By Dr. Phil Garrou, Contributing Editor
The IC industry “poker championship” is down to the last table
The IC industry started out like a poker championship tournament. Hundreds of players, through the years, put up their entry fee to compete ( i.e. paying for their fabs) and the competition began. The most money was always made at the advanced nodes, i.e. the leading edge. There were winners and losers through the decades and we are finally down to the last table of players TSMC, Samsung, GlobalFoundries and Intel.
Last week, GlobalFoundries (GF) CEO Tom Caulfield announced that GF is putting its 7nm FinFET program on hold indefinitely and restructuring its research and development teams to support “…its enhanced portfolio initiatives”. The company will shift development resources to focus on its 14/12nm FinFET platform, “…delivering a range of innovative IP and features including RF, embedded memory, low power and more”. To support this transition, GF will initiate a ~ 5% global workforce reduction, however a significant number of top technologists will reportedly be redeployed on the 14/12nm FinFET programs [link].
Gary Patton, GF’s CTO added “…the number of players going into these advanced nodes has dropped significantly as result of the dramatic increasing costs to design in these leading-edge technologies… … then you look at the R&D cost …the R&D cost of these leading-edge nodes has been going up exponentially”
If you’re a long time reader of IFTLE, you already knew that!
On the heels of this announcement, AMD has announced that they will move all of its 7nm production on both CPUs and GPUs to TSMC [link]
Intel who launched their 14nm process in 2014 initially forecast their 10nm process for late 2016. Then that schedule slipped back to 2018. Now it’s slipped back into late 2019. These “Cannon Lake” delays are widely reported due to yield issues. [link]
Not good news for Intel when added to reports from Bloomberg that Apple will start using their own chips in their products starting ~ 2020 (program code name “Kalamata”)[link]. Apple reportedly produces 5% of Intels income.
As we have been saying in IFTLE for many years now, the front end, node to node march called Moore’s Law is not dead, but certainly has been marginalized to the point where only a select few with major $$ and volume applications can play. For the rest of us, packaging is the new game in town and you better start learning the options that you have there.
A History Lesson for the Younger Crowd
Seeing all the global 20 somethings attending conferences like the ECTC is stimulating because it means our industry will continue to have a bright future. Talking to them reminds me that every now and then they need a history lesson so they can understand where all this came from.
I found the following schematic of the origins of our industry in a 1997 business week article. So if you have ever said “Who is Fairchild” and why does anyone care about them…here is the answer. As you can see some were winners and some were not.
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