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Date: 01-05-14

Semiconductor market 2014: cool wind is blowing

By Srinivas

Just like finFET's capacitance analysis, today's global semiconductor market is dependent on multiple complex parameters. Even the variance (minute change in behavior of some things) factor affects finFET as well as semiconductor market in a similar way.

finFET based semiconductor chip fabrication is risky attempt to improve performance of semiconductor chips beyond 20 nm. It is known fact that finFETs doesn't offer same level of economics of scale compared to previous nodes. It is more or less clear that the famous Moore's Law based economics of scale is less and less relevant down the 20 nm node.

A strong guess by me is that 16 nm TSMC process and 14 nm process by Intel is ready for production in 2013 itself, but these companies may not be pushing these technologies that aggressively in terms of early production. They may be going little slow until they see some stronger manufacturing hope on EUV and 7 nm/10 nm process nodes.

There is also intensive research going on for 450mm as well as 3-D IC fabrication, which are more viable for serving the larger and important market such as Asia.

Irrespective of all these complex market and technology strategies affecting the semiconductor market, one big clearly visible trend is fast growing use of smart devices across applications and across the classes and section of people world over. This cool wind is blowing over semiconductor industry suggesting any average market analyst to forecast a decent growth for semiconductor market in 2014.

If you look at the mobile convergence devices such as 6 inch smart phone/phablet, it packs the performance close to a laptop with Intel i3 core processor released 2 to 3 years back, except for the display size. The user may need only external monitor and any input content entering device to do office work using packetable phablet. The input device may not be keyboard or mouse it can be just a microphone or some gesture interface to convert voice/gesture into digital data. This is the one change noticeable in the traditional market of computers. There are innumerable innovations happening across the market and across the applications by using smart devices. It is not just wearable and IoT, it is the use of electronic technology everywhere.

Irrespective of what the big semiconductor companies try to influence or control the market, there is a huge scope for smart2 (squre) innovators/start-up companies for designing and supporting development of smart electronics devices.
So what is the forecast for 2014? Any decent prediction of 10% growth is not going to be a erroneous except for a natural disaster or a man-made disaster hitting the world.

From the world's number one semiconductor vendor Intel to the fast-growing companies such as spreadtrum based in China, to a small fabless start-up company Ineda based in India , all these type of companies can hope for a good share of pie in the respective markets in 2014.

Things may get even better in 2015, if not exactly by 1q2015; may be one quarter this side or that side.

The semiconductor industry is now growing bigger and many developing economies such as India, Brazil are not going to left behind in the race. In this race the laggards may miss the cool air and tricky experienced companies which are located in Government supported regions can leap forward faster. The superfast can be the one who uses a totally different path may be in the form new material and all together different nano-electronics technologies or developing some super IP in the form of software or hardware to increase performance and/or save resources.

Is it not the semiconductor chips which are working harder than human beings in strategizing their future growth through human control!

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