Decades-old market research cooperations are breaking down. A few of the big guys don't want to play nice any more, perhaps because they think things have come to the point where they are just giving their rivals a helping hand. Peter Clarke says they mess with the system at everyone's peril.
But some of those changes are not for the better and represent a breakdown of industry consensus that was common in decades past; a consensus that helped allcomers understand the market and helped it grow.
One clear concern is that – just as the withdrawal of Taiwanese support for SICAS prompted the breakdown of the system of reporting – withdrawals from WSTS could prompt further departures or even its complete closure.
The issue is that the leading companies in these schemes, the Intels and TSMCs now consider that they are giving up lots information that can be identified as being about them while at the same time learning very little. Their dominant sales positions, and the extensive research departments they can afford, means they already know the trends without having to help inform others, who are not so well endowed.
However, it is shortsighted in a global market that continues to ebb and flow. Without accurate data on wafers produced, on average selling prices and overall and sector chip markets it is even harder to plan investment than it has been to date. The result for many companies will be akin to wielding a gun with blurred vision. One could argue that for the larger players, that have a clearer view of the overall market, this is an advantage that will help them accelerate their consolidation at the top of the industry – possibly.
But the absence of globally-compiled independent authoritative data is equally likely to further isolate companies and allow them to maintain blinkered silo-thinking for longer than they otherwise would, and as a result mis-spend their money on growth or contraction.
One could argue that EE Times has a vested interest in the continuation of SICAS and WSTS programs as they produce data that is publicly available for us to report and comment upon. But other market research firms and financial analysts are likely to step into the breach and attempt to tally up sales figures. There is no shortage of things to write about.
But the difference will be that these firms and analysts are unlikely to be as timely and independent as SICAS was and WSTS is. With a billings report that goes back more than 25 years to 1986 WSTS is much more valuable than the one month data or the quarterly data that it produces. It is a history of the semiconductor industry; the road map of where we have come from and provides valuable insights as to where the industry is going. Intel, AMD cannot be forced to stay involved, but their withdrawal messes up the system at the industry's peril.
I think they just broke my glasses. Now where's that target?
Well said, Peter. But I think it's important to re-state that Intel left the WSTS program only after AMD did. With AMD out, Intel almost had to follow suit. Otherwise, the actual MPU data presented would be just Intel, and Intel may well be understandably uncomfortable putting out this much naked data.
I do hope that both companies will reconsider their position on participation. Otherwise, I agree that it's a real shame.
This is a very well argued opinion piece. If anyone on our staff who has followed WSTS, SIA numbers closely over years, it's Peter.
We heard from some of you -- but silence on this topic from the industry is deafening.
I don't think Peter is alone who feels like his own glasses being smashed.