Mark LaPedus, EE Times(04/23/2007 9:00 AM EDT)San Jose, Calif.
— Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. is quietly but aggressively laboring to broaden its portfolios of internally developed semiconductor intellectual property and "proven" third-party IP. That has some observers asking whether the company is migrating to a more ASIC-like business model--and whether third-party IP vendors should be concerned about the foundry giant's competitive ambitions.
Executives at TSMC (Hsinchu, Taiwan) assert that the goal of the IP moves is to advance TSMC's pure-play foundry business. This week, the company will announce the addition of Impinj Inc. (Seattle) to its Active Accuracy Assurance program, formerly called IP-9000, which verifies third-party IP as "silicon proven" in the foundry provider's own fabs. The program may be designed to boost customer confidence that a verified piece of IP is free of the quality and manufacturing problems that have plagued some cores in system-on-chip designs.
At the same time, TSMC is beefing up its in-house IP activities. With little or no fanfare, its has expanded its hard-IP portfolio and libraries in A/D and D/A converters, memory compilers, phase-locked loops, standard cells and specialty I/O.
"I'm very worried about the channel conflicts" between TSMC's IP and the third-party IP houses in the marketplace, lamented one semiconductor IP vendor, who also expressed envy of the foundry giant's vast resources.
Over the past five years, TSMC has spent $100 million on R&D for its own design blocks and IP, president and CEO Rick Tsai said at the company's recent conference in San Jose.
The vast majority of IP houses are small operations that, combined, could not approach that total, observers said.
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