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  • Make American Semiconductor Great Again!

    As I watched the GOP debate between the top 10 candidates last week I asked myself which one of those men would I pick to help the United States stay competitive in the semiconductor industry. I’m saddened to say that the only candidate even remotely qualified for that conversation in my opinion is Donald Trump. Of course I backed Ross Perot in 1992 so I’m not what you would call a “politically correct” person.

    My first political candidate of choice was Ronald Reagan in 1981 mainly because I thought it would be fun to have an actor in charge of our country, and it certainly was. He was also a Captain in the Air Force as was my father which I respected greatly. I remember a sound check prior to a radio address when Reagan made the following Cold War joke that went viral:

    "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes."

    For the same reason Arnold Swarzenegger was my candidate for California Governor and Clint Eastwood for Mayor of Carmel but I digress…

    Right before the debate I read the IC Insights top 20 semiconductor company sales report where Samsung cut Intel’s lead to 16% in the first half of 2015. During one of the many trips I made to South Korea I was told quite clearly by Samsung that their goal was to be the number one semiconductor supplier in the world so this did not surprise me at all. Based on my experience Samsung is a very deterministic company, much more so than Intel, and they have all of the tools necessary to lead the semiconductor industry, absolutely.

    Verification claims 70% of the chip design schedule!-top-20-semiconductor-sales-leaders-1h-2015-jpg

    Another interesting development is that SK Hynix jumped both Qualcomm and Micron. Other than that the top ten did not change. The next big changes will be the Avago acquisition of Broadcom making them a Singapore based company. Avago already acquired Silicon Valley semiconductor legend LSI Logic so they are gone as well. NXP is acquiring U.S. based Freescale (Motorola) making it the largest European semiconductor company ahead of both ST and Infineon. The other big change to the semiconductor landscape that is not reflected in this chart is the GolbalFoundries acquisition of the IBM Semiconductor. It will be interesting to see what impact that will have on GF’s ranking in the second half of 2015.

    Looking back 30 years, the advent of the personal computer brought semiconductors into our homes. The PC industry was controlled by three companies: IBM (system), Intel (semiconductor), and Microsoft (software). Samsung, the largest consumer electronics company, takes that a step further by providing both the systems and semiconductors. On the other side of Intel is Apple who I would argue is the most influential fabless semiconductor company in the world today. Apple of course controls the system, semiconductors, AND software.

    Given the influence semiconductors have on modern day life one would think semiconductor design and manufacturing would be an integral part of the coming political platforms. As I said, Trump’s “Make America Great Again!” slogan resonates with me both personally and professionally. Unfortunately this seems to be Ross Perot déjà vu all over again… just my opinion of course.