Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘semiconductors’ Category

Apple Chips

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How about that rough stock market ride yesterday?

All I have to say about that is that it’s October (check your stock market history).

But yesterday’s steep selloff hasn’t stopped deals from happening.

TechCrunch is reporting that Apple will buy a part of Dialog Semiconductor, a chipmaker based out of unit, for $300 million in cash and a commitment of another $300 in further purchases from the company.

While Dialog is describing this as an asset transfer and licensing deal, it will be Apple’s biggest acquisition by far in terms of people: 300 people will be joining Apple as part of it, or about 16 percent of Dialog’s total workforce. From what we understand, those who are joining have already been working tightly with Apple up to now. The teams joining are based across Livorno in Italy, Swindon in England, and Nabern and Neuaubing in Germany, near Munich, where Apple already has an operation.

TechCrunch suggests this deal is part of a continued emphasis on Apple’s "putting considerable effort into building faster and more efficient chips that can help differentiate its hardware from the rest of the consumer Electronics pack….and comes at a time when many expect Apple to release a VR headset in the future."

Dialog says post the acquisition, the remaining part of the business will focus more on IoT, as well as mobile, automotive, computing and storage markets, specifically as a provider of custom and configurable mixed-signal integrated circuit chips.

Written by turbotodd

October 11, 2018 at 9:55 am

Samsung’s Bang-up Quarter

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For all the recent chatter in this blog about Apples and iPhones, Samsung yesterday announced a bang up quarter of its own, including an operating profit of $14.15 billion for the December quarter.

The company’s semiconductor division drove the fourth-quarter earnings on the back of strong demand for its memory chips, while its mobile business saw a 3.2 on-year decline in operating profits, according to a report from CNBC.

Samsung said its fourth-quarter earnings were driven by strong demand for its memory chips used in data centers and smartphones.

CNBC also reported that research firm Gartner indicated preliminary results showed Samsung had leapfrogged Intel to become the world’s top semiconductor supplier last year, garnering some 14.6 percent of the market in 2017.

However, headwinds for memory are likely ahead of the company:

“Samsung’s lead is literally built on sand, in the form of memory silicon,” Andrew Norwood, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement earlier this month. He added that memory pricing will weaken in 2018 as China steps up its memory production capacity. “We then expect Samsung to lose a lot of the revenue gains it has made.”
– via CNBC

Samsung is expected to introduce its new flagship product, the Galaxy S9, at the coming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Written by turbotodd

January 31, 2018 at 11:33 am

Let the Chips Fall…

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Some big deals brewing early on a Monday morning.

Reuters reported that chipmaker Marvell Technology Group Ltd. would buy smaller rival Cavium Inc. in a $6 billion deal “as it seeks to expand its wireless connectivity business in a fast consolidating semiconductor industry.”

Hamilton, Bermuda-based Marvell makes chips for storage devices while San Jose, California-based Cavium builds network equipment.
– via U.S.

 

China’s e-commerce giant, Alibaba, will buy a big stake in China Wal-Mart rival, Sun Art Retail Group Ltd, for $2.88 billion, which would give it a 36 percent stake in the company.

Alibaba, which runs the world’s largest online shopping operation, sees traditional retail venues as a way to expand its reach into fresh foods while also creating new demand for its Alipay mobile-payment business and its logistics services. “Physical stores serve an indispensable role during the consumer journey, and should be enhanced through data-driven technology and personalized services in the digital economy,” Alibaba chief executive officer Daniel Zhang said in a statement.
– via WSJ

This follows on the heels of Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of U.S. grocer Whole Foods.

But China’s not done. One of its leading phone and appliances makers, Xiaomi Corp., has also indicated it would invest as much as $1 billion in 100 startups in India over the next five years. The move is apparently an effort to build an ecosystem of apps around its smartphone brand.

And if you’re still waiting for your Uber, you may not have to wait much longer. Just don’t look for the driver.

Reuters is reporting that Uber plans to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo, building on a three-year relationship between the two companies.

Geely-owned Volvo said in a statement on Monday it would provide Uber with its flagship XC90 SUVs equipped with autonomous technology as part of a non-exclusive deal from 2019 to 2021. A Volvo spokesman said it covered up to 24,000 cars. The self-driving system that would be used in the Volvo cars — which have yet to be built — is under development by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group.
– via U.S.

That would be the single largest purchase for Volvo, and the broader autonomous vehicle industry, and would give Uber its first commercial fleet of cars.

No financial details were disclosed for the purchase, which would be a massive new investment for Uber and mark a change from Uber’s long-standing business model where contractor drivers buy or lease and maintain their own cars.
– via U.S.

Written by turbotodd

November 20, 2017 at 9:39 am

Qualcomm Board Rejects Broadcom’s Takeover Bid

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Happy Monday.

The Board of Directors for Qualcomm Inc. has rejected Broadcom’s $105 billion takeover bid.

“It is the Board’s unanimous belief that Broadcom’s proposal significantly undervalues Qualcomm relative to the Company’s leadership position in mobile technology and our future growth prospects,” said Paul Jacobs, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Qualcomm Incorporated.
– via Qualcomm

“No company is better positioned in mobile, IoT, automotive, edge computing and networking within the semiconductor industry.  We are confident in our ability to create significant additional value for our stockholders as we continue our growth in these attractive segments and lead the transition to 5G,” said Steve Mollenkopf, Chief Executive Officer of Qualcomm Incorporated.
– via Qualcomm

Qualcomm stock was up nearly 1 percent in early morning trading.

If you’re interested in all things cyber spooks and shadows, The New York Times feature on the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations’ recent fate is a must (but quite long) read.

And if you’re looking for quantum leaps in computing power, IBM announced late Friday two significant quantum processor upgrades for its IBM Q early-access commercial systems.

The first IBM Q systems available online to clients will have a 20 qubit processor, featuring improvements in superconducting qubit design, connectivity and packaging.

And the company has also successfully built and measured an operational prototype 50 qubit processor with similar performance metrics.

Clients will have online access to the computing power of the first IBM Q systems by the end of 2017.

In case you were wondering, a qubit, or “quantum bit,” is a unit of quantum information — the quantum analogue of the classical bit. But a qubit is distinguished by its being a two-state quantum-mechanical system, which allows a single photon both vertical and horizontal polarization.
You can read more in this blog post, “The future is quantum.”

Written by turbotodd

November 13, 2017 at 9:01 am

That’s a Big Deal!

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Happy Monday.

A big deal could hardly wait for Monday morning.  In fact, the biggest tech deal ever.

Broadcom Ltd. has offered roughly $105 billion for Qualcomm Inc., reports Bloomberg, “kicking off an ambitious attempt at the largest technology takeover ever in a deal that would rock the electronics industry.”

According to the report, Broadcom has made an offer of $70 a share in cash and stock for Qualcomm, a 28% premium for the world’s largest maker of mobile phone chips.

If the deal were to go through and be approved, this would make Broadcom the third largest chipmaker, behind Intel and Samsung. And as Bloomberg estimates, the deal would dwarf Dell’s $67 billion acquisition of EMC in 2015.

VentureBeat writes that “the deal would give Broadcom a foothold in the mobile communications market” but comes at a time Qualcomm is still trying to close its own $38 billion bid for NXP Semiconductors, which Qualcomm wants to use to help it get into self-driving technology.

And as VentureBeat points out, Intel is certainly not sitting still as competitive pressure emanates from the likes of Nvidia who are moving into the growing field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, both of which are demanding higher performance semiconductors.

No word at press time as to whether billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, a prominent member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family and one of the world’s wealthiest men, will be making an investment in this new venture.

The Prince was detained by Saudi authorities on Saturday night, according to the Wall Street Journal, along with at least 10 other princes and more than two dozen current ministers in the Saudi royal family. Mr. al-Waleed is a top investor in tech companies, including Apple and Twitter, and faces charges of money laundering.

 

Written by turbotodd

November 6, 2017 at 9:02 am

From Lab To Fab: Silicon Nanophotonics Arrives In A Nanosecond

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Angled view of a portion of an IBM chip showing blue optical waveguides transmitting high-speed optical signals and yellow copper wires carrying high-speed electrical signals. IBM Silicon Nanophotonics technology is capable of integrating optical and electrical circuits side-by-side on the same chip.

Angled view of a portion of an IBM chip showing blue optical waveguides transmitting high-speed optical signals and yellow copper wires carrying high-speed electrical signals. IBM Silicon Nanophotonics technology is capable of integrating optical and electrical circuits side-by-side on the same chip.

It’s Monday, and here in Austin, Texas, it officially got cold overnight.

Yesterday, it was partly cloudy and almost steamy warm. And this morning, it’s like I was transplanted back to IBM’s Somers, New York, location, where the wind streams across the Westchester landscape and chills native Texans like me to their core.

But enough talk about the weather. I want to get to the topic of the day: Making little things that move information faster.

Earlier today, IBM announced a major advance in the ability to use light instead of electrical signals to transmit information for future computing.

The breakthrough technology — called “silicon nanophotonics” — allows the integration of different optical components side-by-side with electrical circuits on a single silicon chip using, for the first time, sub-100nm semiconductor technology.

Silicon nanophotonics takes advantage of pulses of light for communication and provides a super highway for large volumes of data to move at rapid speeds between computer chips in servers, large data centers, and supercomputers, thus alleviating the limitations of congested data traffic and high-cost traditional interconnects.

Big Light, Bigger Data

The amount of data being created and transmitted over enterprise networks continues to grow due to an explosion of new applications and services.

Silicon nanophotonics, now primed for commercial development, can enable the industry to keep pace with increasing demands in chip performance and computing power. Businesses are entering a new era of computing that requires systems to process and analyze, in real-time, huge volumes of information known as “big data.”

Silicon nanophotonics technology provides answers to big data challenges by seamlessly connecting various parts of large systems, whether few centimeters or few kilometers apart from each other, and move terabytes of data via pulses of light through optical fibers.

Building Proof Beyond Concept

Building on its initial proof of concept in 2010, IBM has solved the key challenges of transferring the silicon nanophotonics technology into the commercial foundry.

By adding a few processing modules into a high-performance 90nm CMOS fabrication line, a variety of silicon nanophotonics components such as wavelength division multiplexers (WDM), modulators, and detectors are integrated side-by-side with a CMOS electrical circuitry.

As a result, single-chip optical communications transceivers can be manufactured in a conventional semiconductor foundry, providing significant cost reduction over traditional approaches.

IBM’s CMOS nanophotonics technology demonstrates transceivers to exceed the data rate of 25Gbps per channel. In addition, the technology is capable of feeding a number of parallel optical data streams into a single fiber by utilizing compact on-chip wavelength-division multiplexing devices.

Learning More About Nanophotonics

The ability to multiplex large data streams at high data rates will allow future scaling of optical communications capable of delivering terabytes of data between distant parts of computer systems.

“This technology breakthrough is a result of more than a decade of pioneering research at IBM,” said Dr. John E. Kelly, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research. “This allows us to move silicon nanophotonics technology into a real-world manufacturing environment that will have impact across a range of applications.”

Further details will be presented this week by Dr. Solomon Assefa at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM) in the talk titled, “A 90nm CMOS Integrated Nano-Photonics Technology for 25Gbps WDM Optical Communications Applications.”

You can learn more about IBM silicon integrated nanophotonics technology here.

Written by turbotodd

December 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Think Small: IBM Researchers Demonstrate Carbon Nanotubes, Potential Silicon Successors

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Since I posted about Hurricane Sandy earlier in the day, I’ve seen some pretty stunning pictures and video coming in, and heard more reports from friends in and around the New York City area.

The story of the crane toppling over on a very tall building being built on West 57th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues (my old IBM office is at Madison and 57th, further east) was most stunning. You can find some of the pics or video on CNN.

While we wait to discover how big a problem Sandy presents to the northeast Atlantic coast, I’ll share with you a diversion focusing on a much smaller topic — but one with potentially huge implications.

IBM scientists recently demonstrated a new approach to carbon technology that opens up the path for commercial fabrication of dramatically smaller, faster and more powerful computer chips.

For the first time, more than ten thousand working transistors made of nano-sized tubes of carbon have been precisely placed and tested in a single chip using standard semiconductor processes.

These carbon devices are poised to replace and outperform silicon technology allowing further miniaturization of computing components and leading the way for future microelectronics.

Four Decades Of Innovation

Aided by rapid innovation over four decades, silicon microprocessor technology has continually shrunk in size and improved in performance, thereby driving the information technology revolution.

Silicon transistors, tiny switches that carry information on a chip, have been made smaller year after year, but they are approaching a point of physical limitation.

Their increasingly small dimensions, now reaching the nanoscale, will prohibit any gains in performance due to the nature of silicon and the laws of physics. Within a few more generations, classical scaling and shrinkage will no longer yield the sizable benefits of lower power, lower cost and higher speed processors that the industry has become accustomed to.

Carbon nanotubes represent a new class of semiconductor materials whose electrical properties are more attractive than silicon, particularly for building nanoscale transistor devices that are a few tens of atoms across.

Electrons in carbon transistors can move easier than in silicon-based devices allowing for quicker transport of data. The nanotubes are also ideally shaped for transistors at the atomic scale, an advantage over silicon.

These qualities are among the reasons to replace the traditional silicon transistor with carbon — and coupled with new chip design architectures — will allow computing innovation on a miniature scale for the future.

The approach developed at IBM labs paves the way for circuit fabrication with large numbers of carbon nanotube transistors at predetermined substrate positions. The ability to isolate semiconducting nanotubes and place a high density of carbon devices on a wafer is crucial to assess their suitability for a technology — eventually more than one billion transistors will be needed for future integration into commercial chips.

Hardly A Carbon Copy

Until now, scientists have been able to place at most a few hundred carbon nanotube devices at a time, not nearly enough to address key issues for commercial applications.

Originally studied for the physics that arises from their atomic dimensions and shapes, carbon nanotubes are being explored by scientists worldwide in applications that span integrated circuits, energy storage and conversion, biomedical sensing and DNA sequencing.

This achievement was published today in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Carbon, a readily available basic element from which crystals as hard as diamonds and as soft as the “lead” in a pencil are made, has wide-ranging IT applications.

Carbon nanotubes are single atomic sheets of carbon rolled up into a tube. The carbon nanotube forms the core of a transistor device that will work in a fashion similar to the current silicon transistor, but will be better performing. They could be used to replace the transistors in chips that power our data-crunching servers, high performing computers and ultra fast smart phones.

Earlier this year, IBM researchers demonstrated  carbon nanotube transistors can operate as excellent switches at molecular dimensions of less than ten nanometers – the equivalent to 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair and less than half the size of the leading silicon technology. Comprehensive modeling of the electronic circuits suggests that about a five to ten times improvement in performance compared to silicon circuits is possible.

There are practical challenges for carbon nanotubes to become a commercial technology notably, as mentioned earlier, due to the purity and placement of the devices. Carbon nanotubes naturally come as a mix of metallic and semiconducting species and need to be placed perfectly on the wafer surface to make electronic circuits. For device operation, only the semiconducting kind of tubes is useful which requires essentially complete removal of the metallic ones to prevent errors in circuits.

Also, for large scale integration to happen, it is critical to be able to control the alignment and the location of carbon nanotube devices on a substrate.

To overcome these barriers, IBM researchers developed a novel method based on ion-exchange chemistry that allows precise and controlled placement of aligned carbon nanotubes on a substrate at a high density — two orders of magnitude greater than previous experiments, enabling the controlled placement of individual nanotubes with a density of about a billion per square centimeter.

The process starts with carbon nanotubes mixed with a surfactant, a kind of soap that makes them soluble in water. A substrate is comprised of two oxides with trenches made of chemically-modified hafnium oxide (HfO2) and the rest of silicon oxide (SiO2). The substrate gets immersed in the carbon nanotube solution and the nanotubes attach via a chemical bond to the HfO2 regions while the rest of the surface remains clean.

By combining chemistry, processing and engineering expertise, IBM researchers are able to fabricate more than ten thousand transistors on a single chip.

Furthermore, rapid testing of thousands of devices is possible using high volume characterization tools due to compatibility to standard commercial processes.

As this new placement technique can be readily implemented, involving common chemicals and existing semiconductor fabrication, it will allow the industry to work with carbon nanotubes at a greater scale and deliver further innovation for carbon electronics.

You can learn more in the animation below.

Written by turbotodd

October 29, 2012 at 8:02 pm

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