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Commentary: What I Liked Best About CS Vision '07
 
... Last week in Austin, Texas compound semi (CS) industry veterans, most of whom were CEOs, plus analysts, strategic planners and a sprinkling of guests and people new to our industry gathered at the serene and somewhat restful Hyatt Regency hotel on Town Lake for our annual CS Vision Executive...
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Photovoltaic Startup, Stion Raises $15 Million in Series B Financing
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 27, 2007...Stion Corporation (formerly NStructures), a photovoltaic startup of Menlo Park, California USA, reported that the company has raised $15 million in Series B financing. The financing round was led by LightSpeed Venture Partners. General Catalyst Partners also participated in the funding round in addition to the three existing investors, Khosla Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, and Moser Baer Photovoltaic.

Like others in the photovoltaic field, Stion is hoping to increase efficiency and minimize cost-of-ownership. The company said that it was not going to use CIGS or Cadmium Telluride technology. It is generally suspected that the company will utilize quantum dot technology. While this technology has shown some promise, it has not gone outside of the laboratory in terms of how practically and inexpensively it can be manufactured. Chet Farris, Stion’s president and CEO stated, “Our technology is primed for the next phase of development and the proceeds from this round will take us to early commercialization phase.” Company News Release

SatCon Receives Large PowerGate Inverter Orders from Google and FuelCell Energy
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 27, 2007...SatCon Technology Corporation of Boston, Massachusetts USA reported that Google ordered its PowerGate commercial grade inverters for Google's coporate headquarters in Mountain View, California. The inverters convert the energy from the 1.6MW photovoltaic system into alternating current to power the Google facility. Solar power, like many other alternate energy power systems puts out direct current. This must be converted to alternating current to be compatible with the power grid.

The photovoltaic system at Google’s headquarters is touted as the largest commercial photovoltaic system in the United States. Sharp produced the 9,212 208-watt photovoltaic modules, and El Solutions of San Rafael, California, installed them at Google’s headquarters. The overall photovoltaic system including the SatCon inverters is estimated to eliminate nearly 3,637,627 lbs of harmful greenhouse gases annually. SatCon noted that over the next 30 years, this would be equivalent to over 128 million car driving miles. SatCon News Release.

In other news, the company received $2.8 million in PowerGate inverter orders. The orders come from FuelCell Energy Inc. (FCEL), a dominant developer, and manufacturer, and supplier of high efficiency, ultra-clean fuel cell power plants. SatCon indicated that it plans to deliver the inverters to FCEL over the next four to nine months. SatCon News Release

Anadigics PA Shipping for Samsung Smartphone

June 27, 2007...Anadigics reports that it is shipping production volumes of its AWT6223 UMTS/EDGE penta-band power amplifier (PA) module to Samsung for its SGH-I520 smartphone designed for the European market. The SGH-I520 offers many multimedia functions including: a 2.0 megapixel camera, a wide 2.3" QVGA screen allowing for the view of an entire internet page, Bluetooth capabilities, and a 50 MB internal memory along with a microSD memory card slot for up to 2 GB. The SGH-I520 handset can connect to the Internet using technology allowing the user to download content at rates up to 1.8Mb/sec over WCDMA, HSPA, or EDGE networks. The AWT6223 also has a fully functional quad-band GSM/EDGE PA, with excellent efficiency in the GSM850/900 bands and DCS/PCS bands in both GSMK and 8PSK modes.

The AWT6223 penta-band PA module that incorporates Anadigics' second-generation High-Efficiency-at-Low-Power (HELP2) technology is ideal for powering the latest handsets with multimedia functionality. Anadigics says that with the HELP2 technology the AWT6223 UMTS/EDGE penta-band PA can reduce UMTS average power consumption by up to 50 percent. This translates to significantly longer battery life for handset users. Anadigics News Release

RFMD Advances in Rankings for 2006
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 27, 2007...RF Micro Devices Inc., of Greensboro, North Carolina USA, reported that Gartner Dataquest has identified RFMD as the world’s sixth largest global wireless communications semiconductor vendor. This year RFMD advanced one position over the previous ranking in which the company was ranked seventh. From 2005 to 2006 RFMD’s revenues grew some 44 percent, a figure Gartner attributes largely to RFMD’s Polaris Total Radio RF solutions and PA module businesses. According to Gartner, in 2006, RFMD like other wireless semiconductor companies worldwide benefited from an industry-wide 75 percent increase in total wireless application revenues. Gartner indicated this industry-wide revenue increase was in part due to the growth of 3G handset demand. Gartner pointed out that 3G handsets require more semiconductor components than other handsets.

Bob Bruggeworth, president and CEO of RFMD stated, "RFMD is the leading supplier of cellular front ends across all tiers of handsets - from the high-end EDGE and 3G segments to the entry level and replacement segments of the handset market. As the cellular RF leader, we are uniquely positioned to increase our RF semiconductor content in mobile devices as 3G multimode handsets proliferate, new subscribers are added and new replacement phones are purchased.” Bruggeworth added, "Beyond handsets, the same core competencies that have supported our success in cellular are driving our opportunities in wireless LAN (WLAN), infrastructure, GPS and other complementary markets.” RFMD News Release

Filtronic CS Business for Sale After Primary Customer Lost
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 25, 2007...RF Micro Devices has chosen to switch to in-house production of its gallium arsenide PHEMTs in September. That leaves Filtronic, the company that currently produces its GaAs PHEMTs in its 6-inch fab facility, without its main customer. Filtronic, the only major GaAs fabricator in the UK released a statement saying that the company would downsize its fab operations, cutting some 115 jobs. This comes roughly two years after RFMD sought GaAs PHEMTs from the fabricator in 2005. At that point Filtronic ramped production. Filtronic had grand plans for expansion its fab operations, but it was not able to get the customer base required.

The statement from Filtronic said, “Our predominant customer has now advised us that its requirement for switches from Filtronic will cease in September because of their decision to in-source all production. This will result in a substantial reduction in the level of activity for our business.” The company added that, “The board is considering a full range of possibilities for the ongoing operation, including sale.” Filtronic News Release

EntreMetrix Pursues Joint Manufacturing Alliance in China for Nitride Devices
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 25, 2007...EntreMetrix Inc. of Irvine, California USA, said in a recent statement that it is pursuing a joint manufacturing alliance in China for advanced nitride devices. The company’s plan for the joint venture requires a China-based alliance partner to invest in building an epitaxial wafer production operation that serves the semiconductor device manufacturers of China. According to the company’s plan, the foundry will produce gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor technology.

Discussing the alliances under consideration EntreMetrix CEO Scott W. Absher stated that “concern for more balanced trade between the US and China has encouraged an investment interest by China in joint ventures with US-based companies to develop technologies to be manufactured in China. The development of a joint manufacturing venture to produce Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductor technology under advanced nitride devices makes a great deal of sense at this time. Clearly the manufacturing influence in China and the quest to pursue next-generation technologies using Gallium Nitride technology offer enormous opportunity.”

EntreMetrix reported that it utilize portfolio investment scenarios to increase the Company’s net asset value and capital. According to the plan, the company will distribute the equity of each portfolio company to EntreMetrix shareholders of record at the time of a public market entry. The evaluation process has begun and is expected to produce an alliance partner by Q4 of 2007. Company News Release

Micron Technology Engineers Develop Method for Forming Oxide Layer on Silicon
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 25, 2007...Researchers in Boise, Idaho at a company called Micron Technology Inc. have received a patent for developing a method for forming an oxide layer on a silicon wafer. The patent describes that first, an epitaxial silicon layer is grown before the gate diaelectric layer is formed. So defects in the bulk silicon are covered and therefore isolated from the oxide growth step.

The patent further describes a method where a pad oxide layer is used beneath the silicon nitride islands used for masking during the field oxidation process. Then, an in-situ grown epitaxial layer is formed on active areas. The patent states, "In order to maintain the integrity of the selective epitaxial growth step, the wafers are maintained in a controlled, oxygen-free environment until the epitaxial growth step is accomplished.” The inventors were issued U.S. Patent No. 7,232,728 on June 19. US FED News Release

Fujitsu Produces Extremely Reliable GaN HEMT
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 25, 2007...Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. reported a very high reliability, high power gallium nitride (GaN) high electron mobility transistor (HEMT). According to the company, the new technology allows the transistors to continue operation at 200 degrees Celsius for an estimated one million hours. This is equivalent to over 100 years under pinch-off condition with a drain voltage of 50 volts. The company boasts that according to its estimates, its GaN HEMTs have the longest lifecycle in the world.

Fujitsu plans on using GaN HEMTs using this new technology for the high-speed wireless communications market including applications such as: satellite communication (VSATs), cellular base stations, WiMAX base stations, and other high-speed wireless communications infrastructure. The company presented details of the new technology at the 2007 IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium (IMS). Fujitsu indicated that such a highly reliable and robust device would be ideal for high power, high voltage wireless communication systems. Company News Release

Scientists Demonstrate Room-Temperature Continuous Nanolaser
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 20, 2007...Scientists at Yokohama National University in Japan have successfully built and demonstrated a nanoscale room temperature laser that produces stable, continuous streams of near infrared light. The researchers are presenting their nanolaser in the latest issue of Optics Express, an open access journal from the Optical Society of America. The overall device measures several microns (millionths of a meter) in width. The portion of the device that actually produces laser light is very much nanoscale in all directions, according to Optics Express. The laser is made from gallium indium arsenide phosphate (GaInAsP). The design employed a design for a photonic crystal laser that was first developed and demonstrated at the California Institute of Technology in 1999.

In this design, researchers drill a repeating a pattern of holes (also known as a photonic crystal) through the material. Then they introduce one irregularity in the pattern. The pattern of holes and the irregularity together prevent light waves of most colors (frequencies) from existing in the structure, with the exception of a small band of frequencies that can exist in the region near the defect. The researchers are the first to make such a laser which can operate continuously at room temperature. Optics Express News Release

Northrop Grumman Engineer Receives Outstanding Young Engineer Award
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 20, 2007...A Northrop Grumman engineer, Vesna Radisic, has received the Outstanding Young Engineer Award of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Technique Society. Vesna Radisic, an electrical engineer at Northrop Grumman Corporation's Space Technology sector, received the award at the International Microwave Symposium on June 6, 2007 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Radisic was recognized for her leadership in microwave applications of defected ground structures, active antennas, and millimeter wave electronics in addition to her contributions to the IEEE MTT Society (MTT-S). She is reportedly the sixth individual to receive the award.

Rasidic joined Northrop Grumman in 2002. She was reportedly the first to design heterojunction bipolar transistor HBT and high-electron mobility transistor (HEMT)-based fundamental oscillators working above 300 GHz. According to Northrop Grumman (NG), the oscillators she designed can significantly enhance the performance of sensors and communication system. Additionally, she developed a 346 GHz HEMT oscillator MMIC, which NG indicated is the highest frequency fundamental oscillator demonstrated using a 3-terminal device. NG stated that Radisic’s work with the millimeter wave band increases the possibility of using point-to-point and point-to-multipoint communications applications more efficiently due to higher frequencies and a higher density of users, with the potential to eventually replace or supplement fiber optics. Northrop Grumman News Release

Oplink to Acquire Remaining Shares of OCP
CompoundSemi News Staff

June 20, 2007...Oplink Communications Inc. of Fremont, California USA, will acquire the remaining 41.9 percent of Optical Communication Products’ (OCP’s) outstanding common stock for $1.65 per share in cash. Oplink’s agreement to acquire the remainder of OCP comes after Oplink completed the purchase of 58.1 percent of OPC on June 6, 2007 from the Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd.

According to the terms of the agreement OCP will become a privately held company and a wholly owned subsidiary of Oplink, a maker of photonic components for optical networking and subsystems, , after the merger is completed. Oplink indicated that its strengths along with OCP’s together will create a company that is can compete more aggressively in the market for telecommunications and data communications equipment. Hobart Birmingham, Chairman of the Special Committee of the OCP Board of Directors stated, "This transaction provides significant value for our shareholders, representing a 20% premium over the closing price on the last day of trading prior to the announcement of Oplink's agreement with Furukawa." Oplink News Release

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Commentary & Perspective...

What I Liked Best About CS Vision '07
Jo Ann McDonald, founding editor

June 26, 2007...Last week in Austin, Texas compound semi (CS) industry veterans, most of whom were CEOs, plus analysts, strategic planners and a sprinkling of guests and people new to our industry gathered at the serene and somewhat restful Hyatt Regency hotel on Town Lake for our annual CS Vision Executive Business Forum. For the better part of two days, these wonderful people... who literally drive our CS industry, openly shared their vision of where this remarkable industry is headed, and why. As one of our three CEO co-chairs, Phil Yin of AXT summed up the the meet... "Even though our group/attendance was small, I believe the presentations were at a very high caliber, extremely informative, and the dialogue between speakers and audience was great. Especially towards the end when we all discussed whether the compound semi industry needed an official organization like SEMI to drive standards, but most importantly drive the technology and markets. Pending my schedule, I look forward towards next year's event."

Speaking as the event organizer, I'd like everyone to know that Phil Yin and his fellow co-chairs Bill Kroll, CEO of Matheson-TriGas and Keith Evans, CEO of Kyma Technologies deserve tremendous credit for helping make CS Vision precisely what I envisioned. I don't know about you, but I've never been too fond of stilted talks that either praise ones own company or call attention to one's own technological feats. (I tend to nod off shortly after the keynote). And I'm not too fond of jammed programs where the timer has to practically pull out the old stage hook and drag the speaker off the podium. The type event where you're lucky if the audience gets one or two meaty questions in at the end. I prefer eclectic presentations where you get a truly objective review of an entire topic or application sector, with plenty of time after the presentation for open, spontaneous dialog. And I like lively panel discussions. That's precisely what Phil, Bill and Keith helped foster at this year's Vision. Those three brilliant, vibrant and highly successful CEOs helped make CS Vision a true executive business forum. (Ref. June 6 editorial: Why the CS Industry Needs an Executive Business Forum). I can't thank Phil, Bill and Keith enough for helping me put together a top notch program and a memorable meet.

No, we didn't get a big turnout at Vision, and you know what? That didn't bother me a bit. (Surprise, surprise... a case where profit isn't the measure of success!) It turned out that, once again, quality has it all over quantity. This year's CS Vision was just the right size for everyone to find plenty of time to visit with one another. Plenty of time to catch up; plenty of time to laugh together, plenty of time to actually lay the groundwork for a future collaboration of some sort. That's what we had with a manageable size group in a relaxed atmosphere. Time to spend with one another. And isn't "quality time" networking with just the right people precisely what makes any industry tick? Attendees to CS Vision were clearly the shakers and movers of the CS industry. That's why they were there.. Oh there were a handful of key people that couldn't make it due to vacations or prior commitments, and they were missed, but the makeup of the group who assembled in Austin was absolutely top notch. Note that we'll definitely hold next year's CS Vision earlier in calendar year '08.

For those of you who attended... thank you notes and attendee contact lists will be emailed to you soon, as will passwords to access online versions of the presentations via the www.CompoundSemiVision.com website. For those of you who were unable to join us, I'll be reviewing most of the presentations in this McDonald Report column space over the coming weeks. "Months," really... because there was so much good material). But for this initial column, I'd like to share with you what I personally liked best about CS Vision '07. And I invite my fellow attendees to CS Vision to do so too. Just drop me an email, like Phil did, and tell me what you liked best about CS Vision '07 and whether you think we're on the right track for a revisit in '08. Keith Evans wants to hold it at a spa. Norm Schumaker suggested a cruise boat. That's not a bad idea, actually. Nobody would be able to "jump ship" early. The downside is that someone may arrive late and miss the boat! Maybe the spa's a better idea. If you think your shareholders won't mind sending you to what might look like a boondoggle venue, hey... I'm game.

I liked it all, of course. I liked being able to see so many old friends and colleagues. I liked being able to kick things off by handing out free copies of my friend Bob Johnstone's new book, Brilliant! which chronicles the pioneering days of Shuji Nakamura and his predecessors whose technological breakthroughs in blue spectrum LEDs helped make CS-based solid state lighting (SSL) a reality. (Ref: Mar. 13 column: Brilliant Moves reviewing the book). I liked holding CS Vision in Austin, so I could drive there and schlep enough homemade cookies to give out to every attendee to tide them over during their next plane flight to the next event (or hopefully home). But most of all, I liked the rare combination of newcomers to our industry and industry old timers who liked telling war stories (and there were really good war stories at this year's Vision). At a get-together like CS Vision, we old-timers tend to hold court and... bless their hearts and patience... the newcomers seemed to hang on our every word. Norm Schumaker and Bill Kroll, for example, were treated with the emeritus status they so deserve. And having keynoters of the status of Gene Fitzgerald of MIT (and Cornell) and Asif Anwar of Strategy Analytics made our crystal ball virtually glow!

A natural phenomena of any industry event is the inevitable attrition at the end. I've put on many, many events over the years, starting way back in the 70s, and have attended more than my share of others. And, in almost all cases, about half the attendees split before the event is actually over. There are plenty of good reasons for them having to leave, mostly prior commitments and catching the only flight that gets them to their next destination in a timely manner. But those who can plan ahead and carve out the time ahead of schedule so that they don't have to hurry off, tend to comprise what I call the hard core of any meet. At technical meets, it's often the organizing committee that stays late, plotting the next year's version. At any meet I put on, for some wonderful reason, it turns out that my "hard core" people just start to get revved up near the end. They don't feel at all worn out. They feel invigorated by all the discussions and they don't want it to stop. CS Vision '07 in Austin reminded me of some of those early Silicon Valley mini-events I used to put on, where the "hard core" turned out to be someone like Bill Joy, the founder of Sun Microsystems. Or Bill Gates when he was just starting Microsoft. Or Col. Will Stackhouse, back when open systems was making its first debut (a meet where Bill Joy "held court" and stunned the DoD attendees with what boded with the coming of a commercial Internet). The discussion we hand that Phil eluded to in the opening of this column... the discussion about if we needed a CS version of SEMI... reminded me of the early days in Silicon Valley... back before silicon got boring.

What I liked also about CS Vision '07 was that we were able to hold a meeting of "The Girl's Club" because we had three females on the speaker roster this year... if you count me. We heard an excellent and enlightening presentation on the future of CS-based solar concentrator cells by solar pioneer Nancy Harsoch of SolFocus and the other female speaker was none other than the inimitable Laura Rea of the US Air Force's Wright Labs, who held everyone's attention with the latest DoD messages and missions. Laura also absorbed more than her share of flak as the only DoD representative there. And we actually had female attendees this year too, which is somewhat unprecedented in this still male-dominated industry. So The Girl's Club actually was able to hold an official meeting again... finally. [Note that we don't actually have an agenda nor do anything at these infrequent get-togethers. We just say we have a girls club just to keep the guys guessing].

And finally, what I didn't expect was the enthusiastic support for what we're doing here at CompoundSemi Online. Up until this year's CS Vision meet, I was pretty well set to retire. Doctor's orders. The lure of full-time ranching beckoned. But after spending two business days with Phil Yin, who's only one year younger than I am, and Emcore founder Norm Schumaker, who's my same age, and Strategies Unlimited's GaN guru, Hank Rodeen, who I think may actually be older than me (heck, he worked originally at Schotky! But then... my first Silicon Valley job was at Varian in 1961 when the brothers Varian were still alive) well... if those guys can muster up all that enthusiasm and energy, which they displayed at this year's Vision event, I guess I can hang in there a little longer. According to the above fellow industry veterans and so many others who expressed their pleasure with our unique meeting style, it looks like the CS industry still needs someone who's able to bribe, badger or blackmail superb speakers into attending an annual CS Vision Executive Business Forum. I'll start looking for a venue and date for the next one... providing you start planning now to participate in CS Vision '08.

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