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Box of Tricks

1 February 2007

To mark the Global Semiconductor Forum 2007, the GSF Journal talks to Bill Adamec. The senior director of the Xbox Semiconductor Technology Group at Microsoft, gives his views on some of this year's big issues.

The Global Semiconductor Forum (GSF) 2007 is one of the semiconductor networking events of the year. This meeting is a platform where manufacturing and operations chief executives can discuss the industry's important issues with equipment, material and service suppliers, define new markets and produce semiconductor solutions for new applications and devices.

The focus of the 2007 meeting is on computers, communications and consumer electronics (the three Cs). To provide a backdrop to the meeting, the GSF Journal talked to one of the invited conference delegates, Bill Adamec, senior director of the Xbox Semiconductor Technology Group at Microsoft, about the future for the three Cs.

GSF: What do you consider the two most important issues driving on the industry at present?

Adamec: The two most important issues I see are, firstly, the investment required to bring a new process generation into being and, secondly, the cost and the time-to-market pressures on the end product.

GSF: Electronics are supposed to become less expensive over time, but is this always true?

Adamec: Everyone thinks that prices will come down and that they will get so much more for their money in future. However, the cost to companies of continuing to innovate seems to be getting higher and higher. I have faith, though, that the industry will come up with many interesting ways to address this problem.

GSF: Do you see moving to less expensive manufacturing areas, such as China or Taiwan, as one of the solutions to this problem?

Adamec: I think this will be a part of the solution to how the semiconductor industry makes things happen in future.

GSF: How will the drive for greater interactivity between electronics present itself?

Adamec: Convergence in the industry relates to both applications and products. I think convergence presents an opportunity for products in silicon but also for innovation, applications and potential sales. One example of convergence that is close to my heart is the Xbox 360.

In 2006, Microsoft added high-definition media distribution to the Xbox 360 through Xbox live. If you think about it, to date, Xbox live is really the only high-definition media content distribution currently being done. The Xbox does one thing very well, but it can also do other things really well, and this should open up sales.

GSF: Are you talking about increasing the Xbox's functional capabilities to expand it into another market?

Adamec: Maybe not to replace other equipment quite yet, but I would think that the DVD rental companies should begin to get worried about the competition.

GSF: Are companies becoming aware of people's lifestyles? And have they aimed new products and applications at these lifestyles in a focused way?

Adamec: This is actually part of our strategy. We want the Xbox to be a great games machine, but we also want to embrace the whole digital media conversion and make adaptation to lifestyle a selling point.

GSF: It would certainly be nice to think that three boxes underneath the television could become just one.

Adamec: Well, Microsoft may be able to help you there. Have you heard of IP television? It is an integrated and comprehensive software platform, which is essentially a superior form of video on demand, where any content you could ever want can be found somewhere on the internet. Bill Gates has announced that this will be shipping with the Xbox 360 this year. It will just take things a step further in terms of what you can do with one box under your TV.

GSF: Which areas of the world will be the drivers of development in the next five years?

Adamec: I would say there are two of them. Firstly, the US. One of the main reasons for this is the advanced technologies of the consortiums involving IBM, Chartered, Samsung and Toshiba. These companies have very interesting business models and ideas, and I think a lot of the innovation and the driving of business models will stem from the US in the semiconductor market.

Secondly, I would say Asia cannot be ignored, particularly Taiwan, mainly because I think industry leaders in Taiwan are able to continue to bring the R&D and manufacturing capabilities online – I think the economies of scale and their past history work for them in a big way. So I would say that, without ignoring the lower-cost issue, it's more about the advancement of technology, and the US is set to be a hotbed of development, with Taiwan not far behind.