usable test modules for specific tests.

Commenting on JTAG Technologies and the embedded industry, Peter van den Eijnden, GM, JTAG Technologies, said: "R&D, manufacturing and (field) service repair can all benefit greatly from the possibilities offered by the JTAG interface and logic in today’s modern electronic devices. In manufacturing the main JTAG applications are board test and in-system programming of cPLD’s and flash memories. JTAG Technologies is offering a vast range of high performance products for these manufacturing applications since its beginning.

"Also, R&D engineers use the JTAG interface for in-system programming of cPLD’s (JTAG Programming) and flash memories. In addition software engineers increasingly use the JTAG interface for debugging their (embedded) software using the emulation / debug logic built-in into modern microprocessors.

"Like software debugging also hardware debugging can well be supported via the JTAG interface. JTAG Technologies developed its JTAG Live product family specifically for this purpose. The JTAG Live products enable hardware design engineers to deploy the JTAG test and debug capabilities embedded in various chips for debugging their (prototype) hardware, helping them to verify that connections between pins are present and a processor is capable of writing to and reading from its memory and peripheral devices without writing any specific microprocessor code."

Sigma Designs integrates Microsoft smooth streaming client technology

USA: Sigma Designs announced that Microsoft's Smooth Streaming client technology has been integrated into Sigma's state-of-the-art multimedia chipset solutions to deliver seamless High Definition 1080p media content.

Sigma is making Microsoft's Smooth Streaming support available through their SDK 4.0 to run on their SMP8670, SMP8672 and SMP8674 chipsets. With Microsoft's Smooth Streaming technology, Sigma's highly integrated multimedia chipsets will seamlessly provide high-quality viewing experiences for streaming video content.

"Simply put, consumers are now viewing more on-line video than ever and they demand high-definition and seamless streaming. At Sigma, we are continuing to deliver a full range of multimedia and connected living solutions to enhance consumers' viewing experience," said Mustafa Ozgen, Sigma Design's VP and GM of the Home Multimedia business unit. "Our customers need adaptive rate streaming technology, such as Microsoft Smooth Streaming, to ensure that they provide reliable seamless high-definition quality video streams to their end users."

Microsoft's Smooth Streaming adaptive media is a technique that changes video resolution according to the user's bandwidth and fragments content information while upholding HD resolution. OTT providers can use IIS Media Services or Windows Azure Media Services to deliver their content to Sigma's clients, giving end users the capability to watch high quality live streaming video without unpleasant artifacts. Microsoft's Smooth Streaming is available for on-demand video content and live broadcasts.

Smooth Streaming is currently available on Sigma's SMP8670, SMP8672 and SMP8674 chipsets.

Ainol launches tablet product featuring Actions' Owl series ATM7029 chipset

CHINA: Actions Semiconductor Co. Ltd announced the introduction of the Ainol Novo 10 Hero, a 10.1" Tablet product featuring the Owl Series ATM7029 chipset from Actions Semiconductor.

Actions' ATM7029 chipset supports Android 4.1(Jelly Bean) operating system and will also support the upgrade to Android 4.2. With the ARM Cortex multi-core CPU, multi-core 3D GPU, full spec 1080p video encode/decode engine and USB2.0/3.0 PHY integration, the ATM7029 provides unprecedented levels of performance and power efficiency.

"As a leading Consumer Electronic brand in China, we are proud of the partnership with Actions Semiconductor. It's really exciting to be the first one who delivers products integrating Actions' ATM7029 chipset," stated Zaimin Wang, GM of Ainol. "In the fast-paced consumer electronics business, time-to-market and innovation is critical for solution providers, and more important, to our end-user customers. Through the high performance of the ATM7029 chipset, we believe our customers will enjoy the complete user experience of our product."

"In our view, the partnership with the leading brand, Ainol, is a major milestone for Actions Semiconductor as we are one of the first companies in China to provide the multi-core CPU SoC beyond dual CPU solution to the tablet market," commented Dr. Zhenyu Zhou , CEO of Actions Semiconductor.

"ATM7029 is the first chipset of Actions' Owl Series. Ainol's decision to utilize our ATM7029 chipset for its Novo 10 Hero Tablet affirms their confidence in the integrity and performance of our products. Together, Actions and Ainol will satisfy the needs of our customers by delivering tablet products with the best price-to-performance ratio. We are excited about this product introduction and our continued work with numerous OEM and design house partners to develop new solutions utilizing our ATM7029 technology."

Embedded processor market to exceed $4 billion in 2015

USA: Estimating that the embedded processor market will top $4 billion in 2015, The Linley Group, the industry's leading source for independent technology analysis of semiconductors for networking, communications, mobile, and wireless applications, released its latest report, "A Guide to Embedded Processors."

While citing evidence that this market size is large enough to sustain multiple suppliers, The Linley Group analysts predict the industry will coalesce around a few large companies that successfully innovate and execute.

The Linley Group believes that the emergence of new processor technologies, shifts among preferred instruction-set architectures and transitions in end-market technologies, such as LTE, will require much more critical evaluation of embedded processors and their suppliers.

The report provides an in-depth look at 32- and 64-bit high-speed embedded processors with one to four CPU cores. This report analyzes the products, capabilities and strategies for multiple companies including Altera, AMD, AppliedMicro, Broadcom (NetLogic), Cavium, Freescale, Intel, LSI, Marvell, Mindspeed, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Via Technologies, and Xilinx.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

TI to demo innovative 3D time-of-flight image sensor chipset with SoftKinetic

CES 2013, USA: Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) is collaborating with SoftKinetic, a leading provider of end-to-end 3D sensor and gesture recognition middleware solutions, to grow adoption of gesture control in televisions (TVs), personal computers (PCs), and a wide variety of other consumer and industrial devices.

At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), TI will demonstrate its new 3D time-of-flight (ToF) image sensor chipset, which integrates SoftKinetic's DepthSense pixel technology and runs SoftKinetic's iisu middleware for finger, hand and full-body tracking.

The TI chipset is inside 3D cameras that control a laptop and a smart TV to access and navigate movies, games and other content with the wave of a hand. The TV demonstration also features TI's OMAP™ 5 processor, which powers an impressive natural user interface with robust gesture recognition and full-HD graphics.

Both demonstrations will be showcased at CES 2013 in the TI Village, North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. "SoftKinetic has long believed that motion control and gesture recognition is the future of user interfaces and digital interactivity," said Michel Tombroff, CEO of SoftKinetic.

"We are pleased to collaborate with TI to help bring this technology into the mass market, and look forward to having our technology impact the everyday lives of consumers."

Current 3D gesture recognition solutions lack real-time tracking and suffer from poor sensitivity, which can cause sluggish performance. TI's ToF chipset, featuring a 3D sensor employing SoftKinetic's DepthSense pixel technology, overcomes this problem to deliver high sensitivity and the real-time motion tracking responsiveness consumers expect.

The TI and SoftKinetic solution enables precise tracking of finger, hand and full-body gestures. TI plans to follow its initial products with a complete portfolio of solutions suitable for various applications and form factors.

"There are a plethora of applications that can benefit from the accuracy and resolution of this technology," said Gaurang Shah, VP of Audio and Imaging Products at TI. "Imagine an end equipment designer tilting, rotating, compressing and expanding a new product in 3D to inspect and evaluate it on their PC before committing to a hardware prototype. We believe our collaboration with SoftKinetic will ignite more applications like this, and foster further technology innovation to simplify the way we interact with machines."

Semiconductor revenues to grow 4.9 percent and reach $319 billion in 2013

USA: Semiconductor revenues worldwide will see nominal growth this year at less than 1 percent reaching $304 billion according to the year-end 2012 update of the International Data Corp. (IDC) Semiconductor Applications Forecaster (SAF).

The SAF also forecasts that semiconductor revenues will improve by 4.9 percent to $319 billion in 2013 and log a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1 percent from 2011-2016, reaching $368 billion in 2016.

Weakness in PC demand, DRAM and overall memory price deterioration, and semiconductor inventory rationalization, coupled with continued global macroeconomic uncertainty from lower global GDP growth, a slowdown in China, the Eurozone debt crisis and recession, Japan's recession, and ongoing fear of fiscal cliff negotiations' impact on IT spending by corporations have all been levers affecting global semiconductor demand this year.

Bright spots for the semiconductor market include smartphones, tablets, set-top boxes, and automotive electronics, which IDC expects will continue to be key drivers of growth over the coming years.

IDC expects semiconductor inventories to come into balance with demand in the second quarter of 2013 with growth to resume in the second half of 2013.

"We expect lower, but positive global GDP growth in 2013. Semiconductors for smartphones will see healthy revenue growth as appetite for data, multimedia processing, and multitasking will drive high-end smartphone demand in developed countries while an ongoing transition to 3G networks will accelerate smartphone adoption in developing regions. PC demand will continue to remain in a period of transition next year until more technology and design innovation begin to change the course of demand," said Mali Venkatesan, research manager for Semiconductors at IDC.

Regionally, Japan and Europe continue to be the two weakest regions. Although GDP growth has slowed in China, India, and Brazil, demand for smartphones, tablets, and automotive electronics remains strong. In the US, 4G phones, mobile consumer devices (tablets and e-readers), network infrastructure, and set-top box deployments will drive a healthy semiconductor growth cycle over the next five years.

Other key findings from IDC's Semiconductor Application Forecaster include:

* Semiconductor revenues for the Computing industry segment will log year-over-year growth of 1.7 percent for 2013 and will show a muted CAGR of only 1.7 percent for the 2011-2016 forecast period. Semiconductor revenues from mobile PC demand will register 5.5 percent year-over-year growth in 2013, after declining 7.7 percent in 2012.

* Semiconductor revenues for the Communications segment will grow 6.5 percent year over year in 2013 with a five-year CAGR of 5.5 percent. Semiconductor revenues for 4G phones will experience annual growth of 140.1 percent in 2013 and a CAGR of 103.4 percent for 2011-2016.

* Media tablets, e-readers, set-top boxes, and blu-ray players, will continue to see above average semiconductor revenue growth. Sales of traditional devices such as DVD players, DVD recorders, DVD players, portable media players, and game consoles will continue to erode. Overall, semiconductor revenues for the consumer segment will record year-over-year growth of 9.8 percent in 2013 and a 2011-2016 CAGR of 6 percent.

* Driven by strong global demand for automobiles and increased semiconductor content (i.e., applications such as in-vehicle infotainment, automobile body electronics, and driver safety systems), semiconductor revenues for the Automotive segment is expected to grow 5.9 percent (CAGR) for the five-year forecast period.

* Regionally, Asia/Pacific will continue to grow its share of semiconductor revenues, with year-over-year growth of 5.5 percent in 2013 and a five-year CAGR of 5.3 percent.

Altera bags 2012 excellent core partner from Huawei

HONG KONG: Altera Corp. has received the 2012 Excellent Core Partner Award from Huawei Technologies, a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider.

Huawei presented Altera with this award for its excellence in delivering quality, leading-edge products with superior technical support at its annual 2012 Core Partner Convention in Shenzhen, China.

The Excellent Core Partner Award is the highest recognition Huawei gives to its suppliers and is the latest of many accolades Huawei has presented to Altera over the companies’ multi-year partnership. Altera is among an elite set of suppliers to earn this award for outstanding support of Huawei’s business success throughout 2012.

In addition to receiving the 2012 Excellent Core Partner Award at Huawei’s Core Partner Convention, Scott Bibaud, senior vice president and general manager of Altera’s communications and broadcast division presented to the audience on supporting Huawei in a rapidly changing marketplace.

The Excellent Core Partner Award is based on a variety of qualities Huawei’s suppliers demonstrate, including responsiveness, technology innovation, quality, delivery, cost, environmental protection and social responsibility. Huawei specifically recognized Altera for being excellent in terms of quality, delivery of leading-edge technologies and services.

In 2012, Huawei realized the performance advantage offered by Altera’s 28-nm Stratix V FPGAs and selected the high-end product family for use in the company’s 400G high-capacity OTN system. By using industry's first high-end 28-nm production FPGAs, Huawei enabled the evolution of communications infrastructure like 400G systems and other high-performance systems in a variety of markets throughout the world.

Altera offers industry-leading companies like Huawei the broadest and most complete portfolio of 28 nm FPGAs and SoCs, which are tailored to meet customer's system performance, system power and system cost requirements. The only high-end 28 nm FPGA in production, Stratix V FPGAs are the industry’s highest performance FPGA which feature the capabilities required in high-end applications, including integrated transceivers operating up to 28 Gbps, variable-precision DSP blocks and a variety of hard IP blocks that increase system throughput and power efficiency.

Altera’s 28-nm portfolio also includes its low-power/low-cost Cyclone V and Cyclone V SoC FPGAs, and its mid-range Arria V and Arria V SoC FPGAs. Altera’s 28-nm devices are supported by productivity-centric development tools, intellectual property cores and the broadest array of 28 nm development kits which ease system design.

“Altera has a proven, long-term track record of working closely with Huawei to support their business and technical goals,” said Scott Bibaud senior VP and GM of Altera’s communications and broadcast division.

“Working with industry leaders like Huawei allows us to push the envelope of technology innovations, as is clearly demonstrated in our industry-leading 28 nm portfolio and Quartus II development software. Customers like Huawei continue to be the driving force behind our innovations, and our mutual partnership allows both companies to be leaders our respective markets.”

Carnegie Mellon University welcomes jury verdict in patent infringement case

USA: The following is a statement from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh regarding today's jury verdict of $1.169 billion in Carnegie Mellon's patent infringement case against Marvell Technology Group Ltd. and Marvell Semiconductor Inc.

"We are gratified by the jury's unanimous verdict in favor of Carnegie Mellon in our patent infringement case against Marvell Technology Group Ltd. and Marvell Semiconductor Inc. We felt the evidence we submitted was compelling, and the jury agreed. Protection of the discoveries of our faculty and students is very important to us. We appreciate the willingness of the jurors to give us their time and attention during this holiday season to hear our case.

This case deals with fundamental technology for increasing the accuracy with which hard disk drive circuits read data from high speed magnetic disks. The systems and methods were developed and patented by Jose Moura, a professor in the University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Aleksandar Kavcic, a former Ph.D. student of Moura who is now a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Hawaii.

The work that led to the invention by Moura and Kavcic was supported by the university's Data Storage Systems Center (DSSC), an interdisciplinary research and educational center whose mission is to advance information storage technologies.

The DSSC brings the best and brightest faculty members and students from a wide range of disciplines together with industry partners to tackle real world problems in the data storage industry. The university's singular success, particularly over the past 40 years, has been achieved in large measure through collaboration with industry. We value those relationships greatly.

We did not undertake this suit lightly and once we undertook it we did not pursue it lightly. It was a hard-fought battle every step of the way as we insisted that the rights of our inventors and our industrial partners in the DSSC be fully protected. We are thankful for the great work that our team, both at Carnegie Mellon and at K&L Gates, did to achieve this victory."

2012 sees 2 percent market decline after flat 2011

USA: It will come as no surprise that the semiconductor market will post an annual loss, and will continue into the first quarter of 2013. Databeans latest forecasts shows revenue for 2012 will fall by 2 percent to $292.6 billion, down $6.9 billion from 2011.

Though most metrics for the 2012 holiday season shopping are higher than in 2011, it will not be enough to cover the year's losses as the OEM build in the third and fourth quarters used a lot of existing inventory.

The fourth quarter of 2012 is expected to be 4 percent larger than the same timeframe in 2011; however, this is primarily driven be few applications in demand including tablets and smart phones. There are many reasons to blame for the market contraction, the largest of which are a poor global economies and component oversupply. The supply chain is expected to recover in the second quarter of 2013 which will lead the way back into positive market growth.
Source: databeans estimates.

The six semiconductor end market segments are far from cohesive, ranging from the computer market's decline to slight growth in the consumer segment. The Industrial, automotive, and computer market segments will all end 2012 negative, with computer leading the way at negative 8 percent. The automotive and industrial segments will fall roughly half that percentage, but their five year CAGR's will be in line with the entire semiconductors rate.

Both the wired and wireless segments will end between flat growth and 1 percent. The consumer end market, consisting largely of smartphones and tablets, will grow by 2 percent in 2012, not near as high as the last two years but positive nonetheless. There are also many regional trends that affect the end markets, specifically industrial.

Growth in global industrial production has remained uneven, at best, in most regional markets leading up to the third quarter of 2012, as the lingering effects of the Euro-region debt crisis and a sudden contraction in China have both weighed on consumer confidence in other regions. Specifically, in Europe, manufacturing output continued to tumble, with November marking 16 consecutive months of contraction as the debt crisis shows little signs of wavering.

Also, China, normally the rock of the global electronics market, suffered a seventh straight quarter of slowed growth in the third quarter due to continuous declines in business activity and a tumble in export orders during September. As a result, most economists expect that 2012 will be China's weakest full year of growth since 1999.

While it is possible that there may be a late year boost in the fourth quarter thanks to the holiday season, it will not be enough to save the results of the entire year, and in all likelihood global manufacturing growth will remain sluggish heading into 2013.
Source: databeans estimates.

These macroeconomic effects have had direct consequences on the spending on semiconductor manufacturing equipment over the past year. Specifically, after a strong 2011 for fab spending, the weakened market conditions which first arose towards the end of 2011 caused many IC suppliers to slash their 2012 expansion plans for additional spending on new fabs and equipment.

Many firms, fearing an oversupply situation similar to the one in late 2010, have been careful to avoid being left with too much inventory which would cause a plummet in chip prices.

However, a few of the top firms have bucked this trend. Samsung, for example, continued in 2012 to make significant investments in new equipment and fabs to further boost its NAND Flash output, including its recently announced 128GB model.

Specifically, in September 2012 Samsung began construction on brand new facility in Xi'an, China which will use a 10-nanometer manufacturing process to produce the NAND Flash. Samsung began with an initial investment of $2.3 billion in the facility, and the firm plans to invest a whopping $7 billion in the factory, making it Samsung's largest investment in China ever.

The site, which is projected to be fully operational by 2014, is expected to help ease the production load at Samsung's Line 16 site in Hwaseong, Korea which opened just one year ago at 10,000 WPM capacity and produces on 300mm wafers. Samsung has yet to reveal the exact manufacturing capacities for the factory in Xi'an, but it is likely to be around a hundred thousand of 300mm wafers per month.

Most suppliers are looking forward to the shallow recovery that is forecasted for mid-2013, Databeans expects the market for 2013 to fall in line with the 5 year compound annual growth average of 10 percent.
This recovery will continue to increase fab spending for new manufacturing equipment and promote a much better management of product supply to prevent another oversupply. The recovery we expect will be led by the Asia Pacific region that will see positive growth as early as Q1 of 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

TI Bluetooth low energy software stack delivers over-the-air downloads and support for multiple stacks on one SoC

USA: With the increasing popularity and use of single-mode Bluetooth low energy in automotive, home office, medical and health, sports and fitness, and mobile and PC accessories, Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) released its newest BLE-Stack 1.3 software to support continued development and enhancement of Bluetooth low energy.

TI’s BLE-Stack 1.3 includes over-the-air firmware downloads (OAD), which enable updates to CC2540/1 firmware to be downloaded from a central device, such as a phone, tablet or PC onto the CC2540/1 system-on-chip (SoC) directly over the RF link. OAD support helps customers save time and simplify the software upgrade process, leaving more time to design and create new Bluetooth low energy devices and applications.

Additionally, for customers using Bluetooth low energy and proprietary implementations, TI’s unique Boot Image Manager (BIM) allows multiple firmware stacks to reside on a single CC2540/1 SoC. BIM enables an end-product to support two different Bluetooth low energy stacks or a single Bluetooth low energy stack and a single 2.4GHz proprietary stack.

“The Bluetooth low energy market is rapidly expanding because of its ease of use and the innovative, unique applications being created to take advantage of Bluetooth v4.0-enabled smartphones and tablets. However, barriers to entry still remain,” said Sid Shaw, worldwide business development and marketing manager, Wireless Connectivity Solutions, TI.

“Our new BLE-Stack 1.3 makes development with the CC2540/41 devices even easier through over-the-air firmware downloads, new interface support and increased tools functionality to help developers quickly get from concept to design.”

The new software features are further supported by sample applications with extensive profile support and include upgraded network processor UART and SPI interfaces for improved power management control.

To further the development of new Bluetooth low energy applications, the new BLE-Stack 1.3 also runs on TI’s SensorTag development kit and Mini-kit. The SensorTag development kit is supported by OAD, iOS app and the Bluetooth low energy device monitor.

TI BLE-Stack 1.3 Bluetooth low energy application software is available royalty-free to all customers using TI’s CC2540/1 Bluetooth low energy SoC family. The CC2540DKMINI, CC2540DK and CC2541EMK development kits are available on TI’s eStore for $99, $299, and $99, respectively. TI’s CC2541 SensorTag development kit is available on the eStore for $25.

Cypress integrates Ramtron F-RAM offerings

USA: Cypress Semiconductor Corp. announced that it has integrated Ramtron International’s ferroelectric random access memory (F-RAM) products into its portfolio, offering the market’s widest range of densities for fast-write nonvolatile memories.

F-RAM is the industry’s lowest-power nonvolatile memory, complementing Cypress’s nonvolatile static random access memories (nvSRAMs), which are the world’s fastest. This new combination serves a broad range of applications that require data to be retained when power is lost. Combined, over a billion units of Cypress nvSRAM and Ramtron F-RAM products have been shipped worldwide.

The merger between Cypress and Ramtron was officially completed on November 20, 2012. Cypress is maintaining Ramtron part numbers, which represent the market’s widest range of F-RAM densities, to help support existing F-RAM customers. There will be no supply disruption for more than 95 percent of production parts, including all popular serial F-RAM memories and processor companions.

Along with popular serial and parallel interface memories, the Cypress nonvolatile memory portfolio also includes wireless memories commonly used in RFID tags and integrated products that combine nonvolatile memory with a real-time clock in one package.

“Ramtron developed F-RAM technology with industry-leading performance, and Cypress is committed to supporting these products with both our manufacturing expertise and our global sales team and distribution network,” said Dana Nazarian, executive VP of the Memory Products Division at Cypress. “We plan to invest R&D resources in F-RAM technology as an integral part of our memory business.”

“F-RAM adds considerable strength and versatility to our nonvolatile memory portfolio,” said Babak Taheri, VP of the Nonvolatile Products Business Unit at Cypress. “Adding F-RAM as a complementary offering to our nvSRAM products gives our customers the best solutions for speed and power consumption across a broad range of end markets.”

F-RAM and nvSRAM are inherently nonvolatile and do not require a battery backup. F-RAM memory cells inherently feature 10 trillion cycle endurance, fast single-cycle and symmetrical read/write speeds, low energy consumption, gamma radiation tolerance, and immunity to electromagnetic interference. These features make it ideal for a wide range of applications, including automotive, smart meters, medical devices, ePOS and printers.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Toshiba launches bus switch ICs supporting PCI Express 3.0 (8Gbps)

JAPAN: Toshiba Corp. will launch two-lane SPDT switches that support PCI Express 3.0 (8Gbps).

The new products, TC7PCI3412MT and TC7PCI3415MT, reduce switch terminal capacitance to achieve high bandwidth characteristics of 10GHz at -3dB, making high-speed transmission with lower signal degradation capable.

The new SPDT switches have optimal configurations for all arrangements of PCI Express slots, connectors, and switches on the motherboards of desktop PCs and notebook PCs. They can also be used for high-speed differential lines, such as USB3.0, DisplayPort1.2, and SATA3.0.

Samples are available now with mass production scheduled for the end of January.

Mentor Graphics announces comprehensive design enablement platform for Samsung’s 14nm IC manufacturing process

USA: Mentor Graphics Corp. has announced comprehensive design, manufacturing, and post tapeout enabling support for Samsung’s 14nm IC manufacturing processes, providing customers with a complete design-to-silicon flow concurrent with early process availability.

The fully interoperable Mentor flow helps customers achieve fast design cycles and first time silicon success.

The Mentor solutions optimized for Samsung’s 14nm offerings include the Calibre platform with design rule checking (DRC), LVS checking, extraction, design for manufacturing (DFM) and advanced fill, as well as the Tessent design for test (DFT) suite and yield analysis tools.

“Samsung and Mentor have been working together to speed the enablement of design and manufacturing co-optimization for many years, and our collaboration is more important than ever at the 14nm node,” said Dr. Kyu-Myung Choi, senior VP of System LSI infrastructure design center, Device Solutions, Samsung Electronics.

“The design rules for 14nm are extremely complex with the introduction of FinFETs in addition to double patterning (DP) layers. It is critical that physical design, verification and testing tools are intimately aligned with the manufacturing processes of the target foundry. Since Samsung also uses the Mentor Calibre solution for its own IC development, designers using it will get accurate and immediate feedback so they can co-optimize the design process.”

The Calibre platform creates decomposed double patterning (DP) layouts that are compliant with all of Samsung’s 14nm lithography requirements and tuned to the Samsung mask synthesis and OPC process, which is also provided by Mentor at 14nm. It also provides designers with rapid feedback on complex design rules for FinFETs, and specific coaching on elimination of DFM litho errors to make fixing violations faster and more accurate.

Calibre tools for LVS and extraction have been calibrated to ensure accurate device and parasitic models for Samsung FinFETs, eliminating “double-counting” of important effects that can occur with other tools. Moreover, Calibre SmartFill ensures there are no CMP issues with designs by intelligently placing fill structures to achieve planarity while minimizing timing issues.

Collaboration on Tessent cell-aware test tools is providing higher test quality for new cell internal structures at 14nm, and higher test pattern compression to control the cost of testing larger 14nm designs. Mentor and Samsung are also leveraging production test diagnosis by exchanging information between the Tessent tools and the Calibre Pattern Matching facility to quickly identify and eliminate design-specific yield limiting features during design ramp up.

“Through our close cooperation, Mentor and Samsung are able to provide all the necessary enabling technology for our customers concurrent with the availability of Samsung’s 14nm manufacturing processes,” said Joseph Sawicki, VP and GM of the Design to Silicon division at Mentor Graphics. “This level of collaboration is absolutely necessary to deliver a 14nm-ready design ecosystem.”

Monday, December 24, 2012

eMMC and SSD to contribute to 15 percent NAND flash output value growth in 2013

TAIWAN: According to TrendForce, while the attitude toward 2013 remains conservative, smartphones and tablets are expected to show stable growth, whereas the penetration rate for ultrabooks is set to increase gradually by each quarter.

As such, we remain optimistic about the prospects for eMMC and SSD, and forecast overall NAND Flash bit demand growth to reach up to 47.6 percent YoY.

With regards to the NAND Flash supply side, it is predicted that the 12-inch wafer production growth will be approximately 4 percent in 2013. Should next year's capital expenditure turn out to be 22 percent lower than this year's, the overall bit supply growth is likely to be around 41 percent YoY.

With market supply-demand balance, NAND Flash ASP is estimated to dip by 22 percent, which is significantly less than the 39.7 percent drop exhibited last year.
On the supply side, manufacturers have been facing a lot of pressures following the major NAND Flash price downtrend caused by the 1H12 oversupply. During July, Toshiba announced it would be implementing a 30 percent production cut, whereas the other manufacturers opted to put a temporary halt to their capacity expansion plans.

As TrendForce indicates, for 2013, NAND Flash supply vendors will continue to have reservations about the future market prospects. With the proportion of the 20nm production process set to break the 80 percent mark and expected to fulfill the majority of market demand, the attitude towards the prospects of new production processes is noticeably even more conservative.

For 2013, TrendForce estimates that annual wafer production will increase only by 4 percent compared to this year, with around 1.2 million units being the 12-inch wafers. On the whole, the 2013 NAND Flash bit supply growth is set to be 41 percent.
On the demand side, benefiting from the growth exhibited by mid-to-low end models, the 2013 smartphone shipment is expected to climb from 674 million to 892 million units, a 32 percent increase.

Other than the support of eMMC by high-end smartphones models, many mid-to-low end smartphones are beginning to show increased improvement in their hardware specs. The eMMC penetration rate within the smartphone market, as such, will likely grow to 66 percent next year, and even break the 70 percent mark.

In spite of the hype surrounding the iPad4 and iPad mini, Android and Win8 tablets are closely catching up in terms of popularity. In 2013, tablet shipment growth is expected to grow by 44 percent, increasing from 100 million to 143 million units. The increase of eMMC density, on the other hand, is expected to rise in accordance to consumer need. TrendForce predicts NAND Flash consumption for tablet PCs to be 50 percent more than the amount in 2012.

Although TrendForce initially predicted stalled momentum for the 2013 notebook market, with the support from Intel and the PC ecosystem, along with the decreased costs for various key components, ultrabook penetration rate is predicted to go on a gradual increase, climbing from 6 percent in 2012 to approximately 18 percent in 2013.

Shipment volume, similarly, will likely show more than three times the growth next year compared to 2012. NAND Flash 2013 consumption rate, as a result, is projected to exhibit vast improvements, with a possible growth exceeding 65 percent.

Assuming that demand momentum is certain, and that supply is properly regulated, a stable growth is projected for the 2013 NAND Flash industry. The NAND Flash output value is likely to revert from negative to positive, growing by 15 percent to $24 billion.

Total flash memory market will surpass DRAM for first time in 2012

USA: Driven by continued demand for smartphones, tablet PCs, and other personal media devices, the total flash memory market (NAND and NOR) is forecast to grow 2 percent to $30.4 billion in 2012, surpassing the $28 billion DRAM market in sales for the first time.

With the exception of 2010, the DRAM and flash memory markets have been growing closer in size to each other for several years but demand for flash used in portable media devices, coupled with two years of weaker demand and price erosion for commodity DRAM used in personal computers will finally be enough to push total flash sales beyond those for DRAM this year.

Among portable media devices, smartphones shipments are projected to finish the year up 55 percent to 750 million units and shipments of tablet computers are forecast to rise 80 percent to 117 million units.
Through 2017, the flash memory market is expected to widen its lead over DRAM. In fact, IC Insights forecasts the NAND flash memory market alone will be larger than the DRAM market beginning in 2013.
Among more than 30 product segments classified by WSTS, NAND flash is forecast to have the third-highest average annual growth rate through 2017, trailing only the market growth rates for tablet processors and cellphone application processors.

NAND flash sales are forecast to increase 14 percent annually from 2012-2017, growing to $53.2 billion at the end of the forecast period while the DRAM market is forecast to grow 9 percent annually over this same time.

LumaSense intros temperature sensing solution for MOCVD processes for LED production

USA: LumaSense Technologies, Inc. released the UV 400 and UVR 400 pyrometers, the newest generation of non-contact temperature measurement instrumentation for Metal Organic Chemical Vapor Deposition (MOCVD) processes in the rapidly growing LED industry.

LED’s are on a trajectory to take over as the primary source in the $60 billion lighting industry by 2020, and are a key enabler in displays for mobile devices, televisions and other products in the growing $1.2 trillion electronics industry. The UV 400 and UVR 400 are in a unique position to help manufacturers using MOCVD improve efficiency and reduce waste in their LED manufacturing process.

Using a center wavelength in the UV spectrum (400 nm) these pyrometers make it possible to measure real wafer surface temperature, while traditional pyrometers are only able to measure the susceptor/pocket temperature under the wafer. This allows the most accurate and repeatable control of the wafer temperature, which, e.g., in LED production is critical to the final product wavelength and manufacturing yields.

The wide temperature range of 650 to 1300°C allows for measurement of various applications such as GaN buffer layer growth or multiple quantum well growth. The fast response time of up to 8 ms allows the measurement of fast processes. True photon-counting instrumentation guarantees the best achievable signal to noise ratio and stability.

In addition to the UV 400 pyrometer, the UVR 400 features a 635 nm Laser Reflectometer, which enables the real-time measurement of the thickness and growth rate of the GaN layer during epitaxy growth.

“With an 8,000+ system-installed base in the semiconductor industry and a nearly 2,000  MOCVD tool-installed base, LumaSense is without doubt a leader in temperature instrumentation in this industry,” said Brett Sargent , VP and GM, Products & Solutions, LumaSense.

“The UV 400 and UVR 400 are now setting a new standard for MOCVD measurement all around the world as the instruments have proven to provide temperature measurements with reliable correlation between the measured process temperature and the final product wavelength.  This will result in unparalleled yield gains and efficiency improvements for our customers.”

The UV 400 and UVR 400 can also be combined with the well-proven PhotriX pyrometer with concentric lightpipe from LumaSense to additionally control the reactor temperature. Either the UV 400 and UVR 400 alone, or in combination with the PhotriX pyrometer, provide the best possible measuring data and process control solution, as well as the best product quality and improved yield.

Over 5 billion wireless connectivity chips to ship in 2013

ENGLAND: In 2013, the number of standards-based wireless connectivity chips shipped will exceed 5 billion. This includes standalone Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, and ZigBee, as well as connectivity combo ICs and platform solutions.

The leading supplier, Broadcom, will continue to dominate, benefiting largely from the fast growing connectivity combo IC market. Qualcomm will also see growth due to continued uptake of its snapdragon platform in the smartphone market.

“Increased diversification and building out product portfolios to include many wireless connectivity technologies is crucial to vendors’ current and future success,” commented Peter Cooney, wireless connectivity practice director. “Both Broadcom and Qualcomm recently announced new NFC products which will be an essential addition as this technology sees market acceptance over the next 5 years.”

Standalone wireless connectivity ICs will continue to be very important as newer technologies such as Bluetooth Smart, WiGig, and NFC penetrate high volume applications and are increasingly adopted in developing markets such as sports & fitness, automotive, and retail. Connectivity combos (i.e. those with two or more wireless connectivity technologies integrated) will continue to see strong shipment and revenue growth particularly in high volume consumer markets such as laptops, tablets, and TVs.

Platform solutions will see the strongest growth (from a smaller base) as these enable OEMs to achieve even faster time to market in very competitive areas such as low-end smartphones.

“In the next few years we will see some very important milestones achieved for the wireless connectivity market,” added Cooney. “In 2013 cumulative shipments of Bluetooth-enabled devices will surpass 10 billion and Wi-Fi enabled devices will surpass 10 billion cumulative shipments in 2015. This clearly shows the level of penetration into the electronics market that wireless connectivity technologies have achieved, and there is a lot more to come as the consumers’ appetite for wire free solutions will continue unabated.”

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Aventa receives strategic investment from Applied Ventures

USA: Aventa Technologies Inc., a provider of manufacturing equipment for emerging alternative energy markets such as high-temperature superconductors (HTS), announced that Applied Ventures LLC, the venture capital arm of Applied Materials Inc., has made a strategic investment in its series A financing.

The investment will be used to support its operation to commercialize the equipment the HTS industry needs to meet growing global demand.

HTS technology promises to significantly improve power distribution by enabling the lossless transmission of electrical power over long distances. Several applications of HTS wires are expected to move from demonstration to large-scale projects in the near future.

As the old grid infrastructures get upgraded with more advanced technologies to increase efficiency, substantial adoption of superconducting fault current limiters and HTS cables is expected. For example, China plans to spend $530 billion in this decade to build a strong and smart grid, according to the China Greentech Initiative.

Aventa Technologies offers a comprehensive set of systems for manufacturing advanced HTS wires. The company's advanced vacuum deposition tools can accelerate the adoption of HTS solutions by increasing the productivity of HTS wire manufacturing.

"Applied Materials' core expertise will greatly benefit us as we scale our technology which is key to the cost-effective, high-volume manufacture of HTS wire," said Piero Sferlazzo, president and CEO of Aventa Technologies. "This financing provides us with the capital to strengthen our product line and scale manufacturing capabilities to meet our customers' requirements."

"We are excited about Aventa's progress in developing critical manufacturing technology for this emerging alternative energy sector," said J. Christopher Moran, corporate VP and GM of Applied Ventures. "HTS technology has tremendous potential, and we are pleased that this investment will be used to make advanced grid solutions more affordable."

Friday, December 21, 2012

GreenPeak launches GP410 – ZigBee PRO green power chip

THE NETHERLANDS: GreenPeak Technologies has announced its new GP410 chip offering the new ZigBee PRO Green Power feature for low cost energy harvesting and ultra-long battery life ZigBee applications for the Smart Home.

The GP410 IEEE 802.15.4 ZigBee PRO Green Power controller is a fully integrated system-on-chip solution for power harvesting end nodes for light switches, smart home devices, or for applications designed to run on a single battery for many years.

The Green Power feature gives battery-free, energy-harvesting devices the ability to join any Green Power enabled ZigBee PRO 2012 network. Without requiring batteries, the self-supporting devices typically generate (harvest) just enough power themselves to communicate a brief command.

For example, a light switch without a battery harvests energy from flipping the switch on or off. This energy is captured to send the “on” or “off” command to the network to switch on or off the appropriate light. Hence, the light switch is a self-powered device that can be located anywhere in the room without a need for running power wires.

The GreenPeak GP410 features a radio transmitter, an integrated real-time Medium Access Control (MAC) processor, a security engine and a harvester interface. Ultra-low power consumption ensures that multiple (redundant) packets can be transmitted with a small harvester or tiny battery. The GP410 is designed to support both bursting and trickling energy harvesters and is therefore well suited to utilize the energy harvested from flipping a light switch as well as solar powered sensors.

The integrated features simplify design complexity. Developers can design low cost light switch products by using simple PCB antennas that require no shielding. No additional components, such as a voltage converter, are required to design a self-powered end node.

“GreenPeak is one of the first ZigBee Alliance members to offer Green Power products, and as Vice Chair of the Green Power working group, GreenPeak has been one of the driving forces and an influential contributor in establishing the Green Power feature.” says Cees Links, founder and CEO of GreenPeak Technologies.

“The GP410 enables our customers to quickly develop and easily deploy low cost, battery-free, self-powered solutions, the ultimate maintenance-free Smart Home end-devices. GreenPower nodes can also be powered by a small battery, and due to the ultra-low power consumption, the battery will easily outlast the application’s expected life span. The high level of integration of the GP410 makes it easy to design and develop low-cost, light switches and other self-powered Smart Home applications.”

Market research company IDTechEx says: "With the building environment being the most successful vertical for energy harvesting applications so far, it is an important contribution from GreenPeak, to allow for easier integration of energy harvester solutions through their Green Power GP410 chip for battery-free ZigBee applications.” Harry Zervos, technology analyst at IDTechEx adds: “Such developments allow for faster deployments and will create a further incentive for energy harvesting technologies uptake."

ARM and Cadence tape out first 14nm FinFET test chip targeting Samsung process

UK & USA: ARM and Cadence Design Systems Inc. announced the tape-out of the first 14-nanometer test chip implementation of the high-performance ARM Cortex-A7 processor, the most energy-efficient applications processor from ARM.

Designed with a complete Cadence RTL-to-signoff flow, the chip is the first to target Samsung’s 14-nanometer FinFET process, accelerating the continuing move to high-density, high-performance and ultra-low power SoCs for future smartphones, tablets and all other advanced mobile devices.

In addition to the ARM Cortex-A7 processor, the test chip includes ARM Artisan standard-cell libraries, next-generation memories, and general purpose IOs. The test chip was designed using a complete Cadence RTL-to-signoff flow including Encounter RTL Compiler, Encounter Test, Encounter Digital Implementation System, Cadence QRC Extraction, Encounter Timing System and Encounter Power System. This achievement is part of a systematic program to enable ARM technology-based SoCs on FinFET technology.

“This is an important milestone in our efforts to enable our silicon partners for continued low-power leadership in future generations of innovative, energy-efficient mobile products,” said Dr. Dipesh Patel, VP and GM, Physical IP Division at ARM. “Taping out ARM’s most energy-efficient applications processor on Samsung’s advanced low-power manufacturing process was achieved through the combination of leading-edge technology and R&D excellence, as well as a deep and early collaboration with Samsung and Cadence.”

“Cadence’s advanced node design flow, coupled with our collaboration with ARM and Samsung, is essential to semiconductor companies as they move to designing for a 14-nanometer FinFET process,” said Dr. Chi-Ping Hsu, senior VP, Research and Development, Silicon Realization Group at Cadence. “Our common goal is to enable our customers to reap the benefits and competitive advantages of designing at the most advanced technologies.”

“End consumers are driving the need for better, faster, more connected devices,” said Dr. Kyu-Myung Choi, senior VP of System LSI infrastructure design center, Device Solutions, Samsung Electronics. “Our collaboration with ARM and Cadence allows us to innovate quickly as Samsung develops this new process technology for mobile multimedia applications.”

Samsung and Synopsys to achieve first 14-nm FinFET tapeout

USA: Synopsys Inc. announced that its multi-year collaboration with Samsung on FinFET technology has achieved a critical milestone: the successful tapeout of the first test chip on Samsung's 14LPE process.
While the FinFET process offers significant power and performance benefits compared to the traditional planar process, the move from two-dimensional transistors to three-dimensional transistors introduces several new IP and EDA tool challenges such as modeling.

The multi-year collaboration delivered the foundational modeling technologies for 3D parasitic extraction, circuit simulation and physical design-rule support of FinFET devices. Synopsys' comprehensive solution for embedded memory, physical design, parasitic extraction, timing analysis and signoff is built on this foundation.

"FinFET transistors can deliver lower power consumption and higher device performance, but they also bring tough challenges," said Dr. Kyu-Myung Choi, VP of System LSI infrastructure design center, Device Solutions, Samsung Electronics. "We chose Synopsys as our FinFET collaboration partner to solve these challenges, because of our successful history together at 20 nanometer and other nodes. We continue to pool our expertise to deliver innovative FinFET solutions."

Synopsys' FinFET-ready IP
Synopsys worked closely with Samsung to develop a test chip that validates Samsung's advanced 14-nm FinFET process as well as Synopsys' DesignWare Embedded Memories using Synopsys' Self-Test and Repair (STAR) Memory System solution.

The test chip will enable the correlation of the simulation models to the FinFET process and contains test structures, standard cells, a PLL and embedded SRAMs. The memory instances include high-density SRAMs designed to operate at very low voltages and high-speed SRAMs to validate the process performance.

Synopsys FinFET-ready design tools
The shift from planar to FinFET-based 3D transistors is a significant change that requires close technical collaboration between tool developers, foundries and early adopters to deliver a strong solution. Synopsys' highly accurate modeling technology provides the foundation for the FinFET-ready Galaxy Implementation Platform.

The platform includes IC Compiler physical design, IC Validator physical verification, StarRC parasitic extraction, SiliconSmart characterization, CustomSim and FineSim for FastSPICE simulation, and HSPICE device modeling and circuit simulation.

"Samsung is a key partner in our effort and investment to develop a complete solution for FinFET technology," said Antun Domic, senior VP and GM of Synopsys' Implementation Group. "Synopsys' extensive collaboration with Samsung enables us to deliver best-in-class technologies and IP to help designers realize the full potential of FinFET transistor designs."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

SMIC achieves breakthrough in backside-illuminated image sensors

CHINA: Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), China's largest and most advanced semiconductor foundry, announced a breakthrough in its development of backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS image sensor (CIS) technology, with the first test chip demonstrating good image quality even in low-light conditions.

The complete BSI process technology, which has been independently developed by SMIC, will serve the market for high-end mobile phone cameras, and is targeted to enter risk production with partnering customers in 2013.

SMIC's success in BSI process development will broaden its CIS foundry service offerings to customers with five-megapixel and higher resolution phone cameras and high-performance video camera products. BSI sensors are more light-sensitive than frontside-illuminated CMOS sensors, allowing today's top smartphones to take brighter, clearer pictures at night or indoors. While driving its BSI technology toward commercial production, the company is soon to begin early development of next-generation CIS technology based on 3D integrated circuits.

"We are proud to be the first Chinese foundry to successfully develop BSI CMOS image sensors," said SMIC CEO, Dr. TY Chiu. "CMOS image sensors are among the key value-added technologies that SMIC offers for customers in the mobile device and imaging markets."

"With this achievement as a stepping stone, our development team will drive the BSI sensor technology to timely commercialization," added Dr. Shiuh-Wuu Lee , SMIC's senior VP of Technology Development. "This breakthrough further solidifies SMIC's position as the advanced technology leader in China."

Since the introduction of its frontside-illuminated CIS process in 2005, SMIC has become a major foundry for CIS wafers, primarily for mobile phone and consumer electronics applications. In order to provide turnkey CIS fabrication service, SMIC and Toppan Printing of Japan operate a joint venture, Toppan SMIC Electronics (Shanghai) Co., Ltd., (TSES), which fabricates on-chip color filters and micro lenses at SMIC's Shanghai site.

1H Dec. contract prices rise following increased spot market momentum

TAIWAN: According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, although 2HNov DRAM contract prices took a slight 3.17 percent dip, 1HDec module prices have gone on an uptrend thanks to stimulation from the spot prices.

The 4GB ASP has risen by 1.64 percent, returning to the $15.5 mark, while the 2GB prices climbed 1.71 percent and approached $8.9. From the pricing angle, the fact that prices have not plunged even with the unpromising demand situation is indicative of both the PC OEM's hard efforts to adjust inventory to healthy levels, and of the fact that buyer momentum is gradually increasing.

On the supply side, DRAM makers are increasingly observed to be migrating towards the use of new manufacturing technologies. The two main Korean DRAM makers, for example, are transitioning from the 3x nm processes to the more difficult-to-handle 2x nm processes.

On the other hand, the US DRAM maker, Micron, is gradually increasing its 3x nm production capacity, and is currently in the process of transitioning to new manufacturing technology. In the DRAM spot market, supplies of several product categories are being tightened, in effect leading to further pricing uptrend.

Given the persistent DRAM oversupply this year, the 2Gb spot prices had initially been on a downtrend, dropping to as low as US$0.817 during 2HOct. During December, though, spot prices have rallied, and now exceed the previous lowest mark by 15 percent. At the moment, spot prices remain the leading indicators of the prices in contract market.

With the effects of the September production cuts beginning to take effect and assumed to continue, and with the manufacturing focal point tipping towards mobile DRAM, TrendForce predicts that the market will gradually see a demand-supply balance, and that PC DRAM’s pricing downtrend will come to a temporary halt at one point.

2013 DRAM industry to lower capital expenditure by 20 percent
Due to the consistent oversupply situation exhibited year after year, the DRAM industry is generally viewed unfavorably in terms of its financial prospects.

While manufacturers have successfully utilized supply tightening strategies as a means to reduce costs, the highly aggressive nature of the market has made it difficult to generate much profit. As such, when it comes to the management of financial resources and capital expenditure, manufacturers often face a dilemma: decreasing investment, on the one hand, will make it tough for DRAM makers to compete effectively in terms of controlling production costs.

On the other hand, overinvestment not only increases the pressures of maintaining healthy cash flow, it also potentially exacerbates the market oversupply situation. In 2012, most DRAM makers have found themselves in a financial strain when demand took a drastic hit from shrinking PC shipments. Other than to make flexible adjustments to their production mix, the less-competitive, cost conscious manufacturers have also begun to resort to means such as gradual production cuts.

For 2013, there seems to be a general consensus towards the lowering of DRAM-related capital expenditure. Samsung, which became the only profitable DRAM maker this year due to its vertically integrated supply strategy, is among the major companies to have adopted this view. In the past, the Korean company has been known to pour in major funds just as other manufacturers are beginning retract or lower their investments.

This year, Samsung has reversed its approach. While a necessary transition has been made from PC to Mobile DRAM, the company announced it will be largely reducing DRAM capital expenditure by 48 percent compared to this year. For 2013, the total amount spent is projected to be $110 million, which is a historical low for the company.

Similar to Samsung, other DRAM manufacturers are set to begin lowering their capital expenditure. According to TrendForce, the total amount of invested capital for DRAM in 2013 will be approximately 21 percent less than it is this year, a trend which is  likely to take a toll on the manufacturers’ technological migration progresses.

This is evident in the fact that the 3X nm processes are still set to be the 2013 mainstream, which signifies a major break from the two-migration-processes-per-year tradition. If the DRAM industry were to undergo any more structural changes due to major shifts in demand, flexible supply control strategies may be the only appropriate measure left to take. Unless appropriate means are utilized, manufacturers within the industry face the possibility of being eliminated altogether.

ADI intros dual 16-bit, 1.6-GSPS, TxDAC+ D/A converter

USA: Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) introduced the AD9142 dual-channel, 16-bit, 1.6-GSPS D/A converter, which supports high data rates and complex modulation schemes required in communications, test and instrumentation, and defense and aerospace systems.

Featuring an on-chip 32-bit NCO (numerically-controlled oscillator) that allows flexible placement of the IF (intermediate frequency) carrier to optimize system performance, ADI’s AD9142 D/A converter exceeds requirements for applications that use sophisticated DPD (digital pre-distortion) techniques demanding broad signal bandwidths.

The combination of programmable interpolation rate, high sample rates, and fine NCO modulation capability gives system designers flexibility when choosing D/A converter output frequencies. This is especially helpful in meeting four- to six-carrier GSM transmission specifications and other communications standards.

Operating with the on-chip PLL (phase-locked loop) at a D/A converter output frequency of 200 MHz, the AD9142 delivers a 79-dB ACLR (adjacent-channel leakage ratio) for six-carrier GSM applications.

The AD9142 includes integrated interpolation filters with selectable interpolation factors of 2, 4, and 8. The dual D/A converter data interface supports word and byte load allowing customers to reduce input pins on lower data rates to save board space, power and cost. The AD9142 is available in a space-saving 72-pin LFCSP (lead-frame chip-scale package).

Xilinx Vivado design suite available in WebPACK edition

USA: Xilinx Inc. announced that its Vivado Design Suite is available in WebPACK Edition, giving designers immediate access to a no cost, device-limited version of the industry’s first SoC strength design environment.

Offered with the 2012.4 release of the Vivado Design Suite, WebPACK Edition provides the same IP and system-centric design flows of the Vivado Design Suite Design edition that enables up to 4x faster time to integration and implementation over alternatives.

“The WebPACK edition of Xilinx tools we’ve delivered over the years has proven to be very popular with design teams and universities with over 20,000 downloads per quarter,” said Tom Feist, Xilinx’s senior marketing director of design methodology.

“With the Vivado Design Suite 2012.4 release, we are now offering the enhanced productivity of the Vivado Design Suite to these customers and educational departments around the world.”

The Vivado Design Suite, WebPACK Edition is a free download that provides support for Artix-7 100T and 200T and Kintex-7 70T and 160T devices. The Vivado Design Suite, Design Edition is available at no additional cost to in warranty ISE Design Suite, Logic Edition and Embedded Edition customers, and Vivado Design Suite, System Edition with Vivado High-Level Synthesis is available at no additional cost to ISE Design Suite DSP and System Edition customers.

ON Semiconductor intros high-efficiency stepper motor driver IC for office automation equipment

USA: ON Semiconductor has introduced the LV8702V, a new stepper motor driver IC that delivers significantly improved efficiency versus existing products on the market. The device has been specifically designed for office automation equipment applications such as copiers, scanners and multi-function printers.

“The poor energy efficiency of stepper motors utilized in a wide range of electronics applications has for some time been an area of concern to communities the world over and a challenge to power system design engineers,” said Tsutomu Shimazaki, GM of power products for ON Semiconductor’s SANYO division.

“The LV8702V meets this challenge by providing a unique driving system that enables it to achieve no-load power consumption savings of up to 80 percent and a reduction in peak motor current of approximately 77 percent. This solution greatly assists our customers in the development of office automation electronics that meet the global demand for better energy efficiency.”

In addition to reducing overall power consumption, the LV8702V helps reduce heat generation, vibration and noise from the motor in applications such as positioning control in printers. Due to the increased efficiency, the surface temperature of the driver IC and the motor are decreased by up to 46ºC and 28ºC, respectively.

This can overcome the need for cooling fans with the corresponding space and cost savings and enhanced system reliability. The LV8702V stepper motor driver IC detects motor condition through driver waveform monitoring; power consumption is reduced by automatically reducing the current value according to the rotation speed or load of the motor. The new device has an operating voltage range of 9 volts (V) to 32 V. Protection features include output short protection, a thermal shutdown function and a step-out detection function.

The LV8702V joins ON Semiconductor’s AMIS30542/43/22/12 family of highly intelligent stepper motor control solutions with sensor-less motor feedback. This portfolio of product offerings provide designers with cost effective, leading edge performance for a broad range of applications and drive current.  Advanced functions such as stall detection, step-loss, and current drive optimization are now simple to integrate into applications where cost may have previously precluded ‘high-end’ motor control.

The LV8702V is offered in a SSOP44J package measuring 5.6 mm by 15 mm. The device is budgetary priced at $6 per unit for orders in quantities of 2,000 units.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

MOS-AK/GSA modeling working group holds winter workshop in San Francisco

USA: The MOS-AK/GSA Working Group, a global compact modeling standardization forum, has delivered their 5th international compact modeling workshop, organized on Dec. 12, 2012 in the time frame of the IEDM Conference in San Francisco.

The event was organized at swissnex receiving full sponsorship provided by leaders in electronic design automation including Agilent Technologies and Mentor Graphics. The FP7 COMMON Project, Eurotraining, and MOSIS Services were among the workshop technical program promoters. More than 40 international academic researchers and modeling engineers attended two sessions to hear 11 technical compact modeling talks.

The workshop’s two sessions focused on the advances in compact modeling for analog/RF IC design application, computer-aided design (CAD), EDA simulations highlighting recent developments of Verilog-A compact models and its standardization.

The speakers discussed: “Scaling Challenges of Analog Electronics” (Mustafa Badaroglu, IMEC); “Interactive Modeling and Online Simulation Platform” (Mansun Chan, HKUST); “Nonlinear Device Modeling With Scalable X-Parameters” (David E. Root, Agilent), “PSP Model Update” (Gert-Jan Smit, NXP); “Global Geometrical Scaling in BSIM6” (Yogesh S. Chauhan, IIT Kanpur); “KLU and PSS Implementations in NGSPICE” (Francesco Lannutti, NGSPICE), “GCC Front-End of Compact Modeling Verilog-AMS Language” (Laurent Lemaitre, Noovela); “SPICE Modeling of STT-RAM for Resilient Design” (Zihan Xu, ASU); “Modeling and Parameter Extraction of Zero-VT MOSFETs for Ultra-low-Voltage Operation” (Carlos Galup-Montoro, FUSC); “Charge Trapping Phenomena in MOSFETs” (Gilson Wirth, UFRGS), and “Consistent Parameter Extraction Using Different MOSFET Models” (Luiz Alberto Pasini Melek, FUSC).

The compact modeling panel discussion moderated by Larry Nagel concluded the MOS-AK/GSA workshop. Invited international academic researchers and modeling engineers reviewed the status of compact modeling standardization and agreed that the Verilog-A standard offers a unique platform for compact model developments, validation, exchange and implementation into commercial as well as open source CAD/EDA tools.

The panelists also pointed out the needs of further Verilog-A standard extensions and broader Verilog-AMS language definitions to better support compact device modeling, in particular focusing on Analog/RF noise applications. It is also expected that open source developers will actively contribute to standards promotion, addressing the challenges of related CAD/EDA software developments, such as Verilog-AMS debuggers supporting new model validations; and full featured, integral Verilog-AMS simulators for semiconductor device model benchmarking.

Worldwide wafer fab equipment spending to decline 9.7 percent in 2013

USA: Worldwide wafer fab equipment (WFE) spending is forecast to total $27 billion in 2013, a 9.7 percent decline from 2012, according to Gartner Inc. In 2012, WFE spending is on pace to reach $29.9 billion, a decrease of 17.4 percent from 2011 spending. The market is projected to return to growth in 2014.

Gartner said that the outlook for semiconductor equipment markets has softened due to macroeconomic weakness and that capital investment is expected to remain flat over the forecast period as memory and logic segments invest countercyclically to each other.

"In 2012, wafer fab equipment started off the year strong, as foundries and other logic manufacturers ramped up sub-30-nanometer production. The need for new equipment was stronger than originally anticipated, because strengthening demand for leading-edge devices required higher production volumes as yields had yet to reach mature levels," said Bob Johnson, research vice president at Gartner.
"However, demand for new equipment for logic production will soften as yields improve, leading to declining shipment volumes as the industry heads into 2013."

Gartner predicts that wafer fab manufacturing capacity utilization will decline below 80 percent by the end of 2012 before slowly increasing to about 85 percent by the end of 2013. Leading-edge utilization declined to the mid-80-percent range by the second half of 2012 and will move into the low-90-percent range by the end of 2013, providing for a somewhat positive capital investment environment.

Memory will continue to be weak through 2013, with maintenance-level investments for DRAM and a slightly down NAND market until supply and demand are in balance. 2014 begins a WFE growth cycle that is expected to last through 2016.

"Although a period of inventory correction that led to lowered production levels in the first half of 2012 appears to be over, inventories remain at critical levels. High inventories, combined with overall market weakness, will continue to depress utilization rates into the first half of 2013," said Johnson.

"While demand from smartphones and media tablets is producing leading-edge demand for logic production, it is not enough to bring total utilization levels up to desired levels," Johnson said. "Utilization rates will begin to climb upward again in the second quarter of 2013, as demand for chip production returns and capital spending restraints in the second half of 2012 and first half of 2013 slow new capacity additions. Overall utilization rates will return to normal levels by the end of 2013, providing continued impetus for capital investment."

The capital spending outlook has softened significantly since earlier forecasts as the rapidly decelerating macroeconomy has taken its toll on consumer spending and the resulting trickle-down effect has impacted capital spending. Gartner now expects 2012 capital spending to decline 10.7 percent, compared with a 9.3 percent drop forecast in the third quarter of 2012. Capital spending is expected to drop an additional 14.7 percent in 2013 as semiconductor manufacturers deal with excess capacity and a slow macroeconomy.

The foundry segment will see an increase in spending of about 7.4 percent next year, as both integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) and semiconductor assembly and test services (SATS) providers realize significant spending declines. Beyond 2013, memory and logic spending are expected to align, with substantial increases in 2014 followed by a flat to slightly positive 2015.

Driven by the increase in mobile devices, logic spending is the only positive driver for capital investment in 2012, increasing about 3 percent over 2011. This is driven by aggressive investment of the few top players, which are ramping up production at the sub-30-nanometer nodes.

North American semiconductor equipment industry posts Nov. 2012 book-to-bill ratio of 0.79

USA: North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted $720.4 million in orders worldwide in November 2012 (three-month average basis) and a book-to-bill ratio of 0.79, according to the November Book-to-Bill Report published today by SEMI. A book-to-bill of 0.79 means that $79 worth of orders were received for every $100 of product billed for the month.

The three-month average of worldwide bookings in November 2012 was $720.4 million. The bookings figure is 3.0 percent lower than the revised October 2012 level of $742.8 million, and is 26.3 percent lower than the November 2011 order level of $977.2 million.

The three-month average of worldwide billings in November 2012 was $911.9 million. The billings figure is 7.5 percent lower than the revised October 2012 level of $985.5 million, and is 22.5 percent less than the November 2011 billings level of $1.18 billion.

"Economic headwinds, higher chip inventory levels, and soft PC demand are among the factors tempering chip makers’ investment in additional manufacturing capacity," said Denny McGuirk, president and CEO of SEMI. "Softening in the market for new semiconductor manufacturing equipment has persisted through the second half of 2012 and the November equipment billings are at a three-year low."

HDL Design House MIPI M-PHY and D-PHY solutions available in 40nm and 65nm

SERBIA: HDL Design House, provider of high performance digital and analog IP cores and SoC design and verification services, today announced availability of MIPI M-PHY and D-PHY solutions in advanced technology nodes.

MIPI M-PHY and D-PHY solutions are fully compliant with the MIPI Alliance M-PHY and D-PHY specifications version 1.0, as the latest addition to HDL Design House FlexIP core library. These IP solutions can be combined with HDL Design House MIPI DSI and CSI-2 IP cores. As a MIPI Alliance Contributor member since 2010, HDL Design House offers high quality, silicon proven M-PHY and D-PHY solutions, available in 40nm and 60nm.

HDL Design House MIPI D-PHY is a high speed serial interface used for communication between components inside a mobile device. MIPI D-PHY can be used for point-to-point serial communications in high speed links like serial display interfaces (DSI), serial camera interfaces (CSI) and MIPI UniPro based module.

The D-PHY Link includes a high speed signaling mode for both fast data traffic and low power signaling mode for control signal purposes. The D-PHY configuration consists of one Clock Lane and up to 4 Data Lanes, and the number of Data Lanes is configurable.

Each Lane consists of an analog front end to generate electrical levels, detects signals from interconnects and translates them into digital values and control and interface logic to control I/O functions. It supports PPI (PHY Protocol Interface), and bandwidth ranges from 800 Mbps to 1 Gbps per lane depending on the process node.

HDL Design House MIPI M-PHY is a high frequency, low power IP compliant with the MIPI Alliance Standard for M-PHY version 1.0. It can be used as Physical Layer for interfaces such as camera, display, audio, video, power management and communication between BB (Base Band) and RFIC.

MIPI M-PHY supports two modes: HS (High Speed) and PWM LS (Pulse Width Modulation Low Speed), and power efficiency throughput is ensured by using burst mode. It supports both optical and electrical interfaces and multiple power saving modes. HDL Design House MIPI M-PHY can ensure data rates from 10Mbps up to 6Gbps.

HDL Design House D-PHY IP core can be used in tandem with MIPI DSI and CSI IP cores. HDL Design House MIPI M-PHY IP core can be combined with UniPro, LLI and DigRF digital controllers, also available from HDL Design House FlexIP core library.

Mentor's Nucleus Innovate program adds boards from ST to accelerate start-up development

USA: Mentor Graphics Corp. announced its Mentor Embedded Nucleus® Innovate Program has added board support for STMicroelectronics devices.

The Nucleus Innovate Program is designed to help businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenue kick-start their embedded development projects. Qualified companies can accelerate their embedded system development with software provided at no cost, including the Nucleus Real Time Operating System (RTOS), the popular Sourcery CodeBench GNU toolchain, and now, ARM-based board support packages (BSPs) for STMicroelectronics devices.

Mentor’s board support packages suit the STMicroelectronics STM32F103, STM32F105/7, STM32F205/7 and STM32L152 device families. This broad range of microcontrollers, from a global semiconductor leader and top supplier of ARM Cortex-M MCUs, target applications such as metering, audio, medical, gaming, telecommunications and networking. When combined with the Nucleus ReadyStart platform, embedded developers have a complete embedded environment to develop their system designs with greater efficiency and productivity.

“STMicroelectronics appreciates Mentor’s investment in technology start-ups and we are pleased that Mentor has chosen to include the outstanding STM32 family of MCUs in its Nucleus Innovate Program,” stated Michel Buffa, GM, Microcontroller Division, STMicroelectronics.
“We are proud to help Mentor so they can provide entrepreneurs with free embedded development software and BSPs to help these companies launch new and innovative products. This partnership is part of our global Ecosystem development fostering innovation and the spread of ST solutions.”

The Nucleus Innovate Program is ideal for applications where small footprint, high-performance, and low power matter. Customers using 32-bit MCUs, as well as single or dual-core processors, can use the Nucleus RTOS and Mentor Embedded tool capabilities. Easy-to-use demonstrations and configurations help shorten development time for medical, industrial, automotive and consumer applications—from days to minutes.

“The Nucleus Innovate Program demonstrates our shared commitment with ST for embedded product innovation targeting start-ups and other small companies,” said Scot Morrison, GM of runtime solutions, Mentor Graphics Embedded Software Division. “By offering our proven technologies to these companies at no cost, we are facilitating growth in embedded development to help our customers compete in today’s global economy.”

Dual-supply, high-precision opamp for front-end amplifier apps

USA: Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) introduced a high precision amplifier offering the industry’s best combination of offset voltage, voltage thermal drift, bandwidth, slew rate and voltage noise for front-end amplifier circuits.

The ADA4077-2 operational amplifier is specifically suited for applications in process control, chemical and environmental monitoring, motor control and electronic test and instrumentation due to its high DC precision with noise, speed and supply current applicable for the designs.

The ADA4077-2 has a typical bandwidth of 3.9 MHz and 7-nV/ÖHz voltage noise at 1 kHz while consuming only 400 µA typical at 25°C with ±15-Vdc nominal power supplies. Available in two grades for offset and thermal drift, the device provides design engineers with the flexibility to meet budget and packaging requirements.

Compared to its closest competition, the ADA4077-2 offers higher speed with lower noise, offset and drift while consuming less power, making the ADA4077-2 an ideal, cost-effective op amp for use in front end sensor interfaces in applications such as process control input modules, where high accuracy, precision, and linearity are critical to accurate measurement of sensor output.

ADA4077-2 Precision Operational Amplifier Key Features:
• Low offset voltage: 25µV maximum (B-Grade).
• Low offset voltage drift: 0.25 µV/°C maximum (B-Grade).
• Low input bias current: <1 .0=".0" maximum.="maximum." na="na" p="p">• Input voltage range: V- +1.2 V to V+ -2 V.
• Low noise: 7 nV/√Hz typical.
• Low supply current: 400 µA per amplifier typical.
• Specified for dual voltage supply operation from ±5 V to ±15 V.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sitara ARM processors launch support for Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean

USA: Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) announced the availability of a new development kit that brings Android 4.1.2 ("Jelly Bean") to TI's Sitara ARM AM335x Cortex-A8 processors.

This complete software offering allows innovators to fully evaluate Android 4.1.2 on embedded applications running on TI's Sitara processors for easier navigation that is up to two times faster than the previous version of Android.

Sitara ARM developers can now take advantage of Android 4.1.2 for feature-rich, low-power applications, including wearable gadgets such as watches, goggles, display panels for home appliances and automation, enterprise tablets, point-of-sale terminals, portable navigation devices and industrial automation.

Faster, smoother and more responsive
Complete with pre-integrated connectivity and 3D graphics capabilities, the Android 4.1.2 Development Kit provides a stable software foundation for Sitara AM335x processor-based products.

To help developers quickly and easily integrate and evaluate Android-based applications, the development kit is fully tested using the Android compatibility test suite on the AM335x evaluation module (EVM), AM335x Starter Kit and BeagleBone development boards, and a number of BeagleBone Cape Plug-in Boards such as the LCD7 Cape, DVI-D Cape and Camera Cape.

TI's Android 4.1.2 Development Kit also features:
* Integrated Android Open Accessory protocol support, allowing connectivity to any Android-based accessory with AM335x products.
* Haptics feedback, accelerometer, and ambient light sensors.
* Soft navigation keys, supported on landscape displays to help customers build products without any mechanical keys on-board.
* Multiple USB features, including USB pen drive support and USB-based camera capture and preview.
* 3D graphics using Imagination Technologies' POWERVR SGX OpenGL accelerator drivers and libraries.
* Application notes, guides and test results to help developers with their designs.

"Android 4.1.2 offers a faster and easier interface that makes transitions between applications smoother and the latest graphics effects stand out," said Adrian Valenzuela , marketing director, Sitara ARM processors, TI. "This enables developers who are leveraging Sitara's AM335x processors to create robust embedded applications for better user experiences."

The Android 4.1.2 Development Kit for TI's Sitara ARM Cortex-A8 processors is available for free download today, with no development or production restrictions.

Renesas releases USB-IF certified USB 3.0 hub controller

JAPAN & USA: Renesas Electronics Corp. announced that its latest Universal Serial Bus 3.0 (USB 3.0) hub controller (part number uPD720210) has passed USB 3.0 compliance and certification testing by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).

It is one of the world’s first USB 3.0 hub controllers to achieve this recognition, following Renesas’ world’s first USB 3.0 host controller certification in 2009.

The “Certified SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0)” certification from the USB-IF offers manufacturers and consumers the assurance that the device will function in accordance with the specification and will interoperate with the billions of USB-enabled devices that exist in the market today.

Renesas has continued its effort to create USB certified devices, including its world's first certified USB 3.0 xHCI (eXtensive Host Controller Interface) controller (part number uPD720200), its three descendants, and a USB 3.0 SATA bridge (part number uPD720230). Renesas Electronics now offers six USB-IF-certified USB 3.0 products, which will pave the way for the swell of industry support for the USB 3.0 standard.

Samples of Renesas Electronics' USB-IF-certified uPD720210 hub controller are available now, priced at $3.50 per unit.

1HDec NAND flash prices drop by 1-2 percent, mild downtrend to continue to January

TAIWAN: According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, although the year-end peak replenishment period for system products has passed, with NAND Flash manufacturers continuing to undertake production cuts for retail markets,1HDec NAND Flash contract prices have dipped by approximately1-2 percent compared to the amount in 2HNov.

While SK Hynix experienced a temporary power shortage on 12/11, the company's NAND Flash business and production, on the whole, remain unaffected. The spot prices, as such, experienced a mild increase, although overall demand for NAND Flash is still relatively weak. With regards to the market, given that most of the smartphone and tablet makers' peak replenishment efforts for Christmas took place during late November and early December, and factoring in the potential effects of the year-end settlement and inventory-related issues, buyer momentum and demand within the market have been relatively tepid.

Prices, on the other hand, are stable in 1HDec, given that NAND Flash manufacturers have been increasing the proportion of system products shipped, and that shipments related to retail market products are continuing to undergo reductions.
Looking ahead, numerous NAND Flash clients are displaying a bearish attitude towards the sales performance of the Chinese New Year, and plan to remain conservative until the European and US market results are revealed.

As market demand gradually weakens following December, even with the NAND Flash vendors' cautious supply control strategies, TrendForce predicts the partially stable, partially mild downtrend associated with NAND Flash prices to remain unchanged.

Conexant launches high-definition voice capture IC

USA: Conexant Systems Inc. announced the CX20810, its new high-performance, high-definition voice capture IC targeted to voice interactive products, voice conferencing systems, Skype TV/STB webcam, and surveillance.

The CX20810 is the industry’s first high-performance audio analog to digital converter (ADC) with pre-amp, which maximizes the signal-to-noise ratio of a microphone’s input path with a constant, low gain across a long range (up to five meters).

This latest offering from Conexant complements its portfolio of turnkey Far-Field Voice Input Processor SoC solutions. For designers with existing systems running voice processing algorithms, the CX20810 helps them unleash the system’s true performance potential.

Traditional microphone ADCs with limited dynamic range require dynamic adjustment of the PGA gain to avoid either saturation of the speech signal, or degradation of its signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) due to the high ADC self-noise floor. Addressing this issue, the CX20810 has a significant dynamic range of 106dB and maximizes the signal quality to avoid saturation while maintaining the SNR from the microphone.

When used in an acoustic echo cancellation (AEC) system, the CX20810 maintains the SNR of a low-level voice signal while avoiding echo saturation and therefore captures the full scale speech signal without the saturation caused by high echo feedback.

“There are a broad range of voice interactive and audio capturing devices entering the consumer electronics market,” noted Saleel Awsare, VP and GM, Conexant.

“In light of this, designers must carefully select the A to D converter that best matches their particular system in order to deliver the intended user experience. Our new high-performance audio ADC with pre-amp removes system bottlenecks and eliminates audio signal artifacts caused by saturation.”

Conexant’s CX20810 features high resolution digital and analog gain control over a wide range – allowing for the selection of an optimum operating point for microphones with a wide range of sensitivity. A smooth gain ramping circuit enables the dynamic adjustment of microphone gain. The CX20810 supports a microphone array with up to four synchronized ADCs and programmable preamplifiers, each with a dedicated microphone bias supply to eliminate crosstalk.

Worldwide semiconductor revenue declined 3 percent in 2012

USA: Worldwide semiconductor revenue has totaled $298 billion in 2012, a 3 percent decline from 2011 revenue of $307 billion, according to preliminary results by Gartner Inc.

The top 25 semiconductor vendors' revenue declined 4.2 percent, more than the industry average, and accounted for a smaller portion of the industry's total revenue — 68.2 percent in 2012, compared with 69.2 percent in 2011.

The industry was expected to show little growth in the early part of 2012, although order rates were expected to creep up in the second half, paving the way for a recovery phase in 2013. However, the expected renewal did not occur in 2012. Third quarter order rates were below seasonal expectations, and guidance for the fourth quarter of 2012 forecast further declines.

"Uncertainty about the state of the macroeconomy, coupled with ongoing inventory overhang, sent ripples through the semiconductor industry," said Steve Ohr, research director at Gartner. "The hardest hit areas include the PC supply chain, memory, analog and discrete components. The PC business, ordinarily a growth driver, was on a negative slope for the first time in many years. PC production declined 2.5 percent in 2012. Even the smartphone juggernaut had begun to show signs of maturing, though it remained the strongest driver for revenue growth in 2012."

Intel recorded a 2.7 percent revenue decline (see Table 1), mostly due to declining PC sales. However, the company did hold onto the No. 1 market share position for the 21st consecutive year, capturing 16.6 percent of the 2012 semiconductor market, its best performance ever.

Table 1. Top 10 Semiconductor Vendors by Revenue, Worldwide, 2012 (Millions of Dollars)
Source: Gartner (Dec. 2012).|

At No. 2, Samsung Electronics saw its semiconductor revenue fall due to declines in its three major product areas, DRAM, NAND flash and system integrated circuit (IC). Bucking the industry trend and rising three places to No. 3, Qualcomm attributed its 29.6 percent growth to continued adoption of smartphones and the growth of 3G and LTE technology in emerging regions, such as China and India.

The only other top 10 semiconductor vendor to record positive growth in 2012 was Broadcom, which rose from the 10th to the ninth position with growth of 8.8 percent. While part of the company's year-over-year performance gain was attributed to the acquisition of NetLogic Microsystems, the highest organic growth in the company was once again achieved by the Mobile and Wireless division, which grew close to double digits. Broadcom's third division, Broadband, bounced back from a revenue decline in 2011 by growing in the mid single digits in 2012.

As a group, memory makers suffered the most. DRAM makers suffered from rapid price declines, while the NAND flash market also saw strong price declines as a consequence of sluggish bit growth. Overall, Samsung's semiconductor revenue was down 8.7 percent, and SK Hynix's was down 11.2 percent.