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Austin, Texas — As foundries get better and fabs get bigger, the landscape of the semiconductor industry is changing, spurred in part by pressure from the financial community.

Based on our checks, we believe previous substrate delivery issues have eased [for Altera],” said Satya Chillara, American Technology Research Inc. (Greenwich, Conn.), in a report. However we are cautious on [Altera’s] backend capacity and gross margin improvement in 2H ’06, as we still hear of price increases from the test and assembly industry.”

Rival FPGA vendor Xilinx Inc. is said to be in the same boat. And unable to meet customer demand, Texas Instruments Inc. recently said that it is pulling in a large percentage of its chip-packaging and test work in-house, according to Robert Lineback, an analyst with IC Insights Inc.

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In the past, TI (Dallas) outsourced about 50 percent of its chip-packaging and test work to third-party subcontractors, while the remaining share was done in-house, Lineback said.

Now, TI is bringing in 80 percent of its backend work in-house, he said. The company has backend plants in Malaysia and the Philippines.

In fact, TI is spending 35-to-45 percent of its total capital budget on backend capacity, he said. In total, TI plans to spend $1.3 billion in 2006.

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The move will enable TI to meet demand. They couldn’t ship products late last year [due to a shortage of backend capacity],” the analyst said.

WASHINGTON — It's become an annual drill: The annual allotment of U.S. high-tech visas is reached well before the end of the government's fiscal year and proponents seeking to raise the cap cite the milestone as a reason to reform the program.

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It happened again Thursday (June 1) when the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the annual H-1B visa cap of 65,000 has been reached. The agency said the final receipt date” for H-1B applications covered under the fiscal 2007 cap was reached on May 26.

That means H-1B petitions received on that date are subject to a random selection process.” All applications received after May 26 are out of luck.

Bluespec (Waltham, Mass.) currently offers ESL synthesis from SystemVerilog design assertions. Unlike most other high-level synthesis providers, however, Bluespec targets control logic design. Now the company is claiming to bring SystemC synthesis to complex control logic as well as to data paths, and in a different way from previous offerings.

Other SystemC products fall into the category of algorithmic synthesis, with loop unrolling and so forth,” said Tasker. We handle the rest of the system on-chip. What we bring to the table is an ability to extract concurrency.” As a result, Tasker said, design and verification for an IC should take only half the time it would otherwise take.

Bluespec is offering the first ESL control logic synthesizer, said Gary Smith, chief EDA analyst at Gartner Dataquest. They do have their proprietary aspects, but they are still getting a lot of attention,” Smith said. They really don't do algorithmic synthesis, which is what all the other ESL synthesizers are doing.”

To make its synthesis possible, Bluespec is introducing ESL synthesis extensions (ESE) for SystemC. ESE adds two key enhancements to facilitate concurrency and communication: atomic transactions, or rules, and automated formal interface methods.

Modeling concurrency today in SystemC is based on threads and events, which is really a low level of dealing with complex concurrency,” Tasker said. We abstract that and bring a tremendous value-add.”

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‘Fab Four’ emerges from pure-play foundry ranks

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