<p>In selecting benchmarking opponents, however, Transmeta did not choose CPU models with the same clock rates, opting instead for models with the same 7-W power consumption, which is considered the maximum allowable current demand for notebook computers without fans. Who would complain if the Efficeon ran at 1.1 GHz while the Centrino ran at only 900 MHz and both chips drew the same amount of power from the battery?</p>

The news does not bode well for the competing Multiband-OFDM Alliance (MBOA) as it prepares to battle for the final few percentage points needed to have its proposal endorsed by the group, meaning it would serve as the basis for a standard for 480-Mbits/s data communications over a distance of up to 1 meter.

The question is whether the Ikanos and Centillium approach is enough to thrive in the current DSL market. Specifically, many question how both companies have embraced the best-of-breed approach to tackle a residential-gateway design.

There is a weakness in the best-of-breed argument,” said Ben Wagner, director of worldwide marketing and business development for Texas Instruments' DSL business unit. The bottom line is long-term cost. You need volumes to alter the cost equation.” By providing all elements, Wagner said, companies like TI can achieve the volumes necessary to win.


Rago also questions the best-of-breed argument. This is a consumer market, and time-to-market is everything,” the iSuppli analyst said. You've got to provide OEMs, ODMs and contract manufacturers with everything-hardware and software. He who provides that level of integration will win.”

As one of the heaviest backers of the all-in-one integration concept, Broadcom cannot help but concur. Wireless [Wi-Fi] will be just one ingredient in a whole sea of technologies integrated on a single chip,” said Jeff Thermond, vice president and general manager of Broadcom's Home and Wireless Networking Business Unit. For Broadcom, he said, the road map clearly defines a path from the current implementation, comprising a broadband router (cable or DSL) with wireless as a PCI card add-on, to integrating all of that on a single slice of silicon with a five-port switch.

It'll be hard to sell a standalone DSL router chip,” said Thermond. [The DSL chip companies] will have to integrate wireless. We even have customers for our ASIC business asking us to throw in wireless-just in case.”


Woes for Wi-Fi chips

Standalone DSL companies are not the only ones with questions after the Conexant/GlobespanVirata merger. Such binding of broadband to wireless also seriously undermines the business model for standalone WLAN chip vendors, such as Atheros, IceFyre, Bermai and Envara, Thermond said. Their future looks very bleak,” he said. Retail is becoming less and less a sales path as Wi-Fi gets integrated in cell phones and elsewhere. It's not wise to offer a single-threaded portfolio.”


But, said Craig Barratt, CEO of Atheros, the oracles portending their demise are false. For Barratt, the key to survival is execution. Those [WLAN chip vendors] that have executed well will survive,” he said. Those that didn't can hide within a larger company [through buyouts or mergers].” For Barratt, viability correlates with maintaining technological leadership and executing on that. So far, Barratt counts numerous PC vendors and, more recently, consumer device manufacturers-including four TV manufacturers-among Atheros' list of customers. Barratt didn't mention that almost every recent WLAN switch startup has also opted for one or other of the Atheros a/b/g chip sets.

Still, Barratt agrees that integration with a broadband chip is a good option, once the attach rate is high enough, though the radio may remain separate.”

La SIA prévoit une forte reprise depuis le début de cette année, mais s'est vue dans l'obligation de modérer ses prévisions initiales au vu de l'incertitude suscitée par le conflit en Iraq et l'épidémie du SARS. La croissance de la demande de puces a effectué un rebond considérable lors du second semestre de l'année, plus particulièrement au cours du troisième trimestre. Aussi la SIA a-t-elle de nouveau réexaminé ses prévisions de croissance pour 2003 à 15,8%, pour situer le total des ventes de puces à 163 milliards de dollars.

L'un des points les plus positifs concerne la demande de PC, qui demeure le principal marché d'application des puces. Les ventes de PC devraient augmenter de 8% cette année puis de 11% l'année prochaine, en raison de la mise à niveau des systèmes au sein des entreprises. Les fournisseurs de puces prévoient également que les fabricants de téléphones portables étofferont leur contenu en semi-conducteurs afin de proposer de nouvelles options, notamment l'affichage en couleur. Entre-temps, les fabricants de produits électroniques grand public alignent leur carnet de commandes de puces sur la demande croissante de lecteurs de DVD enregistrables et d'appareils photo numériques.

L'exception à la règle reste, comme à l'habitude, les ventes de puces de mémoire. Les ventes de dispositifs à mémoire DRAM sont en passe d'afficher une croissance de 30% l'année prochaine, en raison de la hausse de la demande de PC et de serveurs, pour ensuite diminuer de 10% l'année suivante, dans la mesure où les fournisseurs de mémoires envisagent d'augmenter la capacité. Pendant la même période, les ventes de puces autres que les puces de mémoire devraient continuer leur progression en affichant une croissance annuelle supérieure à 10%, indiquent les prévisions de la SIA.

Autre point positif pour les fabricants de puces, la capacité de production a atteint son meilleur niveau depuis le point culminant du dernier cycle de reprise. D'ici à la fin de l'année, l'utilisation totale des unités de fabrication devrait dépasser les 90%, ce qui devrait encourager les fabricants à augmenter les prix. Cette situation aurait été inimaginable il y a deux ans, lorsque l'utilisation de la capacité atteignait tout juste 60%.

M. Daane explique que les dépenses en matière de capacité nouvelle affichent encore un niveau trop bas pour maintenir un juste équilibre. « Nous y consacrons 18% de notre chiffre d'affaires en 2003, alors que nous devrions y consacrer 22 à 23% », souligne-t-il.

While the company had long prided itself on the autonomous nature of its various businesses, in early 2000 it acknowledged that it was missing substantial savings opportunities by not better leveraging its spend with suppliers. Chief among its problems was the fact that, despite its size, Ametek had never developed a centralized strategy to direct its $500 million annual materials expenditure, according to vice president and chief information officer William Lawson.

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