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Altera vs Xilinx FinFET Update

Altera vs Xilinx FinFET Update
by Daniel Nenni on 07-27-2014 at 10:10 am

 One of the things I do in my spare time is listen to quarterly conference calls and try to sort fact from fiction. I compare past calls to the current one and attempt to predict what’s coming next. Confucius said, “Study the past if you would define the future” and I’m a big believer in that.

Paul McLellan wrote about the Xilinx call earlier this week:
Xilinx: Revenue Down, Profit Up, FinFET on Schedule

Here are the Altera financial details from the press release:

Altera (NASDAQ:ALTR) expects Q3 revenue to be down 2% to up 2% Q/Q.
Telecom & wireless revenue +28% Y/Y in Q2
Industrial/military/automotive +14%
Networking/computer/storage -6%
Other revenue +16%.
Altera says its saw its high-end 28nm FPGAs delivered “very good” performance
Gross margin fell 90 bps Q/Q and -100 bps Y/Y to 67%.
Q3 gross margin guidance is at 67% (+/- 0.5%).

According to the financial people, Xilinx and Altera are “archrivals” so rarely will you read one without a mention of the other. The funny thing is they don’t say each other’s company names on the conference calls. It is very Harry Potterish with the, “He who must not be named” thing.

Here are the Xilinx financial details from the press release:

Xilinx (NASDAQ:XLNX) expects FQ2 revenue to be flat to down 4% Q/Q.
Industrial, aerospace, & defense sales (31% of revenue) -9% Q/Q and -11% Y/Y
Telecom & data center (50% of revenue) +1% Q/Q and +20% Y/Y
Broadcast, consumer, & automotive (16% of revenue) +5% Q/Q and +3% Y/Y
Other revenue (3% of revenue) +39% Q/Q and +11% Y/Y.
Gross margin +150 bps Q/Q to 69.1%,
Xilinx expects an FQ2 GM of 70%. $100M was spent on buybacks.

Based on the Xilinx and Altera calls, Altera is catching up at 28nm. Xilinx was first to node on that process and had a record 70% market share last fiscal year. This year they are predicting 60%. Xilinx is six months or so ahead on 20nm as well but what about FinFETs?

(Comments edited for space)

John Pitzer – Credit Suisse: I wonder if you can give us an update on FinFET. How comfortable are you still with your timeline around FinFET?

Moshe Gavrielov– XLNX CEO: they’re (TSMC) doing 16 in two cycles. They’re doing a FinFET and they’re doing the FinFET Plus version, and we’re going to be using the FinFET Plus version.We’re now expecting to tape out our first 16-nanometer device in the first quarter of 2015.

Interesting, XLNX will skip 16FF in favor of the better performing 16FF+ thus giving up a six month lead. TSMC took a step back and boosted the density and performance of 16nm to better compete with Intel and Samsung 14nm and that is what competition is all about!

Ambrish Srivastava – BMO Capital Markets: Okay and then a quick follow-up on the 14 nanometer. Could you just please remind us? Last quarter you said that tapeout was delayed by a quarter. What is the timeline for sampling and also for mass production? Thank you.

John P. Daane – ALTR CEO:So, schedule for our Intel 14 nanometer product remains Q1 2015 for our first production part tapeout which will sample roughly midyear to customers.

It’s good to see that Altera is still on track considering all of the Intel 14nm delays. This will be an interesting comparison of FinFET processes: Xilinx vs Altera, TSMC versus Intel. Unlike PowerPoint slides, silicon does not lie, absolutely.

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