SAN FRANCISCO--The president of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said Thursday (March 1) that the organization remains committed to programs that provide valuable industry statistics and that he is hopeful that solutions could be found that would enable the SIA to continue reporting accurate data on microprocessor sales pooled by the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) in a way that Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) would be comfortable with.
Intel and AMD confirmed Tuesday that they ceased participation in WSTS, a non-profit service that provides monthly statistics on chip sales that are distributed by the SIA.
SIA President Brian Toohey also said the organization was examining options for enabling the continued reporting of statistics about industry fab capacity and utilization after the discontinuation of the Semiconductor International Capacity Statistics (SICAS) program. The SICAS report was discontinued after several Taiwanese chip vendors, including foundry heavyweights Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), ceased participation last year.
"From our perspective, we need to figure out a way to fill that gap as SIA," Toohey said.
Some fear that the WSTS will be less valuable or perhaps even cease following the withdrawal of Intel and AMD. But Toohey noted that the microprocessor category, while very important, accounts for only 15 percent of the data reported by the WSTS. Chip sales figures for January are scheduled to be reported by WSTS March 5.
Toohey, referencing an EE Times article written by Bill McClean, president of IC Insights Inc., noted that the format of the WSTS reports has changed several times over the years to address the concerns of participants. In the article, McClean noted that the WSTS changed in 2004, merging the programmable logic category with the standard-cell logic category because of the concerns of Xilinx Inc. and Altera Corp., which at the time held more than 90 percent market share in programmable logic combined.
"The history of WSTS has shown it to be very resilient in reformatting different areas to address members concerns," Toohey said. "I would like to think that something like that was possible. I am certainly eager to explore what options might exist."
But Toohey also clarified that both the WSTS and SICAS are actually separate organizations, not part of the SIA (although the SIA works closely with both and distributes their reports). Each has its own membership and its own executive committee. The decision to cease publication of the SICAS report was made by the SICAS executive committee, not SIA, Toohey said.
Toohey said the microprocessor category is unique in a sense because it is dominated by two vendors with a collective market share of nearly 100 percent. Other areas of the WSTS report are less vulnerable to the possibility of companies pulling out for fear of revealing too much information, he said.
While Toohey said the SIA encourages all of its members to participate in programs like WSTS and SICAS, their participation is ultimately between them and the organizations that administer the programs, he said.
Intel and AMD have said only that they concluded that participating in the WSTS program no longer made sense force them. Most assume that the decisions are related to the fact that they account for nearly all of the microprocessor market share, collectively, with Intel accounting for the vast majority. AMD left the WSTS late last year, with Intel following suit earlier this year.
McClean said Thursday that he has been in touch with contacts at Intel in an attempt to get the firm to reverse its decision to leave WSTS. McClean said the loss of Intel reporting into WSTS would hurt the knowledge base of the entire semiconductor industry infrastructure, including Intel. Since Intel is attempting to diversify into other markets and is still a player in flash memory, the firm benefits by have a strong independent database like WSTS to help it make marketing decisions, he said.
"I think even if AMD does not want to come back, it would be worth it for WSTS to merge two or three product categories together to at least get Intel back in the database," McClean said.