SEMICON West keynoter emphasizes partnerships

San Francisco, CA. Partnerships are the key to furthering the success of the semiconductor industry, according to Mark Adams, president of Micron. Delivering a keynote address at SEMICON West, he said successful partnerships don't involve one partner trying to squeeze every last dime out of the other.

Technology is being increasingly adopted in our lives, he said, noting that 4 billion people use a mobile phone, while only 3.5 billion use a toothbrush. People upload 100 hours of video to YouTube every minute and post 6,000 tweets per second. And novel new technologies are emerging, such as solar roadways and a mind-controlled exoskeleton for use by paraplegics.

It's a great time for technology, Adams said, with innovation progressing on the cloud side as well as consumer side as engineers determine how to interface with the technology. Further, the traditional computer model with processing and storage is giving way to memory-intensive homogeneous processing architectures with very high parallelism. Applications include medical awareness and diagnostics as well as bioinformatics. Semiconductor revenues will be bright, he said, for those who adapt.

But as innovation progresses, the industry is consolidating. As an example, Adams said, at one time there were 40 companies in the memory business. Today, there are only four scaled memory manufacturers: Micron, Samsung, SK Hynix, and Toshiba. With few players and rapid innovation, he said, working relationships have to change to address new challenges.

Those challenges include adapting to end-market diversity. Adams said that at one time 75% of semiconductor industry capacity went into the PC space, and that's no longer the case as mobile, automotive, and other applications proliferate. Further, complexity is driving the need for system-level solutions. It's not longer adequate, Adams said, to “just be a semiconductor manufacturer.” Manufacturers must move up the value chain as customer relationships evolve into strategic partnerships.

Just as semiconductor manufacturers are consolidating, so, too, are semiconductor equipment manufacturers. And that, said Adams, is a good thing, because increasing complexity demands scale and heavy investment in R&D among equipment suppliers to meet the quality demanded by automotive and medical end customers while reducing time to mature yield.

“Bring us your innovations,” Adams told his SEMICON West audience.

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