Moving into the second quarter, the industry news continues to support the positive outlooks for growth on the heels of continued positive data from 2013. Gartner released final report data showing 5% revenue increase year-over-year for 2013 which was echoed in SEMI's 2013 review which tempered the semiconductor chip growth with data on declining revenues for semiconductor equipment and materials sectors. SIA closed the week today with 11.4% semiconductor sales growth for February on a year-over-year basis as well as the important semiconductor roadmap assessing challenges and opportunities for the industry through 2028.
A week of strong data
This week's important reports are worth noting for tempering forecasts and revisiting strategic positions:
- The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) announced the release of the 2013 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS);
- SIA's February semiconductor sales data were released showing 11.4% growth on a year-over-year basis for the month;
- SEMI released the collaborative "2013: A Year in Review – Semiconductor Equipment and materials Market and Outlook"; and
- Gartner released information from its "Market Share Analysis: Semiconductor Revenue, Worldwide 2013."
ITRS highlights Big Data and heterogeneous integration
The ITRS semiconductor industry roadmap through 2028 provides an important vision for both opportunities and challenges across regions and sectors. Among the highlights of this report, are the opportunities and challenges for scaling. 3D architectures are going to open the door for many new solutions once the challenges around the materials, conductors, and wrapping are overcome. Integration in the 3D stack presents means for overcoming these challenges while also attending to shrinking end-device sizes.
Integration as a theme is already in full-swing in the mobile device sector and solutions from these architectures open new paths for innovation, such as attention to reduction of power over performance-only improvements. What we have seen is a recent growth in heterogeneous integration that is likely to be an important and widening trend over the next decades, namely the growth and maturation of SoC and SiP architectures. Looking forward though, new devices are on the roadmap which, in turn, will require new types of memory innovations to realize the opportunities especially as storage of increasingly large data transfers escalates while devices are ever-more multitasking and collecting and manipulating new types of data.
Finally, manufacturing has been facing the challenges of increasingly fewer nanometer scales for ICs along with the continued move from 300 mm to 450 mm wafers and the challenges that are being overcome there. Again, at the fab level, the challenges and opportunities from collecting, transferring, storing, and manipulating Big Data sets are felt. Solutions for the next generations of devices over the coming decades hold promise but the challenges focus around these Big Data questions and how to handle that from the architectural, integration and manufacturing aspects.
Beyond challenges is growth
worldwide sales of semiconductors reached [US] $25.87 billion […]. This marks the industry largest year-to-year increase in more than three years. Global sales from February 2014 were 1.5 percent lower than the January 2014 total of $26.26 billion, reflecting normal seasonal trends.
SEMI's report presented a more mixed data bag with growth for semiconductor device revenues finally exceeding the US $300 billion level, according to the SIA numbers. While that is a 5% increase, equipment fell 14% and materials markets were also down 3%. SEMI explains importantly that the equipment and to a lesser extent the material market data are influenced by foreign exchange rates which experienced weaker Yen values that pulled down the total revenues. The reason for the impact due to Yen exchange rates is the number of Japanese suppliers. With the positive growth forecasts for the semiconductor device market, SEMI anticipates and forecasts a return to modest growth for both the semiconductor equipment and materials markets in 2014.
Gartner's final data for 2013 echo the SEMI device data for 2013 revealing that "total worldwide semiconductor revenue reached [US] $315 billion in 2013, up 5 percent from 2012." The revenue market data increase was particularly affected by the strong growth in the memory market, which saw a 23.5% increase in 2013. Of importance to these data is that the memory increases were due more to weak supply than strong demand, which had the effect of driving up ASPs as inventory thinned. However, that is not the only story, as Samsung and Qualcomm both grew in market share and revenue on the strong memory and processors, respectively, according to the Gartner data.