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Oki starts 'fab lite' trend in Japan

Posted: 02 Apr 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fab lite trend? ASIC design services? back-end design service?

With Darwinian economics pushing IC companies to shed fat and focus on delivering core value, budding outsourcing partnerships like the one between Oki Electric Industry Co. and Faraday Technology Corp. may offer a clue to the strategies that some of Japan's larger companies might pursue.

Seeking to lower costs and speed design in the hope of increasing sales, Oki said in January it will hand off more work to Faraday, an ASIC design services house in Taiwan that works closely with foundry United Microelectronics Corp (UMC). Specifically, Oki is looking for access to Faraday 90nm and 65nm libraries that are based on the UMC process, as well as back-end design service support. The companies are also discussing a few 0.13?m projects.

The move is a continuation of a strategy Oki hatched in 2002, when it aligned itself with UMC's process design rules targeting 0.15?m. Oki was an early mover in Japan's outsourcing experiment, moving to a "fab lite" model in pursuit of a fabless paradigm for its system IC business.

New focus
By shedding the development and qualification of its own basic libraries and offloading the onus of back-end work, Oki will be able to focus on system design, marketing and its extensive sales channel, especially in Japan. "Sooner or later, Japanese companies, including the big four (Toshiba, Sony, Renesas and Fujitsu), are all possible candidates for this model," said Charlie Cheng, VP of marketing at Faraday.

Oki will concentrate on front-end design and intends to develop competitive ASSPs for consumer applications by integrating Faraday's intellectual property. Oki will continue developing its own IP in specialized areas, such as accelerator DSPs, yet it is clear that the company is heavily relying on Faraday to ensure the projects get out the door on time, said Tamihiro Ishimura, senior manager of Oki's SoC unit.

Joint design work has already started and should result in an Oki ASSP that hits the market later this year. Ishimura declined to offer details on the device.

- Mike Clendenin, Yoshiko Hara
EE Times

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