Mobility now driving the industry

It’s apparent that the world’s appetite for electronics has never been greater. That has increasingly taken the form of mobile electronics, including smartphones, tablets and tablets and the new “phablets.” People want to watch movies and live sports on their phones. They want their mobile devices to be “situationally aware” and even capable of monitoring their health through sensors. That drives higher bandwidth (6G is on the drawing board), faster data rates and a demand for reduced power consumption to conserve battery life. At the same time, “big data” and the internet of things (IoT) are here, which drives the demand for server networks and high performance semiconductors, as well as integrated sensors and inventive gadgets such as flexible displays and human biosensor networks.

All of this is pushing the semiconductor manufacturing industry and related industry (MEMS, displays, packaging and integration, batteries, etc.) in new directions. The tradeoffs that chipmakers must manager between power, performance, area and cost/complexity (PPAC) are now driven not by PCs, but by mobile devices.

In a keynote address at Semicon West 2013, Ajit Monacha, CEO of Global Foundries, expanded on his Foundry 2.0 concept, talking about how the requirements of mobile devices were, in fact, changing the entire semiconductor industry. He noted that the mobile business is forecast to be double the size of the PC market in 2016. The mobile business drives many new requirements, said Manocha, including power, performance and features, higher data rates, high resolution multicore processors and thinner form factors.

Manocha presented the audience with what he sees as today’s Big Five Challenges: cost, device architectures, lithography and EUV, packaging and the 450mm wafer transition. I don’t recall when cost wasn’t an issue, but an audience poll revealed that most people believe economic challenges will be the main factor limiting industry growth, not technical challenges. I agree, but I’m also thinking new applications will emerge particularly in the health field that could push the industry in yet another new direction.

Peter Singer, Editor-in-Chief

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