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Intel and ASML sprint toward a high-NA future

Intel and ASML Sprint Toward a High-NA Future

By Ron Wilson

What’s at stake:
Intel has bet its chance to catch TSMC at the 1.4 nm node on being the first user of high-NA EUV lithography. It is a short road full of challenges, but early results look promising.

Lithography giant ASML announced this month that they have successfully printed a dense line pattern with 10 nm spacing, using the world’s first production high-NA EUV lithography system. In itself this is just another milestone in a long development schedule for ASML — similar patterns have already been printed using laboratory equipment. But in the global competition between Intel and TSMC for Angstrom-era semiconductor dominance, the announcement looms across the horizon like the first hints of dawn.

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Embedded Quest at Nuremberg

Embedded Quest at Nuremberg

We cornered engineers and executives at various companies at Embedded World, and asked their perception of the state of the embedded market and what they see must be solved.

Who Wants Rapidus in Silicon Valley?

Who Wants Rapidus in Silicon Valley?

By Junko Yoshida

What’s at stake:
A lot rides on Japan’s first and only foundry company. Rapidus recently received an additional $3.9 billion in government aid. Included in the subsidies are a package that will help Rapidus grow into developing back-end packaging – in a country where no OSAT companies exist. Rapidus has yet to prove its 2nm process technology for front–end volume chip production. Is it trying to do too much?

Many factors contributed to the eventual downfall of the Japanese semiconductor industry. The Japanese industry languished in the1990s largely because of the prolonged US-Japan semiconductor trade war. A mixture of hubris and obsession drove Japan’s pursuit of higher quality DRAMs, while paying little attention to the demand by PC manufacturers looking for “good enough” memory. (Japan missed the tide of a growing PC market.) Finally, Japan, which dominated the global semiconductor market in the ’80s with DRAMs – Japan’s specialty then – never succeeded in converting its technology prowess to microprocessors and logic devices. 

Since then, the lessons Japanese government and semiconductor executives have learned could influence the outcome of Japan’s “renaissance” in chip manufacturing

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US Semiconductor Hegemony is Real and Unassailable

US Semiconductor Hegemony is Real and Unassailable

By Bolaji Ojo

What’s at stake:

To succeed as a chipmaker, it would be foolish to ignore America’s government. It has always had a chokehold on the IC business globally; only companies and countries endorsed by America can operate unhindered in the market. The CHIPS Act and the revival of local manufacturing will help extend America’s hegemony for many more years.

No semiconductor manufacturer – wherever located and irrespective of ownership – is independent of the United States’ government .

This has been the case from the beginning of the industry and through its several evolutions. It did not change when captive chip businesses were spun off by OEMs or through the advent of foundries, fabless vendors and the shift of semiconductor production to different parts of Asia.

A new era of American hegemony is upon us, fostered by efforts to reignite local chip production. Other nations and regional bodies, including China, Japan, Korea and the EU, are trying to claw back some authority over the market but their success will still be primarily determined by America, according to observers.

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smart vs useful

Smart vs. Useful

By Junko Yoshida

What’s at stake:
Companies need to stop applying the shopworn adjective “smart” to every new chip, system, apps or high-tech gadget. Instead of smart for smart’s sake, how about we focus on “useful” for the user’s sake?

New devices are almost inevitably “smart” in the eyes of their inventors, but are the rest of us too dumb to appreciate them? Or maybe the problem is not “us” at all? These are questions the market – investors, partners, developers, system designers, users and consumers – should be asking.  

For too long, the tech industry has been heralding anything new they pump into the market “smart.” What I see too often, however, is  “smartwashing,” using claims of smartness to mask the complexities of implementing the technology and to dismiss challenges that the technology imposes on developers and users.

If smart stuff don’t perform like clockwork all the time, the alibi goes, well, the system designers messed up. Or it was consumers who didn’t read the fine print in the users manual.

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The Audacity of Tenstorrent

The Audacity of Tenstorrent

“AI is still new,” says Tenstorrent COO Keith Witek. The startup is plotting to find an opening by listening to customers, instead of following the playbook of successful AI incumbents like Nvidia. 

Microchip CEO Ganesh Moorthy

Microchip: ‘Shared Pains’ in the Wake of a Supercycle

By Bolaji Ojo

What’s at stake?

Microchip prides itself on being able to deftly wend its way through the semiconductor industry’s cycles by spreading the gains and the pains of each experience throughout the enterprise. The process is well tested and the long-term benefits to Microchip and its employees are numerous, company executives say. The current downcycle cuts deep, says CEO Ganesh Moorthy but the company is sticking with salary cuts and avoiding layoffs. Is the practice worth adopting? Moorthy takes our questions on Microchip’s distinct cycle management strategy and the turbulence of the electronics supply chain.

Microchip Inc. has been on a rollercoaster ride these last several years.

Between fiscal 2021 and 2023, the MCU chipmaker’s revenue soared more than 55 percent, fueled by torrid demand and supply shortages.

Now, in 2024, Microchip is on the downward slope. In the March quarter, revenues are forecast to slide 40 percent, year-over-year, and decline another 40 percent or more in June from the comparable 2023 quarter, eroding most of the gains the company has garnered over the previous years.

That should prompt drastic actions such as severe job cuts. This is how the industry typically responds to each of its sales crisis.

At Microchip, though, it’s the perfect time to trot out an old remedy, one the entire industry should watch closely, if not emulate.

Read More »Microchip: ‘Shared Pains’ in the Wake of a Supercycle