Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NEC and Toshiba Plan to Jointly Develop 32nm Process Technology

NEC Electronics and Toshiba Corp. on Monday said they would proceed to with 32nm fabrication process development without Sony Corp.’s participation. While the decision demonstrates commitment of both companies to semiconductor manufacturing, the destiny of 32nm technology alliance between Toshiba and IBM remains unclear.

Toshiba and NEC Electronics have been working together on 45nm process technology development since February 2006 at Toshiba's Advanced Microelectronics Center in Yokohama. Under the new agreement, the two companies will extend the scope of their collaboration at the site to the 32nm generation, with the aim of accelerating development and sharing development costs.

At the 32nm generation, extremely advanced technologies and significant development resources are required to secure improvements in performance and power consumption. As a result, global semiconductor companies are responding by establishing alliances to achieve more resource-efficient development of process technologies. Toshiba and NEC Electronics have decided to combine their efforts in process technology development for production of devices based on 32nm technology.

Nearly two years ago, in early 2006, IBM, Sony and Toshiba agreed to develop 32nm process technology. However, this year Sony decided to withdraw from further development of fabrication processes as well as manufacturing of advanced chips, such as Cell processor that is utilized in Sony PlayStation 3 game machine. Given that Toshiba hardly requires two different 32nm process technologies, it is likely that the agreement with IBM has been scrapped, which also implies that neither Sony, nor Toshiba, nor IBM are interested in further co-development of Cell processor.

The development of derivative and differentiated process technologies will be discussed separately by the two companies. Additionally, Toshiba and NEC Electronics continue to discuss joint manufacturing, and expect to reach a decision concerning this in 2008.

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