By Mark LaPedus
Change is in store for Taiwan’s United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), which is struggling to keep up with its leading-edge foundry rivals. UMC is behind in 28nm technology, and plans to skip the 20nm node, thereby jumping from 28nm to finFETs. This week, UMC took more steps to revamp its strategy. UMC has turned its 300mm fab in Singapore from a leading-edge logic plant into a specialty process production and R&D facility. Technologies being developed in this fab include CMOS image sensor backside illumination, embedded memory, high-voltage applications and TSV connections.
Intel’s new CEO Brian Krzanich has implemented a sweeping reorganization at the chipmaker, according to Reuters.
ST-Ericsson, the failed cell-phone chip venture between STMicroelectronics and Ericsson, has sold its GPS mobile business to Intel, according to Reuters. “Intel has purchased ST Ericsson’s mobile GPS, called GNSS (or Global Navigation Satellite System) business unit which includes assets and IP associated with the business,” said Doug Freedman, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets. “We believe the acquisition is prudent as Intel is expected to grow its competitive presence in the mobile area, particularly in 2014 when mobile manufacturing is moved to leading-edge 14nm. Note that Intel does offer high-performance LNAs (low-noise amplifiers) using GiSe:C for GPS signals in mobile communications.”
A group of 19 European companies and academic institutions have launched a three-year, 360 million Euro ($464.5 million) pilot-line project to support the industrialization of fully depleted silicon-on-insulator (FD-SOI) technology. STMicroelectronics and GlobalFoundries will provide the manufacturing capabilities for the program.
Separately, GlobalFoundries also is joining Imec’s advanced MRAM project.
STMicroelectronics said its FD-SOI guru, Jean-Marc Chery, has been appointed general manager of the Embedded Processing Solutions Segment and vice-chairman of the corporate strategic committee. Chery will now be responsible for the digital convergence, imaging, BiCMOS ASIC and silicon photonics, and microcontroller, memory and secure MCU product groups, as well as for the related technology R&D and front-end manufacturing. He was formerly general manager of ST’s Digital Sector and of technology R&D and manufacturing.
Soitec announced the industry’s first four-junction solar cell for concentrator photovoltaic systems. The system has 43.6% efficiency.
North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted a book-to-bill ratio of 1.08 in April, down from 1.11 in March, according to SEMI.
Mentor Graphics reported its financial results for the company’s fiscal first quarter ended April 30. “Sales force execution and strong customer demand produced an all-time bookings record for a first quarter,” said Walden Rhines, chairman and CEO of Mentor Graphics.
Mentor Graphics has teamed with OpSIS and Lumerical Solutions to develop a complete EDA-style, full flow process design kit (PDK) for the OpSIS IME (Institute of Microelectronics) silicon photonics process.
In a move to ease and speed the development of complex ICs, Cadence introduced the Tempus Timing Signoff Solution, which significantly speeds up signoff using up to hundreds of processors in parallel.
Look for changes at Tessera Technologies. The chip-packaging IP firm has entered into a settlement agreement with activist firm Starboard Value regarding the composition of the company’s board. The board will consist of 10 directors, including six of Starboard’s nominees and four of Tessera’s nominees.
Now, Starboard Value is looking to gain control of DSP Group. The firm owns approximately 10.1% of DSP Group’s outstanding common stock.
Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) has acquired shares of Wuxi Tongzhi Microelectronics from Toshiba. The move will strengthen ASE’s ability to provide IC assembly and testing services in China.
Worldwide semiconductor revenues decreased by 2.2% to $295 billion in 2012, according to IDC. The firm expects the semiconductor market to return to growth in 2013 with revenues forecast to increase by 3.5% this year.
A slowdown in notebook and desktop PC purchases coupled with strong growth in smartphones and tablet PCs knocked Advanced Micro Devices down to fourth place in microprocessor sales in 2012 from second, according to IC Insights. Moving ahead of AMD in the 2012 microprocessor rankings were Qualcomm and Samsung.
The solar photovoltaic (PV) market is poised to rise from the ashes of its 2011 crisis to grow to $155 billion in 2018, says Lux Research. In the most likely scenario, the PV market will grow at a modest clip to 35 GW in 2013 before rapidly ramping up to 61.7 GW in 2018.