Sunday, July 29, 2012

TSMC Boosts Output of 28nm Chips by Nearly 70% in the Second Quarter.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company said that in the second quarter of 2012 sales of wafers processed using 28nm manufacturing technology contributed to 7% of the company's revenue, which means an increase of supply by nearly 70% (if actual revenues are taken into account). Potentially, it means substantial boost of 28nm supply by TSMC, even though it is obvious that the demand still by far exceeds supply.
TSMC to Continue Boosting 28nm Output

"This year, every quarter, the major effort has been to ramp up 28nm and in doing so of course we did incur a lot of costs. As a result, the gross margin of 28nm all year this year will not be up to the corporate average standard. [...] 28nm is progressing very well," said Morris Chang, chief executive officer of TSMC, during a recent conference call with financial analysts.

28nm process technology accounted for 7% of total wafer revenues, meeting TSMC's internal plans. 40nm accounted for 28% of total wafer revenues, and 65nm was 26%. The advanced technologies accounted for 61% of total wafer revenues.

"Our output and our yields are both above the plans that we set for ourselves and the plans that we communicated to our customers early in the year. [...] We expect to ramp up to about 68 thousand 300mm wafers per month by the end of the year," claimed Mr. Chang.

68 thousand 300mm wafers processed using 28nm manufacturing technology is a very high number.Back in Q1 2012 the world's largest contract maker of semiconductors mainly produced chips using 28LP (SiON) process technology, whereas companies like Nvidia Corp. blamed it for inability to supply processors manufactured at 28HP node that utilized high-k metal gate (HKMG) technology. TSMC projected to boost output of 28HP chips to 50% of all 28nm output by the end of the year. Unfortunately, the company did not reveal the split between 28nm SiON and 28nm HKMG process technologies planned today.

"First quarter of 2013 on, we will fully meet the 28nm demand. It is also then that we expect that the 28nm gross margin will catch up with the corporate average," added Mr. Chang.
TSMC Expects to Further Increase Revenues

“Due to continuing strong demand for our 28nm technology, we expect to double the shipments of 28nm in the third quarter. This increase in 28nm business will account for more than 80% of revenue growth in the third quarter,” said Lora Ho, SVP and Chief Financial Officer of TSMC.

TSMC recently announced consolidated revenue of NT$128.06 billion, net income of NT$41.81 billion, and diluted earnings per share of NT$1.61 (US$0.27 per ADR unit) for the second quarter ended June 30, 2012. Year-over-year, second quarter revenue increased 15.9% while both net income and diluted EPS increased 16.3%. Compared to first quarter of 2012, second quarter of 2012 results represent a 21.4% increase in revenue, and a 24.9% increase in both net income and diluted EPS. Gross margin for the quarter was 48.6%, operating margin was 36.5%, and net margin was 32.7%.

For the third quarter 2012 TSMC expects revenue to be between NT$136 billion and NT$138 billion; gross profit margin is expected to be between 46% and 48%; operating profit margin is expected to be between 34% and 36%.

Microsoft Admits: Own-Brand Surface Tablets May Impact Relationships with Partners.

Microsoft Corp. has admitted in a filing with the Securities and Exchange commission (SEC) that its forthcoming Surface media and productivity tablets will compete against third-party slate-type products that use Windows 8 operating system, which may lower the commitment of the company's partners to the platform.

"Our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform," a statement by Microsoft reads.

Partners of Microsoft Corp. believe that considering the company's heritage and orientation, it will not be able to make its own-brand Surface tablets a strong success since it lacks retail presence comparable to Apple's and will compete not on its own field. To make the matter worse, it will compete against its hardware partners, which is hardly good for business in general. According to Microsoft partners among solution providers and the channel resellers, Microsoft will not be able to convince business customers to buy Surface tablets directly from them hoping that they [clients] will customize the tablets later on themselves. Meanwhile, eliminating partners by selling Surface only in Microsoft's own retail and select online stores, means that the slates will not be tailored for particular deployments in general.

Bill Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft and the former chief executive officer of the company, said in an interview that Surface would not rival products from other makers of hardware and therefore would not impact value added resellers as well as distributors.

"I actually believe you can have the best of both worlds. You can have a rich eco-system of manufacturers and you can have a few signature devices that show off, wow, what is the difference between a tablet and a PC," said Bill Gates.

One of the reasons why Microsoft intends to release Surface is to set up a benchmark for Windows RT/8-based slates, something that hardware makers will have to look at and something that will be clearly competitive against products like Apple iPad. Many hardware makers will now have to reconsider their designs in order to make their devices on par with "reference" tablets from Microsoft. From this point of view, Microsoft's move with Surface is completely justified as it will ensure that Windows 8/RT-powered tablets will be rather good. On the other hand, some partners may decide to utilize other operating systems in order not to compete against Microsoft directly.

AMD Reportedly Delays Release of Dual-Chip Flagship Graphics Card Again.

Advanced Micro Devices will delay the release of its dual-chip flagship graphics card, the Radeon HD 7990, to late August. The reasons for the delay are unclear, but what is important is that add-in-card partners of AMD do not seem to have plans to release their own-developed Radeon HD 7970 X2 ahead of the Radeon HD 7990, despite of expectations.

Although AMD has managed to release the world's first graphics processing unit (GPU) made using 28nm process technology, the Radeon HD 7900 "Tahiti", it has evidently failed to develop a dual-chip flagship graphics card powered by two of such chips. The arch-rival of AMD, Nvidia was several months late with its first 28nm GPU, but was quick enough to launch its dual-chip graphics board for enthusiasts in late April.

According to VR-Zone web-site, AMD has delayed its Radeon HD 7990 again and will unveil it at Germany's Games Convention (GamesCon) video game event in late August. It is noteworthy that this will be one of the first AMD product launches in years that will be made in Europe. In the recent years AMD launched its significant products either in the U.S. or in the Southeast Asia.

AMD Radeon HD 7990 graphics card is expected to carry two Tahiti XT (Radeon HD 7970) graphics processing units (GPUs) and 6GB of GDDR5 memory onboard. Thanks to two AMD Tahiti XT graphics chips, the dual-chip graphics solution will have 4096 stream processors, 256 texture units, 64 render back ends and so on. The novelty will have some kind of Turbo mode that will clock the chips higher when thermal design power allows. Besides, the reference design of 7990 will have four mDP display connectors as well as two dual-link DVI connectors to support up to six displays at once, something that Nvidia's GeForce GTX 690 cannot. What is surprising is that AMD is reportedly working on a special version of the graphics card with 12GB of high-speed GDDR5 memory onboard.

The exact reasons behind the delay are unclear, but besides natural challenges with installation of two Radeon HD 7970/Tahiti XT chips with ~200W thermal design power on the same board, VR-Zone claims that AMD decided to implement a rather exotic power supply circuitry. Instead of using two 8-pin PCIe power connectors, AMD decided to utilize four 6-pin PCIe connectors. Those four 6-pin connectors lead to a multiphase power regulation, divided into three groups. The major groups consist out of Tahiti XT (not the XT2, i.e. the GHz Edition), 3GB GDDR5 memory per core (clocked at 1.5GHz) and the PLX PCIe 3.0 controller.

The Radeon HD 7990 is projected to be more affordable than Nvidia's GeForce GTX 690, which official price-tag of $999 is exceeded in many cases.

AMD did not comment on the news-story.

Asrock Pre-Announces AMP Memory by AMD.

Asrock, one of the most-admired makers of mainboards according to an X-bit labs survey, said that through a new BIOS update its flagship AM3+ mainboard will support AMD-specific memory modules with serial presence detect (SPD) containing special timings for microprocessors designed by AMD.

"Asrock's flagship board Fatal1ty 990FX professional is the only on-sale motherboard offering AMD AMP memory overclocking kit in the consumer market, stepping to the future memory overclocking now," a statement by Asrock reads.

Asrock indicated that its top-of-the-range Fatal1ty 990FX Professional mainboard which has AM3+ socket that supports both current FX "Bulldozer" chips as well as forthcoming FX "Piledriver" central processing units is now also compatible with AMD's AMP (AMD Memory Profile) SPD settings which allow overclockers and enthusiasts to easily get more speed from their memory modules by choosing exact clock-speed and latency settings [which are presented] without faithfully harming the chips.

Potentially, the improvement of supporting pg AMD's AMP-compatible memory chips should enable frequencies ahead of 2.8GHz speeds (supported by Trinity officially) from default of 2.1GHz for memory, which is a rather high frequency.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Microsoft Unveils Surface Media Tablets.

Microsoft Corp. on Monday introduced its first media tablets that will be sold under its own brand later this year. The company executives showed two Windows tablets and accessories that feature significant advances in industrial design and attention to detail. Surface is designed to seamlessly transition between consumption and creation. The Surface tablets will primarily compete against Apple's iPad slates.
Microsoft Surface is designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees and features extensive investment in industrial design and real user experience. The casing of Surface is created using a unique approach called VaporMg, a combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch. Starting with magnesium, parts can be molded as thin as 0.65mm, thinner than the typical credit card, to create a product that is thin, light and rigid/strong.
The VaporMg approach also enables a built-in kickstand that lets one transition Surface from active use to passive consumption – watching a movie or even using the HD front- or rear-facing video cameras. The kickstand is there when needed, and disappears when not in use, with no extra weight or thickness.
Microsoft Surface also features Touch Cover keyboard that senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard. Touch Cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector. Surface sports a full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio of the screen, which is more advanced than 4:3 aspect ratio of Apple iPad.
Two models of Surface will be available: one running an ARM processor featuring Windows RT, and one with an Intel Core "Ivy Bridge" processor featuring Windows 8 Pro. Surface for Windows RT will release with the general availability of Windows 8, and the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. Both will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores.
Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC. OEMs will have cost and feature parity on Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Intel Acquires 1700 Radio Patents for $375 Million.

Intel Corp. and InterDigital  on Monday announced that they had signed a definitive agreement to sell to Intel roughly 1700 patents and patent applications for $375 million in cash. The radio technology patents will help Intel to better compete on the market of cell phones, tablets and similar devices.
"These patents will support Intel's strategic investments in the mobile segment. The addition of these patents expands our already large, strong and diverse portfolio of intellectual property," said Doug Melamed, Intel senior vice president and general counsel.
The agreement involves patents primarily related to 3G, 4G/LTE and 802.11 technologies. InterDigital is an active developer of advanced wireless technologies including WCDMA (wideband CDMA), HSDPA (high speed download packet access) and HSUPA (high speed upload packet access) 3G technologies as well as LTE (long term evolution) and LTE-Advanced 4G technologies.
"This transaction, which involves a small portion of our overall patent portfolio, marks an important milestone of InterDigital's stated strategy of expanding the monetization of its large and growing intellectual property portfolio. By executing on our business plan, which has been broadened to include patent sales, licensing partnerships and other possibilities, we see tremendous potential to expand revenue and build shareholder value," said Scott McQuilkin, senior executive vice president, strategy and finance at InterDigital.
The companies expect the transaction to be completed in third quarter 2012, subject to customary closing conditions and any required regulatory approvals.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Nvidia Readies GeForce GTX 680M for High-End Laptops.

Nvidia Corp. plans to introduce its new high-end graphics solution for notebooks at Computex 2012 in Taipei, Taiwan, early next month. The new GeForce GTX 680M will be based on the GK104 graphics processing unit that belongs to the Kepler family of solutions and will be offer about one third better performance than the model GTX 670M.
According to reports from web-sites like VideoCardz and Chiphell, the GeForce GTX 680M will feature 768 stream processors and therefore 64 texture units, reduced number of raster operating units and 256-bit memory bus. It is presently believed that the GeForce GTX 680M will utilize N13E-GTX-A2 chip, which is believed to be a variation of GK104 chip. The new mobile flagship will fully support modern high-end features like DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.2, OpenCL 1.2, stereoscopic-3D, 4 multi-monitor capability, PhysX, 4-way multi-GPU, PCI Express 3.0 and so on.
The reports claim that the GeForce GTX 680M is 37% faster compared to GeForce GTX 670M, which is based on Fermi architecture and which has 336 stream processors operating at 1200MHz. Given the fact that the data comes without attribution to any kind of source, it should be considered as inaccurate.
Even though both Nvidia and its arch-rival AMD in the recent cycles did not use flagship GPUs in mobile computers, Nvidia did squeeze the GF100 chip into mobile thermal envelopes and introduced GeForce GTX 480M back in mid-2010.
Nvidia did not comment on the news-story.