It is refreshing to hear an exec present the honest reality of how hard it is for a semiconductor company to hold onto its business and maintain profitability. The public may benefit and be amazed at the advances and cost reductions they see in everyday electronics, but keeping the machine running that drives Moore's Law is a huge burden, and much of it falls early in the food chain to the chip companies. Unfortunately, the loss of jobs for so many people is an ice bath, especially in a culture that still assumes long-term employment to loyal workers. But, that was a shattered expectation we've had to survive here in the US (and Europe) over the last decade. The world has changed.
Now, where do I buy the MCU to replace in my 20 year old car?
@The MicroMan, thanks for your comment. I must say that although this is the first time I met Mr. Sakuta, president of Renesas, his very straightforward (and no nonsense) assessments on Renesas throughout the press conference (and an elevator ride with him) left a big impression on me.
Further refreshing to me was Renesas President's open discussions on how the company is managing end-of-life businesses and products.
Obviously, a lot of responsibility comes with such decisions and actions -- both on the part of the chip suppliers and their customers.
It's one thing to stockpile necessary MCUs ahead of the production of new models. As to to the MCU to be replaced in your 20 year-old car, that's a good question. Hopefully, the maker of your car model is thinking ahead!
End-of-life business decisions seem to cost a lot of money and effort. It's hard to hear the CEO of a big company say "If you're a customer, would you do business with a company who might go bankrupt?"
Japanese struggle so much (except maybe Toshiba) compared to 5 years ago.
@?-??>, indeed. Sakuta was quite blunt about that. Because Sakuta does not come from either Hitachi, NEC or Mitsubishi, he seems to be much more open, less partial, calling what he sees as is. I hope this is something Renesas has needed.
It must be particularly hard for a man in a culture where one's word is his honor, like Japan, to have to wrestle with these business decisions that are EOL. He's very bold to face the customers so directly. Maybe here in the US we've gotten used to the dismissal "it's not personal, it's business", or analysts like me hearing vendors say "we understand our customers need a consistent supply for 7 years, so we assure that when we say 'embedded'". Yeah... right! And with the fast pace of process evolution, when they remove the 150mm 1.5 micron equipment, you can't just run the same masks on 200mm 90nm. There're also the test systems and packaging, let alone the quality and reliability that may be inherent in very specific techniques that may not be replicated in some foundry, foreign land, or even Rochester.
As for rolling your own replacement, whether an ECU or MCU, the code would be a killer to get right – or even to read out of the original – let alone if you had to modify it for that new Bosch sensor or different cam shaft (old school). Porting code from an 'HC11 to an RH850 will take more than a week in the garage. As mentioned, getting the engine running smoothly and fuel burning cleanly is quite the effort even for the professionals. These chips aren't just timers. It hard enough trying to figure out what's really wrong when your OBDII throws a P0440 code. It'll be as frustrating to have a $25,000 classic Camaro being disabled from a bum ECU as a brand new $50,000 Infiniti waiting for its $10 MCU to come from the earthquake-shaken fab.
No easy solution. We made the bed we're laying in.
@Junko: I agree with you. The openness of Mr. Sakuta about the reality might draw the customers, otherwise unwilling to discuss EOL, to the discussion table to agree upon a migration path. Being in the industry for more than 15 years (as consumer of the ICs) I understand how difficult it is to handle the EOL for everybody in the chain: from the IC manufacturer to the system developer to the end customer. But when somebody is very frank in bringing the issue in front of everyone affected, the discussion could drive to a solution. The Renesas team should make sure that they have an easier migration path for their customers who are using those EOL products, so that the users of those MCU could migrate their hardware & firmware to the new chips with much less effort.
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