ExtremeTech recently had a chance to sit down with Brian Halla, CEO of National Semiconductor to get an idea of how National is approaching the future. Since the interview, things have gotten dicey for the Silicon Valley chip company. The company announced that it was shedding its system-on-a-chip Geode business, and then late last week investor-activist Ralph Whitman announced that he wants two seats on the board.
Where is chip technology going: All the fab stuff is going to China. Intel and AMD will try to maintain the process control roadmap for CMOS, but its erroneous to think that this wont go to China too.
Since .5 Micron, the process technology roadmap has been dictated by the chip manufacturing equipment guys. The last major piece of equipment built in the US was when IBM microelectronics built a copper sputter.
Now its Applied Materials, Nikon and Canon who determine what everyones .13 micron process looks like. A big reason why Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and other Taiwanese and Chinese foundry companies have been successful is because theres so much commonality that everyone uses. Its easy to move from one to the others fab.
The largest consumer of semiconductor equipment today is TSMC. Who is ASML (another major semiconductor equipment vendor) going to take its orders from? TSMC, thats who.
Now what do we know about Taiwan? Its virtually already unified with China. Over half of the fabs have moved to mainland China. TSMC will be moving to Mainland China. They are who AMAT and ASML listen to. TSMC will be in Bejing, and that means that the process roadmap for our industry will also be dictated out of Bejing.