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Analysis: What's next for SMIC?

Posted: 12 Nov 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SMIC change  foundry  SMC patent suit 

'All things to all people'?
Clearly, SMIC will continue to pursue its leading-edge, process-technology efforts. It is ramping up its 65nm process, with plans to ship 45nm wafers in 2010. SMIC, which is fighting to catch up with the leading-edge semiconductor technology pace set by its rivals, plans to extend its 45nm bulk CMOS to 40nm and 55nm geometries. The 45nm process is based on technology licensed from IBM Corp.

But going forward, it is unlikely that SMIC will continue to be "all things to all people." In other words, some speculate that Wang will focus the company's efforts on fewer markets.

For the most part, the company's strategy is to emulate TSMC and offer a broad range of technologies. SMIC's process offerings include analog, CMOS, mixed-signal/RF, liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) and MEMS technology. At one time, SMIC even offered a solar foundry process.

It makes sense for SMIC to enter parts of the analog foundry market, such as high-voltage and RF. Many digital designs are moving towards mixed-signal technologies.

But SMIC has no business being in the solar market. Some question why the company is pushing LCoS and MEMS foundry offerings. It offers little or no value for customers in those arenas—the market is too competitive, observers said.

Another questionable strategy is SMIC's efforts to build and manage fabs for various municipal governments in China. Right now, SMIC is managing two fabs—Cension Semiconductor Manufacturing International and Wuhan Xinxin Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. Cension is based in Chengdu and run by SMIC. Wuhan Xinxin is based in Wuhan.

It may end up buying back those fabs or scrapping them all together. "Looking forward, SMIC very well may acquire Cension Semiconductor Manufacturing International and Wuhan Xinxin Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., two companies it is managing," according to a recent report from iSuppli.

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