APAC semicon players to fare better

Shifting of supply chains to Asia-Pacific and investment boost from regional semiconductor players will drive region's semiconductor growth in 2011, says analyst. Market players point to laptops and tablets as focus areas.

Semiconductor players in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to perform better in 2011 compared with other regions, notes an analyst who points to mobile devices as a driving force in the industry.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International) analyst Clark Tseng noted that Asia-Pacific will fare better compared to other regions as entire supply chains including semiconductor manufacturing, foundry and electronics production, are moving into the region.

Asian semiconductor players' more aggressive investment plans are another reason for the region's stronger growth, Tseng added. TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing), for example, in January reported during an investor conference call that it will be doubling the company's research and development (R&D) capital expenditure (Capex) to over NT$700 million (US$23.7 million) in 2011, and increasing its overall R&D budget by almost 20 percent to over NT$1.1 billion (US$37.2 million).

Technologies, in the semiconductor industry, that provide better integration with mobile devices and deliver new user experience such as 3D IC (integrated circuits) packaging and microelectromechanical systems (Mems), will be hot growth areas this year, Tseng said.

In electronics manufacturing, the analyst said demand for mobile devices will drive growth in the semiconductor market, with products such as mobile PCs, tablets and smartphones showing "strong momentum" at a double-digit growth in the region, compared to the global average.

Industry players chip in
While Tseng pointed to mobile devices as the driving force in the semiconductor market, chip players Intel and AMD both noted that PCs--including desktops and laptops--are still a high priority on their product roadmaps.

Both market players added that they are also keeping an eye on the tablet form factor.

Intel's Asia-Pacific regional PR manager, Paul McKeon, said the company expects strong growth in laptop sales, boosted by "an accelerating refresh cycles and improving economy". He told ZDNet Asia that demand for PCs is growing at a high rate in emerging markets such as China, India and Indonesia, pushing the chipmaker's business forward.

Ben Williams, AMD's Asia-Pacific corporate vice president and general manager, said the company's new line of accelerated processing units (APUs) are focused on delivering performance advantage in the "highest sales and volume segments" in the PC market, namely, the budget and mainstream PC product categories.

Williams noted that AMD, in the first half of the year, will be shipping its A-series APU offerings which will be targeted at the higher end of the technology stack.

He added that the chipmaker's Fusion APU's low power consumption and integrated CPU and GPU will allow manufacturers to design "compelling form factors and meet consumer demand", for instance, for the tablet market. He said PC manufacturers Acer and MSi have announced tablets based on AMD's low-power Brazos platform.

McKeon added that Intel's latest system on a chip (SoC) Atom processor-based platform, Oak Trail, is optimized for tablet and netbook designs. The chip also supports multiple operating systems such as Meego, Microsoft Windows 7 and Google Android, and will be available in the first half of the year, he said.