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07.18.2016 JAPAN'S SOFTBANK BUYS IPHONE CHIP MAKER ARM FOR $32 BILLION
 

Japanese tech giant SoftBank is set to buy chip designer ARM in an all-cash deal worth $32.2 billion.

ARM is one of the U.K.’s most successful tech companies and is the most valuable technology company in terms of market value that is listed on the London Stock Exchange. 

“ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the ‘Internet of Things’,” said Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank.

ARM is most famous for designing microchips used in Apple iPhones, with more than 95 percent of all smartphones using the technology.

The news was welcomed by Matt Hancock, the U.K.’s new minister of state for Digital and Culture, who tweeted on Monday that the acquisition “highlights Britain’s capability to grow and build world-beating tech companies.” 

Members of the ARM board are expected to advise shareholders to accept the offer, which holds a premium of more than 40 percent on Friday’s closing share price.

“ARM is an outstanding company with an exceptional track record of growth,” said Stuart Chambers, chairman of ARM. “The board believes that by accessing all the resources that SoftBank has to offer, ARM will be able to further accelerate the use of ARM-based technology wherever computing happens.”

08.31.2016 AMD deal a big boost for GlobalFoundries
 

 GlobalFoundries' Fab 8 will supply Advanced Micro Devices with its leading-edge computer chips through at least the end of 2020, under an amended agreement announced by AMD Wednesday.
The extension assures a long-term market for GlobalFoundries.
"This is a five-year extension," said Thomas Caulfield, general manager of GlobalFoundries' Fab 8 semiconductor plant, which has 3,000 employees. "We've never done one of that length in the past."
The extension comes as AMD rolls out its newest microprocessors and graphics chips, which have been getting positive reviews.
Last month, at a demonstration in San Francisco, AMD's new Zen processor, produced at GlobalFoundries, outperformed rival Intel Corp.'s most powerful chip. News of the event boosted AMD shares by 10 percent.
Fab 8 is producing processors at the 14-nanometer level, but expects a move to processors with transistors of 7 nanometers.
"This deal cements our next-generation technology of seven nanometers," Caulfield said of the amendment.
How small is 7 nanometers?
A thousand 7-nanometer transistors could fit on a cross-section of the human hair, Caulfield said.
The agreement also has advantages for AMD.
"The five-year amendment further strengthens our strategic manufacturing relationship with GlobalFoundries while providing AMD with increased flexibility to build our high-performance product road map with additional foundries in the 14 nanometer and 7 nanometer technology nodes," said Lisa Su, AMD president and CEO. "Our goal is for AMD to have continued access to leading-edge foundry process technologies enabling us to build multiple generations of great products for years to come."
AMD spun off its manufacturing operations in 2009, creating what became GlobalFoundries. Foundries execute the designs produced by fabless companies such as AMD, Qualcomm and Nvidia.
As part of the amended agreement, AMD will pay GlobalFoundries $100 million by late 2017, as well as continuing quarterly payments beginning in 2017.
GlobalFoundries' execution of 14-nanometer production is expected to benefit its other customers as well.
"We have numerous customers here enjoying the success of 14-nanometer technology," Caulfield said. "Fab 8 is one of the few places in the world you can do this technology. It's not a very crowded field.
"It means we're a viable business," Caulfield added when asked about the supply agreement's impact on possible job growth. "And iable businesses get to play another day."

09.03.2016 By 2040, computers will need more electricity than the world can generate
 

Without much fanfare, the Semiconductor Industry Association earlier this month published a somewhat-bleak assessment of the future of Moore's Law – and at the same time, called “last drinks” on its decades-old International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS).

The industry's been putting together the roadmap every two years since the 1990s, when there were 19 leading-edge chip vendors. Today, there are just four – Intel, TSMC, Samsung and Global Foundries – and there's too much road to map, so the latest ITRS – written last year and officially published this month – will be the last.

The group recently suggested that the industry is approaching a point where economics, rather than physics, becomes the Moore's Law roadblock. The further below 10 nanometres transistors go, the harder it is to make them economically.

That will put a post-2020 premium on stacking transistors in three dimensions without gathering too much heat for them to survive.

In filing its last return, so to speak, the association says computing is facing a lot of crunch points far more serious than keeping Moore's Law going.

The biggest is electricity. The world's computing infrastructure already uses a significant slice of the world's power, and the ITRS says the current trajectory is self-limiting: by 2040, as the chart below shows, computing will need more electricity than the world can produce.

Another problem is that there are too many balls in the air for the semiconductor industry to be the only juggler. Apart from power consumption, it lists seven other research areas a confab of industry, government and academia see as critical: cyber-physical systems; intelligent storage; realtime communication; multi-level and scalable security; manufacturing; “insight” computing; and the Internet of Things.

A quarter of a century ago, the business of setting research priorities looked easy: microprocessors, memory, storage and communications all looked like they had a predictable trajectory. That made an industry consensus relatively easy to achieve.

One thing that's obvious in the list of research priorities is that a focus on feature size and clock speed is no longer enough: the ITRS documents a shift in which applications drive design. In discussing the change, IEEE Spetrum also notes that the big customers (like Google, Apple, Samsung, and blueprint shop Qualcomm) are calling the shots, rather than semiconductor companies.

With fewer vendors in the industry and such a large to-do list, the ITRS states the industry can't set research priorities without help:

“The U.S. semiconductor community—including government, industry and academia—will be able to take these critical steps only through partnership and focused funding. A National Computing and Insight Technology Ecosystem initiative will support development of an aggressive research agenda and a leap forward in new knowledge. Together, the community must exploit the rapidly developing opportunities to reboot, expand, and extend the IT revolution, and thereby ensure the United States of robust, long-term information technology leadership”

That initiative – N-CITE in short – was foreshadowed by the group in January, when it said such an effort should be part of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NCSI)

09.06.2016 TI launches the first DDR memory-termination linear regulator for space applications
 

Texas Instruments (TI)  introduced the industry’s first double-data-rate (DDR) memory linear regulator for space applications. The TPS7H3301-SP is the only DDR regulator immune to single-event effects up to 65 megaelectron volts per centimeter squared (MeV-cm2), powering space-satellite payloads including single-board computers, solid-state recorders and other memory applications.

Integrating two monolithic power field-effect transistors (FETs) for source and sink termination and an internal voltage reference, the TPS7H3301-SP is up to 50 percent smaller than a switch-mode regulator DDR solution. To see a live demonstration of the new regulator and learn about other products from TI’s leading-edge radiation-hardened portfolio, visit Booth 43 during the 2016 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conference (NSREC), starting today.

Key features and benefits:

Small size: At 0.16 square inches, the device is up to 50 percent smaller than a switch-mode regulator DDR solution, delivering critical weight and launch cost savings.
Superior radiation performance: Along with industry-leading immunity, the device withstands a total ionizing dose of up to 100 krad. Its stable termination power supply ensures that single-event effects do not impact read-and-write operations.
Easy design-in: Designers can pair the TPS7H3301-SP with the TPS50601-SP buck converter to create the smallest complete power solution for DDR memory. As with TI’s entire space portfolio, designers have access to a full suite of support resources, including comprehensive radiation reports, on-demand training and Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis (SPICE) models.
Maximum export: The device is controlled under U.S. Department of Commerce Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) EAR99.
Tools and support to jump-start designs

Designers can reduce development time and quickly complete worst-case circuit analysis by downloading a full-capability linear regulator SPICE model.

Package, availability and pricing

The TPS7H3301-SP is available now in a 16-pin dual-ceramic flat package that is Qualified Manufacturer List (QML) Class V and 100 krad (silicon) radiation hardness assurance (RHA) qualified (5962R1422801VXC). You can obtain more information about this device from the Defense Logistics Agency. 

09.20.2016 Intel: Our laser chips will make sites like Google and Facebook faster
 

Laser light has made its way into a new product line Intel expects will speed up the data centers at the heart of online services like Google search and Facebook social networking.

After years of research, the chipmaker has begun selling a product using a technology called silicon photonics that builds lasers directly into computer chips. That means communications can take place using light traveling over glass fiber-optic cables that can carry much more data than electrons on traditional copper wires.

"We see a future where silicon photonics optical input-output is everywhere in the data center," said Diane Bryant, general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, at the company's Intel Developer Forum Wednesday in San Francisco.

It's not technology you'll plug into your PC or phone any time soon, but silicon photonics could help you out. That's because data centers packed with thousands of servers are shouldering more and more work -- everything from Facebook's face recognition to Google's language translation. Opening up communication bottlenecks between those servers means new services are economical and existing ones can run faster.

Intel's first silicon photonics communication chips can transfer data at 100 gigabits per second -- roughly 100 times faster than home Wi-Fi under the most optimistic circumstances. A next-generation version will quadruple that to 400Gbps, Intel said.

Servers' data appetite has been growing explosively, said Kushagra Vaid, general manager of cloud hardware engineering for Microsoft's widely used Azure server infrastructure. Copper cables already struggle to hit 25Gbps with lengths just 10 feet long, he said, but silicon photonics could help the company scale to the next level.

"When we get to 100 gigabits per second, we're going to hit a brick wall," Vaid said. "That's where silicon photonics is very interesting. It's a great way for us to continue that scaling."

Fiber optics are widely used for long-haul communication links like undersea cables. Intel and other photonics fans expect integrating laser communications into chips will lower costs for the technology so it can be used for shorter distances within data centers and eventually inside a computer chassis.

Intel's new module can send signals as far as 1.2 miles -- an immense improvement over copper cabling.

Intel isn't alone in the market. IBM, Luxtera, Fujitsu and Silicon Valley startups are working on silicon photonics, too.

09.28.2016 Samsung Electronics to Change Its Strategy on Semiconductor Foundry Business
 

Samsung Electronics is changing its strategy on semiconductor foundry business from mass-production of small amount of goods to small amount of production of variety of goods. This is its measure to get out of sales structure that had been depending on one or two major companies such as Apple and Qualcomm. To implement this strategy, Samsung Electronics has decided to open its foundry factories to small and medium companies and is focusing everything on doing business on potential small and medium companies in the U.S., South Korea, and China. It has decided to carry out a strategy called ‘open foundry’.
According to an industry on the 22nd , Samsung Electronics is going to hold ‘Samsung Foundry Forum’ in Shanghai on the 30th. Samsung Electronics invited people who are responsible for design from major Chinese fabless companies.
Samsung Electronics is planning to announce technologies of major processes from its foundries and information on supporting design. Samsung Electronics already invited potential customers to Silicon Valley and Pankyo on the 19th of April and the 6th of July respectively, announced major processes and information on supporting design, and carried out active business activities.
Not only is Samsung Electronics going to share its high-tech processes such as 14-nano and 10-nano FinFET but it is also going to share 28-nano FD-SOI (Fully Depleted-Silicon On Insulator) that increases efficiency in production cost and open factories for 65 to 130-nano processes from 200mm semiconductor factories. In a case for FD-SOI, Samsung Electronics has secured golden yield when it tested FD-SOI and is going to start mass-producing FD-SOI in third quarter. It also attracted South Korean and foreign small and medium fabless companies as new customers for its 65 to 130-nano fabrication facilities
“We are producing 32-bit MCU through Samsung Electronics’ 65-nano e-Flash process.” said a Vice-President Chae Jae-ho who overseas Above Semiconductor’s Development Headquarters. “We are going to successfully enter 32-bit MCU markets based on Samsung’s advanced technical skills in processes.”
Samsung Electronics has chosen reduction of production cost due to reduction of areas of chips and increase in yield as strengths of its foundry. When its XC (X-Cross) technology that makes 45° metal wiring possible is used, areas can be reduced significantly even when designs are the same. When areas of chips are reduced, production cost can be reduced also. Samsung Electronics is also going to establish database to see if there are any faults from particular patterns and implement prism service that filters out these faults from GDS. It is going to send files from finished design to third companies for customers that worry about security and it also established a process that manufacturers masks (metal discs that have circuit patterns engraved).
To settle its new strategy, Samsung Electronics is also joining hands with South Korean and foreign design houses. HanaTech, AlphaChips, and KoreaChips are major partners from South Korea while AllChip, e-Silicon, and VeriSilicon are becoming design house partners from other countries. When fabless companies make and send design code of chips, design houses are in charge of back-end work such as manufacturing and testing masks that will be used for actual wafer process based on IP of foundry companies’ processes.
A reason why Samsung Electronics is changing its strategy on foundry business is to prevent itself from faltering by depending on one or two customers.
“It is a positive sign that Samsung Electronics has opened door for its foundry business, which was only opened to some strategic partners, to small and medium companies.” said a representative for South Korea’s semiconductor industry. “Now South Korean fabless companies can carry out their businesses within positive environment.”
“I hope that Samsung will build trust with its customers by continuously providing foundry services with high quality.” said a different representative.
 

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