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FD-SOI : SMIC or…Who else?

FD-SOI : SMIC or…Who else?
by Eric Esteve on 05-01-2014 at 9:12 am

In fact, as of today, nobody can refer to an official statement made by any STM executive about name of the foundry able to process FD-SOI wafers in 28nm. We just know that the agreement is about to (or has been) signed… But we may speculate, and try to use our rational thinking. For example, the Semiwiki readers had the opportunity to read this article, back in November 2013: “IP-SoC 2013 Top Class Presentations”. As I am living in France, going to Grenoble is much easy for me than for Paul or Dan, and I have presented to IP-SoC numerous times since 2007.

In this article, I have expressed my questioning about SMIC presentation, as this was not really a Foundry sales pitch but rather a corporate message from China Inc. I have no issue with it, I was just surprised. I must say today that I better understand why the presentation from SMIC was organized this way, if we assume that SMIC executives came to Grenoble not only to present to a couple of hundreds European designers… but also to discuss business with their STMicroelectronics counterpart. Let me add that it was the first time ever that SMIC went to IP-SoC to present…

This above slide shows you that I mean by “Corporate pitch from China Inc.” If you miss this article, just take a look at this paragraph:

The presentation from SMIC was also interesting, for a different reason. Tian Shen Tang, Sr VP, SMIC, has delivered a sale pitch for SMIC, as expected, and this pitch was even more a China sales pitch. It was certainly a good idea to remind the audience that China is moving fast, very fast. If ten years ago western companies were searching for a low labor cost resource, Chinese OEM, semiconductor and Design IP companies are now competing with their western counterpart. It was a surprising presentation, but the message delivered by SMIC makes sense, and the company is positioning as a partner, helping Design IP to penetrate Chinese market. If you prefer, it was more a business oriented (political?) than a pure technical message, but the message was clear: China is part of the High Tech market, and SMIC can help you addressing this market.

Another slide from IP-SoC 2013, presented by Giorgio Cesana from STM:

I have recently posted a comment to a post from Paul (FinFET vs FD-SOI) and clearly identified the current weaknesses of the FD-SOI business proposal (and how these weaknesses could be removed):

This lead to the last point. I really think that FD-SOI is a great technology, which can be use to fab chips at a lower cost, or at lower power-or higher performance- for the same cost. The magic is that you can gain one technology node, like stay in 28nm, but with the power or performance benefit of 20nm. But, in the real life, to attract customers, you need to open two doors:

  • Wafer double sourcing
  • Manufacturing double sourcing

Each of these being a show stopper. Let’s assume that SOITEC and STMicroelectronics are working these business issues, then the next issue is to develop a large enough ecosystem around IP and EDA. This is more like a chicken and egg issue, but, as soon as the right amount of money will have been invested to make sure that the right IP are available, the design-win will generate enough cash will be invested to enlarge the ecosystem. This is not as magic as the technology, it’s just a question of business decision, strategy planning and business development!

If we consider the (pseudo) scoop made 6 months ago in Semiwiki in this article “IP-SoC 2013 Top Class Presentations”, at least one gate has opened, and FD-SOI is on the way to be a credible technology, to be used to attack the very busy consumer and mobile segments!

From Eric Esteve from IPNEST

More Articles by Eric Esteve…..

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