Is IBM moving to fab-lite, research heavy?
11/24/2010 7:26 AM EST
LONDON – IBM appears set to gradually back away from semiconductor manufacturing and to rely for its leading-edge silicon on Samsung and GlobalFoundries as foundry suppliers. Both Samsung and GlobalFoundries are set to have wafer fabs for foundry operations in the United States, which could help cement relations.
IBM, GlobalFoundries and Samsung are set to co-host the Common Platform Alliance Technology Forum at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California on January 18, 2011, but whereas GlobalFoundries and Samsung are set to spend $12 billion in 2011, IBM's spending is likely to be less than $500 million according to data from an analyst at market research firm Gartner.
For years IBM has been a beacon of research in semiconductor technology and had carried that work into manufacturing with its own processes and wafer fabs. As well as including aggressive process miniaturization its pioneering work has included high-frequency RF on CMOS and silicon-on-insulator. Such was its leading position in research that it was able to drive the Common Platform Alliance as a means of sharing semiconductor process research costs.
But an analysis of the capital expenditure plans show that IBM is gradually allowing itself to exit from leading-edge manufacturing at high volume. IBM appears to have joined the broad class of semiconductor companies that will never build a major wafer fab again.
An examination of capital expenditure data from Gartner reveals that the last time IBM spent more than $1 billion on semiconductor capital expenditure in one year was 2004, when it was the 11th biggest spender.
IBM is not in the top 20 of semiconductor capital expenditure in 2010 and nor is it expected to be in the top 20 in 2011, according to Bob Johnson, research vice president with Gartner.
There are going to be 10 or 11 companies in the billion-dollar capex club in 2011, according to Johnson's latest figures. The top 20, with their spending in millions of dollars, is currently set to be:
Texas Inst. $800
Source: Gartner, November 2010