LONDON -- Like a cross between a German banker and German bear chipmaker Infineon Technologies, is turning down the lights, putting on his nightcap and preparing to go to sleep.
That's not exactly a dynamic image, but in the last couple of quarters Infineon (Munich, Germany) has become one the most bearish of companies and is forecasting a bad winter and a current fiscal year – Oct. 1 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013 – that will be lower than the last fiscal year by a mid-to-high single-digit percentage rate. Ouch!
Incoming CEO Reinhard Ploss is implementing the corporate equivalent of a national austerity package although – thankfully – layoffs are not mentioned. Instead, Ploss is looking to put workers on short-time working to try and weather an "economic storm."
Wilkins Micawber was a character created by Charles Dickens in "David Copperfield." It was Micawber who reduced economics to a simple aphorism: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
It seems that Ploss is determined to follow the Micawber principle and cut Infineon's cloth according to its means.
However, it is unusual – and worrying – to hear of a company that is seeking to identify projects that can be temporarily postponed or stopped so that machines can be switched off and hands made idle. Even Infineon's initiative to make power semiconductors on thinned 300-mm diameter wafers has been affected by this. The standard in the industry is 200-mm wafers and the use of larger wafers would give Infineon a cost advantage over its competition. In a statement Ploss said: "As soon as Infineon sees demand, we will develop our production capacities. In the face of the weak economy, it may take some time until we can fully make use of the benefits of 300-mm technology."
Sleep is a low-energy state compared to dynamic activity when awake.
There is still a lot of brain activity, breathing, processing of food and information going on. But things slow down; tired muscles rest and repair.
In that sense it feels like Infineon, which made a good profit in FY12, is a strong company but has decided to slow things down and at least take things easy through a difficult winter.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.