SAN FRANCISCO National Semiconductor Corp. chief Brian Halla wants the U.S. chip industry to end its reliance on Moore's Law as its calling card and find ways to end the "attack of apathy" suffered by politicians that threatens the industry's global competitiveness.
In an interview with EE Times on Tuesday (April 19), Halla said Moore's Law and the semiconductor industry's potential to improve the efficiency of information technology have become tired rallying cries. Excessive reliance on Intel co-founder Gordon Moore's insight no longer inspires interest among politicians or the public, he added, and IT growth has leveled off.
Instead, National Semiconductor's CEO said the U.S. semiconductor industry needs to refocus on compelling applications for semiconductors like personal, medical, surveillance and security technologies. Moreover, he said industry executives need to do a better job of educating lawmakers on the major competitive threat posed by China.
"The apathy toward the industry is self-inflicted," Halla said, "because we keep talking about Moore's Law. That's been done."
Halla pointed to new accounting rules for expensing stock options, requirements imposed on public companies by Sarbanes-Oxley legislation and the insufficient number of H-1B visas awarded to highly-skilled workers as examples of U.S. government policies that hinder the U.S. industry's competitiveness.
Industry critics argue that accounting and reporting reforms are long overdue, and that the visa program allows the chip industry to cut costs by using cheap foreign labor.
Halla said that while he believes that Sarbanes-Oxley legislation which established more stringent financial reporting requirements in the wake of major corporate scandals at Enron Corp. and WorldCom Inc. is needed, it must be modified to be made less burdensome.
He admitted that complying with the new law unearthed minor discrepancies in National Semiconductor's own financial reporting practices, adding that it spent $6 million in man-hours last year to comply with provisions of the law. Halla called this an ongoing expense that he said would hamper the industry.
"Rather than a sinister conspiracy on the part of politicians," Halla said, "I think it's just plain apathy."