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ARM TechCon 2012 Trip Report

ARM TechCon 2012 Trip Report
by Daniel Nenni on 11-02-2012 at 12:00 pm

 I must say the ARM conference gets better every year, as do the attendance numbers. More than 4,000 people showed up including 5 SemiWiki bloggers, two of which I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting.

First I have to mention my favorite vendor booth. I don’t remember what company it was but the girls in fishnet stockings giving out bottle openers were funny. I even chatted with one, a very nice lady from Ireland with a six year old daughter just trying to make some money in a difficult economy. I also saw Granny Peggy Aycinena lurking in the shadows so expect fireworks on this one. The Granny nickname comes not from her age but her bias against so called ‘booth babes” at trade shows. You may remember Peggy from the DAC 2012 Cheerleader fiasco. Funny stuff!

Back to the conference, the Keynotes were very well done and even “Apple esque”. The speakers were polished, the presentations were content rich, there were nice videos, and the intermingling of industry executives and panels from the massive ARM ecosystem was great. I sat with Paul McLellan for the most part and he writes way much more better than me do so be sure and read his ARM TechCon blogs:

ARM 64-Bit

IBM Tapes Out 14nm ARM on Cadence Flow

ARM and a LEG

Internet of Things

The last keynote (Thursday morning) was ARM CEO Warren East. Saving the best for last was a good strategy to bolster traffic on the final day. The most interesting part of the keynote was the embedded FinFET panel discussion between TSMC, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Spoiler alert: TSMC’s Shang-yi Chiang stole the show! I hope the video is up soon because it was great!

The first question was on the challenges we face moving forward and Shang-Yi said, “FORECASTING!” As in the 28nm shortages this year were due to bad forecasting not yield and manufacturing delays, which is absolutely true. As Shang-Yi said, “28nm demand was 2-3x the forecast.”

Shang-Yi was the first person to talk to me candidly about the 40nm yield problems while they were happening so I have faith in what he says. He is a genuine guy who puts the “trusted” in the “Our mission is to be the trusted technology and capacity provider of the global logic IC industry for years to come”.

Shang-Yi also mentioned cost as a challenge and for 20nm that is absolutely true. He also discussed the cost of an empty fab and let me tell you, there is going to be plenty of extra fab capacity next year as Samsung, UMC, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES get 28nm into full production.

The panel also discussed FinFETS which is a common theme amongst most of the conferences this year. I will blog my issues with FinFETS next but the panel response was quite funny. Shang-Yi went first and said that Chenming Hu (The father of FinFETS) worked at TSMC and TSMC has been working on FinFETS for 10+ years so no worries. Not to be out done, the Samsung guy said they have been working on FinFETS as long as TSMC and his concern was with variation which is absolutely true with the Fins. On Tuesday I was at a presentation about IBM’s 14nm FinFET test chip. Since when does IBM talk openly about stuff like that? GF also has FinFET bragging rights and had their own fireside chat at ARMTechCon talking about the “Lab to Fab Gap”:

Given all that boasting, if you had to bet today, who do you think will be first to get FinFETS into volume production? Would it be TSMC, Samsung, or GF? Remember, Intel does not use FinFETS, they use Tri-Gate transistors. 😉 Check out the SemiWiki FinFET poll HERE. Anybody can vote so please do.


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