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Sunday, March 29, 2009

SEMICON and SOLARCON China 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

New Killer Apps for 2010 and Beyond

What are the hot new future applications that will help drive semiconductor manufacturing volumes in the upturn? What are the killer apps that will drive the market like the Internet, mobile phones and ipods? Here’s my take on a few (its a wireless world):

Ultra wideband
- UWB is a radio technology that can be used at very low energy levels for short-range high-bandwidth communications such as Personal Area Networks (PANS), sensor networks, and cable replacements for audio video, printing and other applications. At least a dozen mainly venture-backed companies have been pursuing UWB for uses such as wireless USB links on consumer and computer gear. To date, relatively high prices as well as performance and regulatory hurdles have limited the market for the wireless links. We want this market to take off; we know it someday will. But when? With the recent demise of a couple of the early leaders, the jury is still out on UWB.


Zigbee- ZigBee is a low-cost, low-power, wireless mesh networking standard for wireless control and monitoring applications. The low power-usage allows longer life with smaller batteries, and the mesh networking provides high reliability and larger range. The initial markets for the ZigBee Alliance include consumer electronics, energy management, home automation, building automation and industrial automation. The technology is intended to be simpler and less expensive than Bluetooth. ZigBee chip vendors such as TI, Freescale and Ember typically sell integrated radios and microcontrollers with between 60K and 128K flash memory. The standard, and the chips that support it, will probably play a critical role in the Smart Grid deployment, as well as related home automation products. Zigbee has a broad range of applications and looks like it has some momentum. Looks like a winner to me.

NFC- Another interesting short-wave wireless technology is Near Field Communications (NFC). NFC seems to have evolved from RFID and will be an enabling technology for mobile payment systems. Operating at 13.56 MHz and transferring data at up to 424 Kbits/second, communication between two NFC-compatible devices occurs when they are brought within four centimeters of one another. Because the transmission range is so short, NFC-enabled transactions are inherently secure and intuitively safe.

NFC can be used with a variety of devices, from mobile phones that enable payment or transfer information to digital cameras that send their photos to a TV set with just a touch. The possibilities are endless, and NFC is sure to take the complexities out of today’s increasingly sophisticated consumer devices and make them simpler to use. Mobile payment systems make sense, but until I see they them widely used in places like Singapore, Hong Kong or Helsinki, I wouldn’t bet on them in the short term.

Cloud Computing--The concept of Cloud Computing received a fair amount of talk at SEMICON Japan by folks like Terry Higashi and Takeo Hoshino of METI. The concept revolves around Internet-based services, large server farms and ‘software as a service.” While it might the drive the need for better chips to enable lower power computing, I don’t see it driving volumes. The trends toward connecting everything to the net—including refrigerators, ATMs, industrial machinery, security cameras, etc.—is already in full swing. I don’t see it providing a step function increase in chip volumes, but it will fuel a more accommodating world for Netbooks and Internet appliances.


WIMAX- According to Infonetics Research, combined worldwide equipment revenues were up only 3% from Q1'2008 to $402 million, and we assume they went into the crapper in Q4. Before the financial collapse, Infonetics predicted that by 2011, 110 million users of WiMAX technologies are forecasted. The WiMAX Forum now claims there are over 400 WiMAX networks deployed in over 130 countries. Developing countries have been the engine for WiMAX market growth, with Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Central and Latin America, and parts of the Asia Pacific being hot-beds of activity. Intel is the current leader in chipsets, but there are nearly 20 companies are now producing baseband chip-sets for mobile WiMAX and there are probably 15 suppliers of WiMAX radio transceiver chips (Forward Concepts). That bodes well for easy adoption by handset makers and network managers. Bandwidth-makes-sense. Count on WiMAX for a nice contribution in chip volumes over the next 5 years.

Other more familiar applications that will drive semiconductor volumes in the future will be solid state drives, Wi-Fi (see a lot of upside), mobiles phones (both high end and low end), and handheld electronics like ipods (more video) and ebooks. The real driver though will be general economic health, especially in developing regions.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's New at SEMICON West

Interesting Text-to-Speech application from Xtranormal


Thursday, March 19, 2009

From the Cultural Revolution to the Solar Revolution

Samuel Yang, Vice General Manager of JA Solar was among the recent speakers at this week’s SOLARCON China and he told an interesting story about how people during China’s Cultural Revolution survived and adapted during times of great stress. He told the story to reflect on today’s difficult economic situation. During this time, education was disdained; professionals and academics were sent to re-education camps to learn the values of the collective commune. Families adapted by learning to educate their children at home, often in secret. When times changed, the country was stronger, having instilled a broad based, grounded respect for knowledge and educational achievement.

Drawing parallels to today, he said that now is the time to focus on internal strengths. He said that individual companies can’t control the macroeconomic environment, they can only adapt to opportunities all around them. He used another uniquely-Chinese example to make his point by describing how the mythical Chinese warrior may lose a battle, but will retreat to the mountains to develop his skills for a triumphant return.

The most common mantra in the West for dealing with the global recession is the oft-quoted remarks by Craig Barrett at Intel: “Every time you have a recession, you try to save your way out. Never works. You have to invest your way out of a recession.”

Every culture, every individual, every business is dealing with the economic crisis in different ways, some effectively, some less so.

There are many personal and organizational responses to the catastrophic recession: work harder, focus on core competencies, diversify, learn new skills, customer-focus, cut costs, etc. These common responses are certainly valid and rational. They can be accompanied with elaborate details, complete with project schedules, pert charts, balance sheets, business scenarios, and action plans. What they often lack though, is passion.

The semiconductor industry was built on passion. Pioneers of the industry knew they were building the Information Age. They knew they were part of a unique time in the human story, comparable to the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Industrial Age, the Age of Democracy. There was greatness all around them and they knew they were making history.

This passion was the foundation of SEMI. It drew leaders together, not just through mutual business interest and shared objectives, but through the shared experience of extraordinary times, accomplishing remarkable achievements that extended beyond themselves, their companies, even their industry, and impacting the entire human experience.

Much of this passion, this knowledge of greatness, is leaving the industry. The Information Age is nearly 30 years old. A new generation of leaders is desperately trying to survive. A common perception exists that even when the rebound occurs, the industry will never be the same. As the industry association, SEMI could never be more valuable, more effective, better staffed, better managed, more global than today, but the binding emotional spark of an earlier era, the shared reward of participating in a historical era, is distant and cloudy.

But a new age is upon us where great genius, great urgency, great opportunity, and great need are dawning. Solar energy will remake the world, maybe even save it. Unsubsidized grid parity is fast approaching and will occur in most regions of the world by the end of the decade. By 2050, solar power could deliver over 50% of the world’s electricity, bringing light, heat and hope to billions of people currently without grid connected power. It is the leading solution that could protect the world from devastating climate change.

It is a mission every bit as an important, worthwhile, life affirming, and valuable as that which drove the semiconductor industry and the Information Age. It is this generation’s call to greatness.

Not all SEMI members currently participate in the solar industry, but many are extending their knowledge of wafer processing and thin film manufacturing to PV. Many are asking the association to take a leadership position in PV, to address both the shared business interests of the industry, as well as provide the emotional connections of joining a monumental global challenge. They are asking us to invest scarce resources into PV and transition away from semiconductors to the emerging opportunities and overwhelming demands of the nascent solar industry. These are difficult, gut-wrenching decisions for SEMI, not without enormous risk. These same risks are being faced by many SEMI members who are peering into the future of semiconductors and are uncertain and fearful of the shape of what they dimly see.

Especially during these trying times, individuals and companies have to make difficult decisions. Sometimes the right decision is to work harder, work smarter, retrench, right-size, and retreat into the mountains to save yourself for future battles. Yet greatness doesn’t retrench. It seeks to change the world in ways that few can foresee. The founders of the semiconductor industry knew this. The leaders of the next great epoch in science and technology know this as well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Event Marketing in 2009: Challenges, Changes and Opportunities

I had the fortunate opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the state of the events business, hosted by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). The title of the two-hour discussion was Event Marketing in 2009: Challenges, Changes and Opportunities and was focused on the economy’s impact of on the event industry and how exhibit, event and show managers were responding.

It was a timely topic and I really enjoyed to opportunity to discuss SEMI plans and my own personal feelings about what I see as a radical shift in the events industry. Joining me on the panel were event superstars representing a diverse cross section of perspectives and industries.

- Sandra Toms-LaPedis, AVP/ GM RSA Conference (information security industry)
- Scott Schenker, VP Client Services George P Johnson (global leader in event marketing; top auto show and corporate events marketer)
- Debra Rosencrance, VP Meetings and Exhibits for American Academy of Opthalmology

In terms of how SEMI was responding, I reiterated my mantra that I have been droning on about with exhibitors, suppliers, employees, wife, kids…
Our response to dead economy is in 5 key areas:
  • Diversification into solal
  • Increased emphasis on new and emerging markets, both industry (solid state lighting, printed electronics, MEMS, nano and others) and geographically (Russia, India, China)
  • Focus on global sales coordination and efficiency (we have reorganized to realigned our sales and outreach team to work faster, smarter and more as a team)
  • Forming mutually rewarding partnerships with other events and associations (Synergy!)
  • A relentless commitment to lowering the total cost to exhibit for our members and customers

This last point on cost reduction efforts was my main point and something I wanted to shake up the room with. I told the audience that I was representing thousands of exhibitors who were under enormous pressure to improve show ROI in this economy and that SEMI was totally committed to helping exhibitors reduce the total cost of exhibitors. In pursuit of this, we are going to our hotels, service contractors, facilities, shipping companies, and our own operations and telling them the world has changed, you must reduce your price to our exhibitors. We are doing this on a worldwide basis and we are not being nice about it. We are being successful.

We even welcomed anyone who could partner with us to pressure the city and Moscone Center to gain concessions from the unions. I believe that now is the time to seek real change with the labor situation in San Fran and press for rationality in rates and process.

This is also a critical time in the careers of many exhibit and event managers. Every recession seems to hit marketing budgets first, especially trade shows. And when trade shows are canceled, exhibit managers and trade show coordinators are often the first to get laid off. I have seen this up close and personal for nearly 30 years and it’s a killing zone right out there today. You don’t see too many old timers in this business; they get crushed, weeded out.

Young, talented people often get their start through event marketing. They develop skills, professional expertise, they benchmark leaders, understand best practices and learn how to integrate events to an integrated marketing system. And then the recession gets them. When the shows go, they follow. They are seen as chained to their medium, not to their businesses. They know more about laminates and event lighting than they do about their products and customers. Trade shows are a cruel business and people who aren’t grounded in business fundamentals and prepared for other roles, functions and responsibilities will eventually get caught when times go sour. And they always go sour, sometime.

So, I hoped to share some of those observations and practices with this great group of committed professionals. I hope it helped someone. It made me feel better.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Partnerships: Now More Than Ever

One of the most effective and efficient ways to serve SEMI members is to work with other member organizations and associations. It can be effective because other associations can deliver real benefits to SEMI members, such as program content, research reports, technical insights and initiatives, and other valuable services. It can be efficient because SEMI staff can work with one partner, and impact an entire segment of members sharing the common interest. Identifying potential partners and finding common purpose is a critical area that SEMI needs to excel at.

SEMI is a very wide-ranging industry association that spans numerous technologies, industry segments, countries, and professional societies. We are wide but very thin. Many professional and industry organizations are very deep, but narrow in their geographic and technology reach. This reflective harmony provides a natural basis on which to work with many organizations in a win-win relationship. Our reach compliments their depth. By working together, we can both achieve goals that we could not separately.

SEMI works with dozens of industry organizations, media companies, research firms, and technical societies. Our relationship is often based on cross promotion; SEMI promotes a partner's event or organization in exchange for promotion or support of SEMI events and services. Many partners provide technical guidance on SEMI program content at conferences and expositions and some partners offer member discounts on their products.

A recent partnership with the MEMS Industry Group is a good example. Currently SEMI places MIG events on our calendar and is promoting MEMS Marketplace, an online portal that will serve as a matchmaker for companies in the entire MEMS supply chain, in our newsletter. In exchange, MIG will promote SEMICON West to their membership and provide guidance on TechXPOT program content. We have several other industry partners at SEMICON West, including Si2, IMAPS, MEPTEC, International Engineering Consortium, Southwest Test, BITS, OIDA, and more. We partner with IEEE on the Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Conference, and we should do more them. In PV, we work with EPIA, JPEA, ITRI, SEIA, and many renewable energy organizations.

Sometimes SEMI will partner with a private event organizer like Solar Promotions to put on Intersolar, or with a market research company such as Yole Developpment, when we are confident it will benefit SEMI members.

The driving motivation behind these mutually rewarding agreements is member value; if helping another organization achieve their goals, even with a potentially competitive event, helps SEMI members, that we should find a way to work together.

If there is an organization that you think SEMI should work with, please let us know and we’ll do our best to find a common ground in advancing member value.