Tag: Taiwan

TSMC sets up advanced wafer plant in Nanjing

IBM engineers in a fabrication plant (fab)TSMC has signed an agreement with the Nanjing City Government to invest $3 billion building an advanced wafer manufacturing facility in China.

TSMC said in December it planned to set up its first wholly owned advanced fabrication plant in China with a $3 billion investment, highlighting the growing importance of the Chinese market for semiconductor giants.

Now TSMC Chairman Morris Chang has given out some details on the project saying that a 12-inch fab and our design service centre will be established in Nanjing.

“We aim to provide closer support to customers as well as expand our business opportunities in China in step with the rapid growth of the Chinese semiconductor market over the last several years,” said

The new plant will make 20,000 12-inch wafers per month.  Production will begin in the second half of 2018.

It was not that easy to get the deal past the Taiwan government. Taiwan has restricted manufacturing activities of its prized semiconductor sector in China, amid political tension between the neighbours. However, competition from China’s fast-growing, though fledgling chip industry has put pressure on Taiwanese companies to widen their mainland footprint.

TSMC had urged authorities to allow 12-inch facilities, which use more advanced technology processes than 8-inch plants, to be wholly owned out of concern for intellectual property protection. TSMC already has a wholly owned 8-inch chip making plant near Shanghai.

Component makers fined for price cartels

Taiwan scene - pic Mike MageeThe Taiwanese Fair Trade Commission (FTC) fined 10 manufacturers making aluminium and tantalum capacitors for fixing prices between themselves.

The FTC doled out fines amounting to $175.5 million after it found the companies had been colluding on pricing.

According to the Taipei Times, the FTC, in collaboration with international antitrust authorities, started the investigation last year and procured evidence showing the firms had broken laws between 2005 and January last year.

Some companies owned up to their misdeeds in order to get a lighter fine.

The companies are Nippon Chemi-Con, Rubycon, Sanyo, Nichicon, NEC Tokin, Matsuo Electric and Vishay Polyptych.

Tsinghua eyes up MediaTek

ChinaThe Chinese state backed consortium Tsinghua Unigroup wants to take over successful chip firm Mediatek.

China has a long range plan to grow its semiconductor industry and according to a report in Digitimes, Tsinghua’s chairman Zhao Weiguo said that if Taiwan lifts its ban on Chinese firm, there could well be a merger of the companies.

MediaTek said that it would be happy to talk with Tsinghua in a merger provided that Taiwanese government restrictions were lifted.

Although Taiwan does not allow Chinese companies to take shares in companies on the island, there’s a great deal of self interest in both countries cooperating.

For example, many Taiwanese semiconductor firms have factories in mainland China.

HTC lays off staff at factory

HTC CEO Cher WangTroubled smartphone manufacturer HTC will make 400 people redundant at its home facotry of Taoyuan by the end of October.

That follows a plan Cher Wang (pictured), CEO of HTC, announced last month.

She plans to slash as much as 15 percent of its staff worldwide, as part of a drastic restructuring at the company caused by lack of profits.

HTC, once a bright star in the smartphone firmament, has faced stiff competition from Apple and Samsung in recent years.

Local newspaper the Taipei Times said that the layoffs will affect five percent of 9,000 people that work at the factory.

HTC has vowed to turn the company round by focusing on making and selling top end smartphones and “lifestyle” products.

Separately, rival Samsung announced a revamped “smart” watch yesterday in a bid to grab some market share from leading wearables firm Apple.

Taiwan lets Google off the hook

GoogleExecutives in Google’s legal department are able to breathe a minor sigh of relief because the Taiwanese Fair Trade Agency has decided that Maps and Play services don’t break regulatory rules.

But even though it has closed two investigations into Google, the FTA is still keeping an eye on Google’s activities.

Google said it was pleased that the Taiwanese had followed the lead from the USA, Brazil and Germany which it claimed found the search giant’s activities were not evil.

But though that may represent a minor victory for Google, the European Union isn’t giving up into its probes that Google biases search results in favour of its own customers and services.

The EU started an investigation into Google back in 2010 and it’s not going to let the company off the hook.

China faces big DRAM challenges

Taiwan scene - pic Mike MageeWhile the Chinese government is determined to grow its domestic semiconductor business over the next five years, there are some severe obstacles in its path.

According to the Trendforce market research company, DRAM is the most likely entry point for semiconductor fabrication.

But there are some problems ahead. While China has massive financial muscle, a large domestic market and the will to succeed, established memory makers such as Samsung, Hynix and US company Micron own must of the intellectual property.

Trendforce analyst Ding Wenwu said that the likely way for China to play catch up is by making partnership agreements. There are existing semiconductor deals to emulate – such as a cooperative venture between Intel and Spreadtrum.

The other route is through buying companies – for example Silicon Solutions Incorporated was bought for $21 a share earlier this month by investment company Summerview Capital, outflanking Cypress Semiconductor.

An obvious route would be through association with established semiconductor companies based across the Taiwan Straits. Trendforce said that senior Chinese officials have already visited Taiwanese companies but also needs to convince the government on the island that it’s feasible to make partnership agreements without harming domestic interests.

China to pour billions into semi industry

Mao Tse Tung - Wikimedia CommonsMainland China doesn’t intend to be left on the back foot when it comes to semiconductor manufacturing and will spend something like $20 billion over the next five years.

That’s according to a report from Digitimes, which said that mainland China foundry Semiconductor Manufacturing International Company (SMIC) has already been pumped with government money.

The report said that nearly three quarters of the money will go to manufacturing integrated circuits and equipment.

China will also put money into companies making DRAM and NAND flash, an industry that is currently dominated by South Korean firms like Samsung and SG Hynix. Those two companies already have fabrication plants (fabs) in China.

And at the end of those five years the Chinese government hopes to have at least half of domestic demand for silicon chips made locally, the report said.

Recently, Taiwanese semiconductor companies have been urging their own government to allow export of chip technology to the mainland, now that the formerly frosty relations between them have thawed.

ARM sets up shop in Taiwan

ARM will announce its first CPU Design Centre in Taiwan at Computex 2014.

The fabless chip designer, normally based in Blighty wants to set up a centre dedicated to the next generation of Cortex-M class cores for IoT and wearables. Arm will hire 40-50 individuals within the talent pool in 2014.

Word on the street is that ARM is planning a large press event which will be geared towards demand for ARM processors and the uses of Cortex-M within an ecosystem that counts sixteen billion processors shipped so far. The announcement of the Taiwan office is likely to come out of that event.

ARM is expected to be working with research institutes to grow and scale, with the aim to produce important engineers with experience in the field.

Taiwan is seen as a focal point of the industry with respect to the large number of ARM’s semiconductor partners in the region.

It is the fourth CPU design centre in the world and it looks like this will specialise in low end sensor based wearables, and the high power models requiring sensor calculation relating to features such as HUDs, particularly in the professional and medical markets.

ARM is developing MBED, a platform for embedded developers incorporating an OS and a system of tools to help bring ideas to fruition.

It looks like MBED will be open source, with libraries and web based tools allowing developers to mix and match microcontrollers, radios, sensors and software stacks. 

Foxconn goes mobile

Foxconn  is writing a $390 million cheque for the Taiwanese mobile telecoms operator Asia Pacific Telecom  as part of a cunning plan to expand into the 4G telecoms market.

Foxconn and Asia Pacific are expected to merge fully via a share swap once the small print is worked out by June 20.

The world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronic goods wants to expand its operations to include software, 4G services and cloud computing.  It also has a licence to operate part of Taiwan’s 4G spectrum.

It will take a jolly long time for Foxconn to make any dosh from 4G.  Analysts have done the numbers and think it will take at least seven years for the outfit to make any real profits.

Earlier this month, Asia Pacific had said it would soon decide soon on a merger with either Foxconn or Chinese noodles maker Ting Hsin International. We are not sure how many people would opt for 4G Noodles but it looks like they decided Foxconn would be a better bet.

Foxconn will buy Asia Pacific under its subsidiary company Ambit Microsystems, the unit responsible for its future 4G deployment, the stock exchange statement said. Ambit will be dissolved and the new company will operate under the name Asia Pacific Telecom.

Microsoft, Intel, Google throw weight about again

While big players in the computing market such as Intel, Microsoft and Google love to talk about their “ecosystem” – that is to say the myriad of companies that make computers possible, the truth, as usual is more banal.

That’s demonstrated by Asustek being bullied out of producing a useful tablet that could run both Windows and Android after the Mighty Vole and the all-seeing Google put the squeeze on the plucky little Taiwanese manufacturer.

You can consider a computer as a pie, with the different slices representing the different companies involved.  In this pie, Microsoft and Intel have huge slices while plucky little Taiwanese companies such as ODMs like Compal and manufacturers like Asustek have teeny weeny slices.

Of course, without companies like Acer and Asustek, the behemoths couldn’t bring products to market. And, in the end, it’s all down to marketing money whether it is the now infamous Intel Inside programme or Microsoft levers that force vendors to push Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 whether people want them or not.

So it’s not the cosy little relationship that the big bullying giants push with their ludicrous little marchitectural words like “ecosystem”.  

Try be a David against the Goliath and you’ll find pretty damn quick that the giants won’t hesitate to get out their coshes and bugger the poor plucky Taiwanese maker who tries to pot the behemoths with a slingshot.