Linley Newsletter: April 19, 2018

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Linley Newsletter

(Formerly Processor Watch, Linley Wire, and Linley on Mobile)

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Issue #596

April 19, 2018

Independent Analysis of Microprocessors and the Semiconductor Industry

Editor: Tom R. Halfhill

Contributors: Linley Gwennap, Mike Demler, Bob Wheeler

In This Issue:

- TSMC 7nm Approaches Intel's Prowess

- Arm Kigen Aims to Secure Cellular IoT

Linley Processor Conference Proceedings Available

If you missed the Linley Spring Processor Conference (April 11-12 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Santa Clara, California), you can now download the FREE proceedings. This two-day event is the only one of its kind focused on the processors and IP cores used in deep learning, embedded, communications, automotive, IoT, and server designs. Principal Analyst Linley Gwennap opened the conference with an overview of the market, technologies, equipment-design, and silicon trends. The second day started with a keynote from Western Digital CTO Martin Fink covering big data trends and RISC-V. The remainder of the program included more than 20 talks and panel discussions covering a broad range of topics.

Please use the Proceedings Request Form here:

TSMC 7nm Approaches Intel's Prowess

By Linley Gwennap

As Intel's 10nm process lags further behind schedule, the company's once formidable manufacturing advantage is disappearing. Last year, both Samsung and TSMC delivered high-volume products on their 10nm technologies, which, although nowhere near Intel's 10nm process in density and speed, are arguably better than Intel's 14nm.

Many people expected Intel to leapfrog these challengers by quickly moving to 10nm. On the original tick-tock schedule, that process was due in 1H16, but putting it into a regular manufacturing flow proved to be a challenge, delaying progress. Last year, the company firmly committed to volume production by the end of 2017. But it has yet to introduce a 10nm product or an updated schedule for one.

In the meantime, TSMC forged ahead with its 7nm technology, which we expect to start volume production this quarter, in preparation for the next iPhone launch. The 7nm process is likely to arrive at about the same time as Intel's 10nm -- possibly sooner if Intel suffers further delays. Furthermore, GlobalFoundries and Samsung plan to start volume production in 7nm technologies next year, well before Intel can move to its next-generation process. Those introductions will put the three leading foundries, which serve all of Intel's major competitors, on the same level as the x86 giant.

Although their naming differs, our analysis shows that the foundries' 7nm technologies are close to Intel's 10nm in density and likely better in cost per transistor, although Intel appears to lead in raw transistor speed. In short, the foundry 7nm node is similar to the Intel 10nm in capabilities and, for TSMC, in schedule. As a result, Intel can no longer count on superior manufacturing technology to give its products an edge in the market.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

Arm Kigen Aims to Secure Cellular IoT

By Mike Demler

Arm wants to eliminate discrete subscriber identity modules (SIMs) in cellular-connected IoT devices. As a replacement, it's offering hardware and software intellectual property (IP) for integrated SIMs (iSIMs), which enable designers to build the functions directly into IoT processors, reducing cost and enhancing security. The iSIM comprises Arm's previously released CryptoIsland root-of-trust IP and an MCU-based operating system called Kigen. The OS comes from Simulity, an IoT-security startup that Arm acquired last year. It runs on CryptoIsland's embedded CPU core as well as other root-of-trust processors.

To build complete wireless MCUs, designers can combine iSIMs with the company's new NB-IoT cores, but the IP is also compatible with LTE Cat-M and 2G/3G/4G modems. The NB-IoT package includes a new Cordio-N radio and software stack, which the company acquired with its 2017 purchases of Mistbase and NextG-Com. Cordio-N is a hard macro designed for TSMC's 40nm ULP process. Arm expects its customers to release the first production devices in 2019.

Whereas cellular operators issue preprogrammed SIM cards directly to their customers, devices with iSIMs will require remote provisioning over cellular networks, a service the company plans to offer with its Kigen server solution. Customers can run the Kigen server on Arm's Mbed cloud platform, but it is also offering the software to IoT-service providers for installation on other cloud-based provisioning platforms.

The Kigen iSIM OS and cloud-provisioning platform comprises a differentiated solution for IoT processors, but it lacks wireless-industry endorsement. And unlike discrete SIMs, there is no certification process. For device manufacturers to see the cost benefit that Kigen promises, Arm must first address those issues.

Microprocessor Report subscribers can access the full article:

About Linley Newsletter

Linley Newsletter is a free electronic newsletter that reports and analyzes advances in microprocessors, networking chips, and mobile-communications chips. It is published by The Linley Group and consolidates our previous electronic newsletters: Processor Watch, Linley Wire, and Linley on Mobile. To subscribe, please visit:

Domain: Electronics
Category: Semiconductors

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