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Driving Growth

The consumer and automobile markets will be key growth sectors for the semiconductor industry, according to speakers at the recent Semico Summitt in Arizona.

The consumer and automobile markets will be key growth sectors for the semiconductor industry, according to speakers at the recent Semico Summitt in Arizona.


More than 170 semiconductor industry executives gathered at the recent Semico Summitt held in Arizona to share their views on the market opportunities taking shape this year. Acknowledging that demand for “bread-and-butter” products like computers and cell phones will continue, but not be the mainstay of the industry, this group of leaders were in agreement that consumers will drive demand for semiconductor chips.

The keynote speaker was LSI Logic chairman and chief executive officer Wilfred Corrigan (one of European Semiconductor Magazines Top Dogs - see March 2005 issue). He cited faster consumer adoption rates of new electronic entertainment devices and noted that consumers took an average of 2,000 photos over the course of their lifetime using old 35mm cameras. With the introduction of digital cameras, that average soared to 50,000 photos over a lifetime.

Corrigan also encouraged attendees to build their markets in geographical regions like Eastern Europe, India and China where the number of consumers is quickly rising, along with the appetite for innovative electronic devices.

Michel Mayer, chairman and CEO of Freescale Semiconductor, gave the second keynote. He said: “While we, along with most forecasters, expect demand and revenues to tick back up next year, it seems likely that the long-term growth rate of our industry will slow somewhat in the years to come.”

He added that the semiconductor industry is maturing, making competitive performance the key to success. As products become more complex and offer more built-in features, Mayer said that the industry would need to cooperate through corporate alliances and through the creation of open standards.

Offering a new look at a market that is often taken for granted, Bosch, Freescale, Infineon and Philips entertained attendees with a vision of the car of the future. Freescales Paul Grimme said cars will become “autonomous vehicles” with five key semiconductor-based features: sensors to absorb their environment; processors that will determine a course of action; networks to link and coordinate functions; smart power to control those functions; and what he termed “total reliability” to create driver trust in the vehicle.

Dr Reinhard Ploss of Infineon Technologies said that consumers seek primarily safety, performance and comfort from their cars. Echoing these sentiments, Bill Galione of Philips Semiconductors said drivers and passengers both want to “feel at home” in their car and “enjoy” their time on the road.

Dr Claus Schmidt of Bosch reminded the audience that while automotive manufacturers were increasingly relying on semiconductors to deliver these comfort features, electronics companies needed to ensure that their devices must achieve “zero defects”.

Summarising the themes highlighted at the conference, Jim Feldhan, president and CEO of Semico Research, said: “Industry leaders are looking to leverage last years solid growth into a sustainable formula thats immune to economic and market shifts”.

He continued: “What we heard over and over this week is that opportunities will come in the form of many markets and that we should not look for one single product to fuel our collective growth.

“I believe well see that companies are targeting their markets with a sharper strategic eye than in the past. This is the advantage and wisdom of a maturing industry.”



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