Japanese engineers from competing electronics companies gather in one room to exchange punches, parries, and predictions for Japan's electronics industry.
1. It’s unlikely that Renesas’ current SoC group will join the upcoming Fujitsu/Panasonic SoC joint venture.
Almost all at the Forum agreed that a strategic plan [or the raison d’etre] for the Fujitsu/Panasonic SoC JV is non-existent. There is little incentive for Renesas to spin off its SoC team to the Fujitsu/Panasonic JV.
2. Sony won’t come back to consumer electronics if it doesn’t innovate in its business model, providing service or, better yet creating “experiences,” like Amazon or Google, in addition to selling products.
Exactly with which specific consumer product -- tablets, smartphones, imaging or game consoles -- Sony can engineer a comeback on the CE market remains unclear. Going for the lower-end CE market is not an option. The group agreed that the Japanese giant has to figure out -- pronto -- a new way of offering unique services or “experiences” for which they can charge a premium.
3. MegaChips will become the first global fabless company in Japan.
Founded in 1990, MegaChips built its success on one chip it designed for Nintendo’s Wii console and the specialized memory chips at the heart of DS game cartridges. MegaChips was billed by participants at the Forum as Japan’s first successful “breakout” fabless company. Impressed with its current strategy to cultivate new markets that will achieve volume in five years (but avoiding the already crowded smartphone and tablet chip markets), the Forum was overwhelmingly positive about MegaChips’ future.
4. 28-nm FD SOI (fully depleted silicon-on-insulator) will play a significant role beyond 28-nm bulk CMOS and before Fin-FET becomes reality -- for at least the next three years.
VeriSilicon’s Dai at the Forum was one of the strongest voices behind the 28-nm FD SOI, noting that this could give Japanese semiconductor companies a much needed edge and differentiation. Some viewed FD SOI as a plan B worth taking a chance on, or providing at least a viable “bridge” technology before Fin-FET comes along. An engineer at STMicroelectronics, an obvious FD SOI proponent attending the Forum, said: “FD SOI is not a plan B for us.” Noting that it’s ST’s only plan, he added, “We firmly believe that it offers better options in performance, power consumption and manufacturability.”
5. As the result of consolidation and reorganization, Japanese semiconductor companies may spin off engineering teams to form IP companies with government support.
The group agreed that establishing such spin-offs is a far more efficient way of reviving the Japanese electronics industry than forcing reluctant parties into one joint venture. However, Yunogami pointed out that Japanese bureaucrats, who trade their positions at METI every few years for promotions, are traditionally in favor of pulling off bigger deals -- like the merger of NEC and Renesas -- so that they can claim later on that they “saved” the industry.