We’ve all seen it happen many times, especially during major events such as the post-thanksgiving Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday sales: gadgets that were expensively priced for early adopters are suddenly affordable and accessible to the average person, which in turn spur a jump in demand. A 55-inch 3D LED TV, for example, that retailed for more than $3000 USD not too long ago now sells for about $1300 (and it comes with a 3D Blu-ray player and 4 sets of 3D glasses!) Similarly, a respectable laptop PC can cost less than $300 USD these days when they were more than $2000 just a couple years back. My 486 desktop computer used to be two grand! Aside from consumer electronics, we’re seeing similar trends of cost reduction in industries such as solar and LED lighting. A photovoltaic (PV) solar module that used to cost more than $5 per watt five years ago now goes for about $1.50 per watt. LED light bulbs for general lighting sold for more than $40 per bulb in hardware stores two years ago now sell for less than $20, and I am sure they will be comparably priced with today’s CFL bulb in the near future.
So how do these incredibly technologically advanced products become so affordable? The answer is technology and scale.
May 4, 2011 may go down in history as a day that shook the chip industry to its core, literally. Anyone even remotely interested in technology must have caught Intel’s dramatic announcement on that day that 3-D transistors are now ready to enter high-volume manufacturing.
However, other leading players believe there’s plenty of development room left in two dimensions.
A very important gauge of how strong is the semiconductor industry’s continued innovation was published recently in the Wall Street Journal. I’m proud to say Applied Materials has consistently ranked in the top 20 since 2007. And, Applied Materials is still the leader among all semiconductor equipment suppliers.
Innovation is critical to moving the industry forward and continuing Moore’s Law. Patents are an important aspect of innovating in today’s marketplace, and we take our approach to developing and protecting disruptive ideas, products and achievements seriously. This continued recognition and placement on this list is a testament to the great work being done by our teams every day in an effort to better serve our customers.
Imagine two micrographs side-by-side, one of a transistor from an Intel 286 microprocessor from 1982 and one of a transistor from the brains of the latest smartphone. While they appear quite similar, the new one is 100 times smaller.
But conventional transistor scaling is reaching its limits. Beyond the 22nm technology node – sometime in the middle of this decade – traditional two-dimensional, or planar, transistors may be a thing of the past. To continue the incredible advances in speed, battery life and cost, the technology must change. Two new approaches are being considered: three-dimensional transistors and enhancements to planar transistors.
I recently attended a forum that Applied Materials hosted in San Francisco where a panel of experts debated the relative merits of these approaches. Speaking to an audience of over 200 technologists, the panel included experts from leading chip companies: GlobalFoundries, IBM, Qualcomm, Samsung and STMicroelectronics and was moderated by Professor Yuan Taur from U.C. San Diego.