Tag: 28nm

AMD samples Seattle with PR metaphors

AMD began sampling its Opteron A1100 64-bit ARM processors (codenamed “Seattle”) and is already touting using as many mixed metaphors as its PR department can think up.

CEO Rory Read said that Seattle was a “key milestone” in an “ambidextrous strategy” and that the company planned to begin shipping the chips in the final quarter of 2014. After all, left and righted handed people are so dependent on milestones.

Read said Seattle was the industry is first at 28nm technology, positioning AMD as the only SoC provider to bridge the x86 and ARM ecosystems for server applications.

Resorting to a surfing metaphor, Read said that AMD was catching it just as the “wave is forming”. This is going to be an important market over the next three, five, 10 years, he claimed. Of course the tube could collapse and leave AMD looking silly with its legs in the air while the board goes flying.

Meanwhile, Lisa Su, AMD’s SVP and GM of global business units, said that many customers were interested in Seattle, but she is not sure how much of that interest will actually translate into cash sales.

“Relative to revenue”, it’s probably too early to tell what’s going to happen in 2015… but interest in the platform is quite high, she said.

She said that it was important that AMD get some of the ecosystem there, we guess that means that AMD needs to make sure that the energy, water, nitrogen and soil minerals and other abiotic components are functioning correctly.

Su said that it was also important to have SeaMicro systems working with Seattle but she refused to put a date on the launch of such SeaMicro Fabric servers, clarifying that the “Q4 statement was a chip statement.”

The upcoming 64-bit ARM-based server SoCs (system-on-chip) from AMD will be available with four or eight ARMv8-based Cortex A57 cores, up to 4MB of shared Level 2 cache, 8MB of shared Level 3 cache, eight PCI-Express Gen 3 lanes, two 10 GB/s Ethernet, and eight SATA 3 ports. Further, the A-series chips support up to 128GB of DDR3 or DDR4 ECC memory as unbuffered DIMMs, registered DIMMs or SODIMMs. 

Intel announces Bay Trail tablet CPU: Part One

Wednesday’s IDF Keynote started by asking the audience to stand for a moment of silence in remembrance of lives lost on 9-11 in 2001. From there, it was business as usual with product hype and promises of future success.

Intel seems to be spotlighting health. It opened with a feel-good video of Jack Andraka, child prodigy and biology whiz. Andraka is a high school sophomore who won the youth achievement Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in December 2012 for inventing a new method to detect a lethal form of pancreatic cancer.

From there, Intel moved into its theme of “The Internet of Things.” One thing that aroused curiosity was a dull white plastic wristband on every seat. It became an attention-getter later in the programme. In the meantime, everyone got a shot at the podium to talk about their pet project.

Doug Fisher, VP General Manager Software and Services Group, gave a few brief remarks, then introduced Dr. Herman Eul, VP General Manager Mobile and Communications Group. He started off with a video about MTV and Intel getting together to improve the audience’s experience because they do not really understand how wireless works, and what are its limitations.

Eul said the goal is to make the mobile platform smarter, the CPU more powerful, and the imaging performance better. He did a brief introduction of “Bay Trail,” the next-generation Atom Z3000 ,  focusing on it being used as a gaming platform. He showed that it is capable of running Windows – which is called heavy legacy software – or running Android OS, Apple OS, Chrome OS, or Linux OS. Bay Trail is a 64-bit processor, built using Intel’s Silvermont 22nm micro-architecture. There will be six variants of the chip available – with dual and quad-core configurations. Clock speeds will range from 1.8GHz to 2.4GHz.

Bay Trail’s Hardware and Software supports:  

  • Windows (32/64-bit) and/or Android and/or Chrome
  • Displays resolutions up to 2500 x 1600 (Retina display)
  • Dual independent displays
  • Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) technology
  • Up to 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM
  • USB 3, HDMI, Displayport, SD card, NFC, 4G, Wi-Fi, GPS
  • X 11, Open GL 3.0 graphics
  • Up to 13MP camera on the rear with Zero shutter lag, burst mode, digital video stabilization, 1080p recording at 60FPS and up to 2MP on the front.

Eul then brought Victoria Molina on stage, a fashion industry consultant and former executive for Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, and the Gap, who explained her virtual shopping experience application. They developed it using the Intel Android SDK in about a week  – but gave no information on the experience level of their programmers.

Molina said the most important part of this application is the fit map, an important factor in making the apparel attractive on the wearer, to attain a “cool” outcome. The application uses an avatar based around the person’s measurements, height and weight, and a facial photograph. The shopper goes out to the web site where they want to shop and chooses the clothing to virtually try on before purchasing. Next, the website pulls up sample clothing from their product lines.

After you build your ensemble of clothing, then you can adjust the clothing so the fit is tight, medium, or loose. After deciding on your look, you go through the “Cat Walk” show-n-tell process. That means the avatar is dressed with each one of the outfits in the size and drape you want and it looks like you are a model on a fashion show runway. Molina said, “This will revolutionise the online shopping experience. Because of the huge “cool factor”.

Next, Intel focused on a Bay Trail small-form-factor tablet running and editing videos. Eul invited Jerry Shen, chief executive of Asus, to introduce its T100, a 2-in-1 Bay Trail notebook with over ten hours of battery life. “We are very excited about the Bay Trail quad-core promise,” Shen said.

Asus is more optimistic than Intel regarding battery longevity. Intel claims Bay Trail tablets could weigh as little 14.1 ounces and offer more than eight hours of battery life when the users are watching high-definition video.

Neil Hand, Dell’s VP of Tablets, showed its  Venue 8-inch, Windows 8.1, Bay Trail tablet that is going to be shipping soon. He said it has 4G LTE.
Eul talked briefly about upcoming Merryfield, a 22nm SoC which is build on the Silvermont architecture specifically for smartphones. We were told that Airmont, a 14nm process engineering SoC with all the features of Bay Trail for tablets, is on schedule for Q3 2014 release.

Finally, Eul satisfied our curiosity by showing his audio DJ idea which activated those dull white plastic bracelets that were sitting on each chair. A video was projected onto the giant screens in the auditorium showing the Keynote audience and the wristbands lighting up in synch with Eul’s music.

The presentation took another turn with Kirk Skaugen, Senior VP General Manager PC Client Group at Intel which will be covered in part two.

TSMC reiterates 450mm push

Foundry-for-hire TSMC has reiterated plans to build its first 450mm wafer plant by 2017.

The new plant will offer FinFET transistor technology at 10nm and 7mm nodes and it should be completed in 2016 or 2017. The company also expects to adopt extreme ultraviolet lithography for the 10nm node by 2017. 

The company said that it will invest a record $1.5 billion on research and development this year, marking a new record. TSMC’s R&D spending totalled just over $1 billion in 2010, it hit $1.36 billion last year and it will continue to go up over the next few years. The company is speeding up 16nm and 10nm development and it hopes to start building 16nm FinFET chips next year.

Although some optimists were hoping to see 20nm parts from TSMC by the end of this year, CEO Morris Chang said the company will start volume production of 20nm products in 2014, reports Digitimes.

However, TSMC will not ditch 28nm anytime soon. In fact, it is still expanding 28nm capacity and it hopes to increase capacity to 100,000 300mm wafers by the end of the year. Chang said TSMC will expand its 28nm capacity threefold in 2013 over 2012.

Quarter of wafer capacity dedicated to sub 40nm processes

As chipmakers struggle to go beyond 22nm and 28nm, it seems older processes are dying faster than Gangnam Style. A recent report by IC Insights shows that more than a quarter of installed wafer capacity is dedicated to sub-40nm process geometries. 

At the end of 2012 sub-40nm plants were capable of churning out more than 3.9 million wafers a month, accounting for 27.3 percent of total worldwide production. At the same time 40nm to 60nm processes account for 18.8 percent, while 80nm to 60nm has a 7.6 percent share. 

Mature processes, used for high-voltage ICs in the 80nm to 400nm range, still make up about 35 percent of total wafer production. 

Intel is already at 22nm, while other foundries are still at 28nm, although TSMC and Globalfoundries are rather upbeat when it comes to their 20nm transition. Although the market for PC CPUs and big GPUs is shrinking, strong demand for mobiles is boosting demand for high performance SoCs and high density DRAM.

ASML teams up with Globalfoundries

Dutch semiconductor equipment maker ASML said that one of its subsidiaries will collaborate with Globalfoundries in an effort to accelerate the development of future nodes.

Brion Technologies will work with GloFo to deliver high volume computational lithography capabilities for 20nm and 28nm tapeouts. ASML’s approach to holistic lithography, it is claimed, can enable both process window enhancement and process window control from design to mask tapeout to chip manufacturing. It argues it can do this by leveraging the putational model accuracy from tight integration with the ASML scanners including FlexRayTM & FlexWaveTM.

“At 28nm and below it is necessary to explore and realize every possible process window improvement to achieve a manufacturable patterning solution,” said Globalfoundries senior fellow Chris Spence. “We have found that Brion’s OPC and Computational Lithography solutions enable us to achieve this goal and ensure the best possible yield for Globalfoundries’ customers.”

Jim Koonmen, general manager of Brion Technologies said the new technologies will be used in future notes, including 14nm. 

Qualcomm jazzes up mobile range

While mobile chip makers mocked Intel for not moving faster to provide them with decent competition, there are signs that the industry is a little spooked when it finally showed up.

Qualcomm has announced that it will accelerate the introduction of faster mobile chips in a bid to lock Intel and Nvidia out of the wireless market.

At his keynote address at CES Qualcomm Chief Executive Officer Paul Jacobs showed off the new Snapdragon 800 and 600 processors which will find their way into phones and tablets by the end of the year.

The claim is that they will perform 75 percent faster, although Qualcomm did not say faster than what. We assume it meant its older chips, but it could mean Intel, or an arthritic tortoise with a heavy load of shopping.

Qualcomm has been doing rather well in the mobile boom. According to iSuppli it is the third largest chipmaker behind Intel and Samsung. But it has 42 percent of the mobile-application processor market, which is where Intel wants to be.

Competition with Intel is rather like bull fighting. It can be rather fun when the bull has not noticed you dancing around and twirling your cape. It is less fun when 128 stone of bovine aggression starts to focus its attention on sweeping you from the ring.

Qualcomm, which licenses ARM technology and designs its own processors, insists that this combo is enough to see off Chipzilla.

The new 800-series chip has four processors, each capable of running as fast as 2.3 gigahertz, the company said. It integrates the latest long term evolution, or LTE, something that no other manufacturer can do.

Executives from Intel yesterday talked of its plans to introduce new lower-power computer and tablet chips. Intel plans to offer a quad-core version of its tablet chip lineup, code-named Bay Trail, for devices to be sold during the end-of-year holiday shopping season.

At the moment investors think that Qualcomm is better placed to capture growth.

Qualcomm shares rose 13 percent last year, while Intel’s declined 15 percent in 2012. But this is not necessarily a good measure. Last year investors thought Facebook was a good bet and few people have become rich by underestimating Intel. 

TSMC expects Q3 results boost

TSMC announced today it had increased sales by 32 percent, while reports claim that the foundry is set to up its capex spend amid talk of new orders from Apple.

In financial results released today, the Taiwanese foundry said that unconsolidated sales were up to $1.64 billion during August, increasing two percent over the previous quarter and 32 percent from the same point in 2011.  Consolidated sales increased 31.5 percent over August 2011.

Commenting on the results, TSMC’s chief financial officer, Lora Ho, said that third quarter revenues are now expected to be slightly higher than previous estimates.

According to CENS, TSMC is also set to increase its capital expenditure budget by 25 percent, up from $8 billion to $10 billion during 2013.  

Although TSMC is not expected to make any official announcements until later this year, the increased spending would enable expansion of production at its current leading edge 28nm process, as well as beginning volume production of 20nm chips.  Cash would also be spent on advanced lithography tools, and beginning development of 16 nm chips.

The increased capex budget will also dovetail with the growing rumours that Apple is to ditch its mobile patent sparring partner, Samsung, with regards to chip production for its smartphones.  
The battle between the two has become increasingly savage and Apple appears to be looking for alternative component suppliers.

Citing sources close to Chinese-language Economic Daily News, CENS claimed that plans for TSMC to begin pilot production for Apple in the first half of 2013, with volume production to kick off in the second half of the year.

TSMC to spend $2.4 billion on capacity expansion

TSMC has been given the go ahead to spend $2.4 billion on expanding its advanced chip process production, as well as constructing a new fab.

Following a board of directors meeting, the Taiwanese mega-foundry was granted permission by the board to “expand and upgrade” production of its most advanced process 28nm chips.

The decision followed a meeting regarding TSMC’s July sales results which showed an increase of 37.3 percent from the same point the previous year, hitting $1.6 billion for the month.

Supply of 28nm chips has been tight for many customers as TSMC continues to ramp up production. In the second quarter, 28nm chips accounted for seven percent of total wafer revenues. So with sales up and strong demand for its advanced process chips, it seems that the board at TSMC is happy to expand production.

The board also gave the nod for $378 million to be spent on building a new fab as well as fitting it with the appropriate facilities.

The details are scant so far, and it was not clear in the statement when the fab construction would begin, though it is likely that the any building would support production of chips at more advanced process. The chip maker is set to begin 20nm production next year. 

TSMC recently announced its intentions to begin development at the 20nm process with ARM on FinFET server chip designs.  ARM later announced it would be extending its partnership with GlobalFoundries.

Former Qualcomm boss signs up for Obama

As the US election starts to kick off, it is interesting to note who is giving shedloads of cash to support which candidate.

Former chipmaker Irwin Jacobs just gave President Barak Obama $2 million to help him get elected.

Jacobs was the former chairman of Qualcomm until March 3, 2009 when he handed the keys to the office drinks cabinet to his son Paul Jacobs.

From the perspective of corporate involvement in politics it is fair to say that Jacobs as a member of the advisory board for the School of Economics and Management at Tsing Hua University in Beijing, favours close economic ties to China.

Another Obama tech donor includes cash from Big Content. Dreamworks Animation Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg donated $2 million.

Katzenberg gave the world Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Three Men and a Baby and Good Morning, Vietnam when he was the CEO of Disney and he can have them back whenever he wants.

Katzenberg has spent more than $2 million in total in campaign donations since the nineties and he normally gives his cash to the Democrats. At the moment the Democrats are still pro-Big Content. But then again so are the Republicans, it is just that the population that isn’t.

Qualcomm changes structure

Chipmaker Qualcomm wants to protect its patent licensing business by restructuring its operations.

According to Reuters the company wants to create a new subsidiary that will work on open source wireless developments.

Qualcomm makes shedloads of cash by selling licenses, but the wireless industry is becoming a minefield with litigation related to technology patents and Qualcomm thinks it needs a specialist unit.

Under the new structure, Qualcomm will include its technology licensing division and corporate functions as well as most of its patent portfolio.

The new subsidiary will be called Qualcomm Technologies and it will include its research and development arm and its wireless chip business.

Qualcomm claims the move will protect its patent licensing business because its new subsidiary QTI plans to increase its work with open source software which has to be shared.

The parent company will keep most of Qualcomm’s patents, QTI will hold some patents that are specifically developed to provide open source software contributions.

Under the new structure, QTI will have no rights to grant licenses held by the parent company, Qualcomm said.

Qualcomm said this was not aimed at spinning out either its chip business or its licensing business. It said it will be sorted out early next year.