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back to index backASIAtalk November,  2005

Great year for Asia's design fortunes

This has been another productive year for Asia's electronics design industry. Apparently, talk of a greater shift of design activities to Asia was superseded by the realization of another major development: a greater shift of semiconductor sales operations to the region.

However, consolidation of the electronics supply chain in Asia doesn't surprise many, given the region's evolving significance in the bigger scheme of things.

According to a study conducted by EE Times, our sister publication in the United States, Malaysia and Philippines, along with India and mainland China, stand tall among the top five offshore sites. Ireland is the only non-Asian country included in the list published in a special report titled, "Going Global."

Then there is the Indonesian island of Batam, just 12 miles away from Singapore, positioning itself as the logistical back-end destination—and, subsequently, a venue for manufacturing operations—for the likes of Philips and Panasonic, who have significant presence in the Lion City.

This year, we also heard "from sand to silicon" pitch of the government-sponsored Silicon Oasis project that aims to build a 7.2 million square-meter technology park in Dubai for an estimated $1.3 billion. The initiative comes with the lure of no duties, no taxes and living conditions that match Western standards.

On the applications front, while wireless and digital consumer remain the strong growth drivers, automotive electronics emerged as the real star. Some industry observers in Taiwan are even calling it the fourth C—for cars—besides the three Cs that have embodied much of the electronics ascendancy in the last 20 years.

The automotive electronics business is growing fast in Asia. In Taiwan, the global IT hub, companies have started basic R&D to lay the groundwork for what they see as the key growth driver for semiconductors and system revenues in the coming years.

Environment was another winner with SoHS and WEE initiatives taking hold in the electronics supply chain as Asian companies recognize their value and become more willing to face additional costs due to long-term benefits.

This year also saw new design milestones such as the single-chip mobile phone, whose availability Texas Instruments chairman Tom Engibous chose to announce from Bangalore, not Dallas. However, TI left portions of the power-management unit—along with the power amplifier, memory and other components—off chip.

Later in 2005, Silicon Laboratories Inc. raised the integration ante by unveiling an entry-level GSM/GPRS phone with built-in MPU, requiring only a power amplifier, SAW filters, non-volatile memory and some passive components.

Then the quest began for a new transistor, as many industry experts reckon that the MOSFET is approaching the end of its usefulness. Problems such as short-channel effect and thinner gate oxide are raising leakage problems to critical levels.

On the business-model front, we saw a déjà vu of sorts for vertical integration. Two decades into the shift from vertical to horizontal integration, some Japanese electronics giants are mulling some level of vertical control. While the industry debates over the merits of a desegregation model, the combination of horizontal and vertical models is quietly gaining ground among large OEMs in China.

The year has been a fulfilling one with so many things happening on multiple fronts, from innovation to business model and design milestones to the silicon ecosystem. Let's hope this momentum will carry us through 2006, making it another good year for the Asian electronics industry.

Source: Electronic Engineering Times - GAI

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