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Going fab-lite: Sony offloads fabs to Toshiba

Posted: 22 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fab-lite strategy? Sony fabs? Toshiba joint venture?

Sony Corp. has taken a major step away from IC manufacturing by transferring its advanced fab lines to Toshiba Corp. in a stunning and complex deal.

The deal had been rumored for weeks. Sony and Toshiba said that they have formed two fab ventures. But in reality, Sony is transferring the plants to Toshiba, marking Sony's shift towards a fab-liteor perhaps a fablessstrategy.

As part of the deal, Toshiba, together with Sony and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., have establish a joint venture that will produce high-performance semiconductors, including the ''Cell'' processor and the RSX graphics engine.

The processor was co-developed by Sony, Toshiba and IBM. The chip is used in Sony's PlayStation 3 game console, which has experienced lackluster sales.

In addition, Sony will transfer to Toshiba its 300mm wafer line fabrication facilities installed in Fab 2 of Sony Semiconductor Kyushu Corp.'s Nagasaki Technology Center by the end of March 2008. Following the transfer, production on the line will be operated by the joint venture.

Toshiba will own 60 percent of the fab venture, while Sony will have 20 percent and Sony Computer will have the rest. Sony's Nagasaki fab started operation in 2004 and is now fabricating 65nm Cell processors. Sony had been considering a move to outsource the production of the 45nm Cell processor, expected to begin in late 2008.

Concurrently, Sony will also transfer to Toshiba the assets of Oita TS Semiconductor Corp. (OTSS), a joint venture between Toshiba and Sony. Located within Toshiba's Oita Operations semiconductor plant, OTSS was established to manufacture semiconductors for the PlayStation2 game machine in 1999.

Toshiba will own 51 percent of this venture and Sony will have 49 percent.

This collaboration will allow Toshiba to expand and enhance its system LSI business by increasing order volume and securing regular orders of high-performance semiconductors for PlayStation. Sony Group will aim for the further growth of the PlayStation business by achieving process migration of high-performance semiconductors.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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