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Worldwide PC shipments declined 2% in 4Q17 and 2.8% for the year

Worldwide PC shipments totaled 71.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 2 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2016, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. For the year, 2017 PC shipments surpassed 262.5 million units, a 2.8 percent decline from 2016. It was the 13th consecutive quarter of declining global PC shipments, as well as the sixth year of annual declines. However, Gartner analysts said there were some signs for optimism.

“In the fourth quarter of 2017, there was PC shipment growth in Asia/Pacific, Japan and Latin America. There was only a moderate shipment decline in EMEA,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “However, the U.S. market saw a steep decline, which offset the generally positive results in other regions.

“The fourth quarter results confirmed again that PCs are no longer popular holiday gift items. This does not mean that PCs will disappear from households,” Kitagawa said. “Rather, the PC will become a more specialized, purpose-driven device. PC buyers will look for quality and functionality rather than looking for the lowest price, which will increase PC average selling prices (ASPs) and improve profitability in the long run. However, until this point is reached, the market will have to go through the shrinking phase caused by fewer PC users.”

HP Inc. moved into the No. 1 position in the fourth quarter of 2017, as its shipments grew 6.6 percent, and its market share totaled 22.5 percent (see Table 1). The company showed year-over-year growth in all regions, including the challenging U.S. market. For the fourth consecutive quarter, Lenovo experienced a decline in shipments. Lenovo had moderate growth in EMEA and Asia/Pacific, but shipments declined in North America.

Table 1
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q17 (Thousands of Units)

Company

4Q17 Shipments

4Q17 Market Share (%)

4Q16 Shipments

4Q16 Market Share (%)

4Q17-4Q16 Growth (%)

HP Inc.

16,076

22.5

15,084

20.7

6.6

Lenovo

15,742

22.0

15,857

21.7

-0.7

Dell

10,841

15.2

10,767

14.7

0.7

Apple

5,449

7.6

5,374

7.4

1.4

Asus

4,731

6.6

5,336

7.3

-11.3

Acer Group

4,726

6.6

4,998

6.8

-5.4

Others

13,990

19.6

15,599

21.4

-10.3

Total

71,556

100.0

73,015

100.0

-2.0

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Source: Gartner (January 2018)

Dell’s shipments grew slightly in the fourth quarter of 2017. Dell did well in EMEA, Asia/Pacific and Latin America, but it had weak results in North America. Generally, Dell has put a higher priority on profitability over market share.

Steep PC shipment decline in the U.S.

In the U.S., PC shipments surpassed 15.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, an 8 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2016 (see Table 2). Four of the top five vendors experienced a decline in U.S. PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2017. HP Inc. was the only vendor to increase shipments in the quarter. The decline was attributed to weak consumer demand despite holiday season sales.

“U.S. consumer confidence was high in the fourth quarter of 2017, but that did not influence PC demand. U.S. holiday sales were filled with popular products, such as voice-enabled speakers, and newly released smartphones,” Kitagawa said. “PCs simply could not compete against these gift items during the holiday season. We did see some consistent growth of gaming and high-end PCs.”

Table 2
Preliminary U.S. PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q17 (Thousands of Units)

Company

4Q17 Shipments

4Q17 Market Share (%)

4Q16 Shipments

4Q16 Market Share (%)

4Q17-4Q16 Growth (%)

HP Inc.

5,130

33.7

5,049

30.5

1.6

Dell

3,691

24.3

4,209

25.4

-12.3

Apple

1,972

13.0

2,003

12.1

-1.6

Lenovo

1,792

11.8

2,344

14.2

-23.6

Acer Group

587

3.9

661

4.0

-11.2

Others

2,042

13.4

2,276

13.8

-10.3

Total

15,214

100.0

16,543

100.0

-8.0

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Source: Gartner (January 2018)

PC shipments in EMEA totaled 21.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 1.4 percent decline year over year. PC demand in the U.K. was still ailing and unit shipments into Germany were weaker than expected. PC revenue is expected to be up year over year in Western Europe. The rise in ASPs is due to currency fluctuations, the need for vendors to offset rising component costs, and a product-mix shift toward higher-value items, such as gaming systems and high-performing notebooks.

The Asia/Pacific PC market totaled 25 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 0.6 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2016. The consumer market stabilized with fourth-quarter online promotions in many countries, which drove demand for gaming PCs and thin and light notebooks. China experienced its first positive PC shipment growth since the first quarter of 2012. The success of the 11.11 shopping festival and the continuing demand for PCs in the commercial market drove the China PC market to 1.1 percent growth in the quarter.

PC market consolidation in 2017

For the year, worldwide PC shipments totaled 262.5 million units in 2017, a 2.8 percent decrease from 2016 (see Table 3). As the PC industry continues to consolidate, the top four vendors in 2017 accounted for 64 percent of global PC shipments. In 2011, the top four vendors accounted for 45 percent of PC shipments.

“The top vendors have taken advantage of their volume operations to lower production costs, pushing small to midsize vendors out of the market,” Kitagawa said.

Table 3
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 2017 (Thousands of Units)

Company

2017

Shipments

2017 Market

Share (%)

2016

Shipments

2016 Market Share (%)

2017-2016 Growth (%)

HP Inc.

55,162

21.0

52,734

19.5

4.6

Lenovo

54,714

20.8

55,951

20.7

-2.2

Dell

39,871

15.2

39,421

14.6

1.1

Apple

19,299

7.4

18,546

6.9

4.1

Asus

17,967

6.8

20,496

7.6

-12.3

Acer Group

17,088

6.5

18,274

6.8

-6.5

Others

58,435

22.3

64,683

23.9

-9.7

Total

262,537

100.0

270,106

100.0

-2.8

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Source: Gartner (January 2018)

These results are preliminary. Final statistics will be available soon to clients of Gartner’s PC Quarterly Statistics Worldwide by Region program. This program offers a comprehensive and timely picture of the worldwide PC market, allowing product planning, distribution, marketing and sales organizations to keep abreast of key issues and their future implications around the globe.

 

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UMC files patent infringement lawsuit against Micron

United Microelectronics Corporation (NYSE:UMC; TWSE:2303) (“UMC”), a global semiconductor foundry, today announced that the company has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Micron Semiconductor (Xi’an) Co., Ltd. and Micron Semiconductor (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. in the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The lawsuit covers three areas that allegedly infringe upon UMC’s patent rights in China, including specific memory applications that relate to DDR4, SSD and memory used in graphics cards.

In the complaint, UMC has requested the court to order the defendant(s) to stop manufacturing, processing, importing, selling and intending to sell the allegedly infringing products, destroy all inventory and related molds and tools and demand that Micron compensate the company for a total amount of RMB 270 million in damages.

UMC has devoted a great deal of resources and manpower to researching and developing semiconductor manufacturing technology. Its achievements can be applied to logic chips or memory chips (DRAM), and the company has applied for patents in various countries while continuing to monitor these patents as market conditions evolve. After conducting an in-depth review, UMC found that Micron’s products sold in mainland China did indeed infringe upon the patent rights of the company, and thus patent infringement litigation has been pursued in order to obtain fair judgment.

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Analog IC market forecast with strongest annual growth through 2022

Sales of analog ICs are expected to show the strongest growth rate among major integrated circuit market categories during the next five years, according to IC Insights’ new 2018 McClean Report, which becomes available this month.  The McClean Report forecasts that revenues for analog products—including both general purpose and application-specific devices—will increase by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% to $74.8 billion in 2022 from $54.5 billion in 2017.

The 2018 McClean Report separates the total IC market into four major product categories: analog, logic, memory, and microcomponents.  Figure 1 shows the forecasted 2017-2022 CAGRs of these product categories compared to the projected total IC market annual growth rate of 5.1% during the five-year period.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Analog ICs, the fastest growing major product category in the forecast, are a necessity within both very advanced systems and low-budget applications.  Components like power management analog devices help regulate power usage to keep devices running cooler and ultimately to help extend battery life in cellphones and other mobile/battery operated systems. The power management market is forecast to grow 8% in 2018 after increasing 12% in 2017.

In 2018, the automotive—application-specific analog market is forecast to increase 15% to be the fastest growing analog IC category, and the third-fastest growing of 33 IC product categories classified by WSTS. The growth of autonomous and electric vehicles and more electronic systems on board all new cars are expected to keep demand robust for automotive analog devices.

Communications and consumer applications continue to represent the biggest end-use applications for signal conversion analog ICs.  Signal conversion components (data converters, mixed-signal devices, etc.) are forecast to continue on fast-track growth with double-digit sales gains expected in three of the next five years.

After an extraordinary 58% sales spike in 2017, the memory market is forecast to return to more “normal” growth through the forecast.  The memory market is forecast to increase by a CAGR of 5.2% through 2022. New capacity for flash memory and, to a lesser extent for DRAM, should bring some relief from fast-rising ASPs and result in better supply-demand balance for these devices to support newer applications such as enterprise solid-state drives (SSDs), augmented and virtual reality, graphics, artificial intelligence, and other complex, real-time workload functions.

Meanwhile, growth in the microcomponent market (forecast CAGR of 3.9%) has cooled significantly due to weak shipments of standard PCs (desktops and notebooks).  Tablet sales have also slowed and weighed down total microcomponent sales. With the exception of the 32-bit MCU market, annual sales gains in most microcomponent segments are forecast to remain in the low- to mid single digit range through 2022.

IC Insights forecasts the total IC market will increase by a CAGR of 5.1% from 2017-2022.  Following the 22% increase in 2017, the total IC market is forecast to grow 8% in 2018 to $393.9 billion and then continue on an upward trend to reach $466.8 billion in 2022, the final year of the forecast.

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Advancing the path to organic electronics beyond cell phone screens

A discovery by an international team of researchers from Princeton University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Humboldt University in Berlin points the way to more widespread use of an advanced technology generally known as organic electronics.

The research, published in the journal Nature Materials, focused on organic semiconductors, a class of materials prized for their applications in emerging technologies such as flexible electronics, solar energy conversion, and high-quality color displays for smartphones and televisions. In the short term, the advancement could particularly help with organic light-emitting diodes that operate at high energy to emit colors such as green and blue.

Researchers used ultraviolet light to excite molecules in a semiconductor, triggering reactions that split up and activated a dopant. Credit: Princeton University / Jing Wang and Xin Lin

Researchers used ultraviolet light to excite molecules in a semiconductor, triggering reactions that split up and activated a dopant. Credit: Princeton University / Jing Wang and Xin Lin

“Organic semiconductors are ideal materials for the fabrication of mechanically flexible devices with energy-saving, low-temperature processes,” said Xin Lin, a doctoral student and a member of the Princeton research team. “One of their major disadvantages has been their relatively poor electrical conductivity. In some applications, this can lead to difficulties and inefficient devices. We are working to improve the electrical properties of organic semiconductors.”

Semiconductors, typically made of silicon, are the foundation of modern electronics because engineers can take advantage of their unique properties to control electrical currents. Among many applications, semiconductor devices are used for computing, signal amplification, and switching. They are used in energy-saving devices such as light-emitting diodes and devices that convert energy such as solar cells.

Essential to these functionalities is a process called doping, in which the semiconductor’s chemical makeup is modified by adding a small amount of chemicals or impurities. By carefully choosing the type and amount of dopant, researchers can alter semiconductors’ electronic structure and electrical behavior in a variety of ways.

In their Nature Materials paper, the researchers have described a new approach for greatly increasing the conductivity of organic semiconductors, formed of carbon-based molecules rather than silicon atoms. The dopant, a ruthenium-containing compound, was a reducing agent, which means it added electrons to the organic semiconductor as part of the doping process. The addition of the electrons was the key to increasing the semiconductor’s conductivity. The compound belongs to a newly-introduced class of dopants called dimeric organometallic dopants. Unlike many other powerful reducing agents, these dopants are stable when exposed to air but still work as strong electron donors both in solution and solid state.

Georgia Tech’s Seth Marder, a Regents Professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Stephen Barlow, a research scientist in the school, led the development of the new dopant. They called the ruthenium compound a “hyper-reducing dopant.”

They said it was unusual, not only in its combination of electron donation strength and air stability but also in its ability to work with a class of organic semiconductors that have previously been very difficult to dope. In studies conducted at Princeton, the researchers found that the new dopant increased the conductivity of these semiconductors by about a million times.

The ruthenium compound was a dimer, meaning it consisted of two identical molecules, or monomers, connected by a chemical bond.  As is, the compound proved relatively stable and, when added to these difficult-to-dope semiconductors, it did not react and remained in its equilibrium state. That posed a problem because to increase the conductivity of the organic semiconductor, the ruthenium dimer needed to split and release its two identical monomers.

Princeton’s Lin, the study’s lead author, said the researchers looked for different ways to break up the ruthenium dimer and activate the doping. Eventually, he and Berthold Wegner, a visiting graduate student from the group of Norbert Koch at Humboldt University, took a hint from how photosynthetic systems work. They irradiated the system with ultraviolet light, which excited molecules in the semiconductor and initiated the reaction. Under exposure to the light, the dimers were able to dope the semiconductor, leading to a roughly 100,000 times increase in the conductivity.

After that, the researchers made an interesting observation.

“Once the light was turned off, one might naively expect the reverse reaction to occur and the increased conductivity to disappear,” said Georgia Tech’s Marder, who is also associate director of the Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE) at Georgia Tech. “However, this was not the case.”

The researchers found that the ruthenium monomers remained isolated in the semiconductor, increasing conductivity, even though thermodynamics should have returned the molecules to their original configuration as dimers. Antoine Kahn, a Princeton professor who led the research team, said the physical layout of the molecules inside the doped semiconductor provides a likely answer to this puzzle. The hypothesis is that the monomers are scattered in the semiconductor in such a way that it was very difficult for them to return to their original configuration and re-form the ruthenium dimer. To recombine, he said, the monomers would have to have faced in the correct orientation, but in the mixture, they remained askew. So, even though thermodynamics showed that dimers should reform, most never snapped back together.

“The question is why aren’t these things moving back together into equilibrium,” said Kahn, who is Stephen C. Macaleer ’63 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science. “The answer is they are kinetically trapped.”

In fact, the researchers observed the doped semiconductor for over a year and found very little decrease in the electrical conductivity. Also, by observing the material in light-emitting diodes fabricated by the group of Barry Rand, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, the researchers discovered that doping was continuously re-activated by the light produced by the device.

“The light activates the system more, which leads to more light production and more activation until the system is fully activated, said Marder, who is Georgia Power Chair in Energy Efficiency. “This alone is a novel and surprising observation.”

The paper was co-authored by Kyung Min Lee, Michael A. Fusella, and Fengyu Zhang, of Princeton, and Karttikay Moudgil of Georgia Tech. Research was funded by the National Science Foundation (grants DMR-1506097, DMR-1305247), the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Solid-State Lighting program (award DE-EE0006672) and the DoE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering (award DE-SC0012458), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (project SFB 951) and the Helmholtz Energy-Alliance Hybrid Photovoltaics project.

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Worldwide PC shipments declined 2% in 4Q17 and 2.8% for the year

Worldwide PC shipments totaled 71.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 2 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2016, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. For the year, 2017 PC shipments surpassed 262.5 million units, a 2.8 percent decline from 2016. It was the 13th consecutive quarter of declining global PC shipments, as well as the sixth year of annual declines. However, Gartner analysts said there were some signs for optimism.

“In the fourth quarter of 2017, there was PC shipment growth in Asia/Pacific, Japan and Latin America. There was only a moderate shipment decline in EMEA,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “However, the U.S. market saw a steep decline, which offset the generally positive results in other regions.

“The fourth quarter results confirmed again that PCs are no longer popular holiday gift items. This does not mean that PCs will disappear from households,” Kitagawa said. “Rather, the PC will become a more specialized, purpose-driven device. PC buyers will look for quality and functionality rather than looking for the lowest price, which will increase PC average selling prices (ASPs) and improve profitability in the long run. However, until this point is reached, the market will have to go through the shrinking phase caused by fewer PC users.”

HP Inc. moved into the No. 1 position in the fourth quarter of 2017, as its shipments grew 6.6 percent, and its market share totaled 22.5 percent (see Table 1). The company showed year-over-year growth in all regions, including the challenging U.S. market. For the fourth consecutive quarter, Lenovo experienced a decline in shipments. Lenovo had moderate growth in EMEA and Asia/Pacific, but shipments declined in North America.

Table 1
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q17 (Thousands of Units)

Company

4Q17 Shipments

4Q17 Market Share (%)

4Q16 Shipments

4Q16 Market Share (%)

4Q17-4Q16 Growth (%)

HP Inc.

16,076

22.5

15,084

20.7

6.6

Lenovo

15,742

22.0

15,857

21.7

-0.7

Dell

10,841

15.2

10,767

14.7

0.7

Apple

5,449

7.6

5,374

7.4

1.4

Asus

4,731

6.6

5,336

7.3

-11.3

Acer Group

4,726

6.6

4,998

6.8

-5.4

Others

13,990

19.6

15,599

21.4

-10.3

Total

71,556

100.0

73,015

100.0

-2.0

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Source: Gartner (January 2018)

Dell’s shipments grew slightly in the fourth quarter of 2017. Dell did well in EMEA, Asia/Pacific and Latin America, but it had weak results in North America. Generally, Dell has put a higher priority on profitability over market share.

Steep PC shipment decline in the U.S.

In the U.S., PC shipments surpassed 15.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, an 8 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2016 (see Table 2). Four of the top five vendors experienced a decline in U.S. PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2017. HP Inc. was the only vendor to increase shipments in the quarter. The decline was attributed to weak consumer demand despite holiday season sales.

“U.S. consumer confidence was high in the fourth quarter of 2017, but that did not influence PC demand. U.S. holiday sales were filled with popular products, such as voice-enabled speakers, and newly released smartphones,” Kitagawa said. “PCs simply could not compete against these gift items during the holiday season. We did see some consistent growth of gaming and high-end PCs.”

Table 2
Preliminary U.S. PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q17 (Thousands of Units)

Company

4Q17 Shipments

4Q17 Market Share (%)

4Q16 Shipments

4Q16 Market Share (%)

4Q17-4Q16 Growth (%)

HP Inc.

5,130

33.7

5,049

30.5

1.6

Dell

3,691

24.3

4,209

25.4

-12.3

Apple

1,972

13.0

2,003

12.1

-1.6

Lenovo

1,792

11.8

2,344

14.2

-23.6

Acer Group

587

3.9

661

4.0

-11.2

Others

2,042

13.4

2,276

13.8

-10.3

Total

15,214

100.0

16,543

100.0

-8.0

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Source: Gartner (January 2018)

PC shipments in EMEA totaled 21.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 1.4 percent decline year over year. PC demand in the U.K. was still ailing and unit shipments into Germany were weaker than expected. PC revenue is expected to be up year over year in Western Europe. The rise in ASPs is due to currency fluctuations, the need for vendors to offset rising component costs, and a product-mix shift toward higher-value items, such as gaming systems and high-performing notebooks.

The Asia/Pacific PC market totaled 25 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 0.6 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2016. The consumer market stabilized with fourth-quarter online promotions in many countries, which drove demand for gaming PCs and thin and light notebooks. China experienced its first positive PC shipment growth since the first quarter of 2012. The success of the 11.11 shopping festival and the continuing demand for PCs in the commercial market drove the China PC market to 1.1 percent growth in the quarter.

PC market consolidation in 2017

For the year, worldwide PC shipments totaled 262.5 million units in 2017, a 2.8 percent decrease from 2016 (see Table 3). As the PC industry continues to consolidate, the top four vendors in 2017 accounted for 64 percent of global PC shipments. In 2011, the top four vendors accounted for 45 percent of PC shipments.

“The top vendors have taken advantage of their volume operations to lower production costs, pushing small to midsize vendors out of the market,” Kitagawa said.

Table 3
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 2017 (Thousands of Units)

Company

2017

Shipments

2017 Market

Share (%)

2016

Shipments

2016 Market Share (%)

2017-2016 Growth (%)

HP Inc.

55,162

21.0

52,734

19.5

4.6

Lenovo

54,714

20.8

55,951

20.7

-2.2

Dell

39,871

15.2

39,421

14.6

1.1

Apple

19,299

7.4

18,546

6.9

4.1

Asus

17,967

6.8

20,496

7.6

-12.3

Acer Group

17,088

6.5

18,274

6.8

-6.5

Others

58,435

22.3

64,683

23.9

-9.7

Total

262,537

100.0

270,106

100.0

-2.8

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Source: Gartner (January 2018)

These results are preliminary. Final statistics will be available soon to clients of Gartner’s PC Quarterly Statistics Worldwide by Region program. This program offers a comprehensive and timely picture of the worldwide PC market, allowing product planning, distribution, marketing and sales organizations to keep abreast of key issues and their future implications around the globe.

 

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UMC files patent infringement lawsuit against Micron

United Microelectronics Corporation (NYSE:UMC; TWSE:2303) (“UMC”), a global semiconductor foundry, today announced that the company has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Micron Semiconductor (Xi’an) Co., Ltd. and Micron Semiconductor (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. in the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The lawsuit covers three areas that allegedly infringe upon UMC’s patent rights in China, including specific memory applications that relate to DDR4, SSD and memory used in graphics cards.

In the complaint, UMC has requested the court to order the defendant(s) to stop manufacturing, processing, importing, selling and intending to sell the allegedly infringing products, destroy all inventory and related molds and tools and demand that Micron compensate the company for a total amount of RMB 270 million in damages.

UMC has devoted a great deal of resources and manpower to researching and developing semiconductor manufacturing technology. Its achievements can be applied to logic chips or memory chips (DRAM), and the company has applied for patents in various countries while continuing to monitor these patents as market conditions evolve. After conducting an in-depth review, UMC found that Micron’s products sold in mainland China did indeed infringe upon the patent rights of the company, and thus patent infringement litigation has been pursued in order to obtain fair judgment.

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Analog IC market forecast with strongest annual growth through 2022

Sales of analog ICs are expected to show the strongest growth rate among major integrated circuit market categories during the next five years, according to IC Insights’ new 2018 McClean Report, which becomes available this month.  The McClean Report forecasts that revenues for analog products—including both general purpose and application-specific devices—will increase by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% to $74.8 billion in 2022 from $54.5 billion in 2017.

The 2018 McClean Report separates the total IC market into four major product categories: analog, logic, memory, and microcomponents.  Figure 1 shows the forecasted 2017-2022 CAGRs of these product categories compared to the projected total IC market annual growth rate of 5.1% during the five-year period.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Analog ICs, the fastest growing major product category in the forecast, are a necessity within both very advanced systems and low-budget applications.  Components like power management analog devices help regulate power usage to keep devices running cooler and ultimately to help extend battery life in cellphones and other mobile/battery operated systems. The power management market is forecast to grow 8% in 2018 after increasing 12% in 2017.

In 2018, the automotive—application-specific analog market is forecast to increase 15% to be the fastest growing analog IC category, and the third-fastest growing of 33 IC product categories classified by WSTS. The growth of autonomous and electric vehicles and more electronic systems on board all new cars are expected to keep demand robust for automotive analog devices.

Communications and consumer applications continue to represent the biggest end-use applications for signal conversion analog ICs.  Signal conversion components (data converters, mixed-signal devices, etc.) are forecast to continue on fast-track growth with double-digit sales gains expected in three of the next five years.

After an extraordinary 58% sales spike in 2017, the memory market is forecast to return to more “normal” growth through the forecast.  The memory market is forecast to increase by a CAGR of 5.2% through 2022. New capacity for flash memory and, to a lesser extent for DRAM, should bring some relief from fast-rising ASPs and result in better supply-demand balance for these devices to support newer applications such as enterprise solid-state drives (SSDs), augmented and virtual reality, graphics, artificial intelligence, and other complex, real-time workload functions.

Meanwhile, growth in the microcomponent market (forecast CAGR of 3.9%) has cooled significantly due to weak shipments of standard PCs (desktops and notebooks).  Tablet sales have also slowed and weighed down total microcomponent sales. With the exception of the 32-bit MCU market, annual sales gains in most microcomponent segments are forecast to remain in the low- to mid single digit range through 2022.

IC Insights forecasts the total IC market will increase by a CAGR of 5.1% from 2017-2022.  Following the 22% increase in 2017, the total IC market is forecast to grow 8% in 2018 to $393.9 billion and then continue on an upward trend to reach $466.8 billion in 2022, the final year of the forecast.

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Advancing the path to organic electronics beyond cell phone screens

A discovery by an international team of researchers from Princeton University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Humboldt University in Berlin points the way to more widespread use of an advanced technology generally known as organic electronics.

The research, published in the journal Nature Materials, focused on organic semiconductors, a class of materials prized for their applications in emerging technologies such as flexible electronics, solar energy conversion, and high-quality color displays for smartphones and televisions. In the short term, the advancement could particularly help with organic light-emitting diodes that operate at high energy to emit colors such as green and blue.

Researchers used ultraviolet light to excite molecules in a semiconductor, triggering reactions that split up and activated a dopant. Credit: Princeton University / Jing Wang and Xin Lin

Researchers used ultraviolet light to excite molecules in a semiconductor, triggering reactions that split up and activated a dopant. Credit: Princeton University / Jing Wang and Xin Lin

“Organic semiconductors are ideal materials for the fabrication of mechanically flexible devices with energy-saving, low-temperature processes,” said Xin Lin, a doctoral student and a member of the Princeton research team. “One of their major disadvantages has been their relatively poor electrical conductivity. In some applications, this can lead to difficulties and inefficient devices. We are working to improve the electrical properties of organic semiconductors.”

Semiconductors, typically made of silicon, are the foundation of modern electronics because engineers can take advantage of their unique properties to control electrical currents. Among many applications, semiconductor devices are used for computing, signal amplification, and switching. They are used in energy-saving devices such as light-emitting diodes and devices that convert energy such as solar cells.

Essential to these functionalities is a process called doping, in which the semiconductor’s chemical makeup is modified by adding a small amount of chemicals or impurities. By carefully choosing the type and amount of dopant, researchers can alter semiconductors’ electronic structure and electrical behavior in a variety of ways.

In their Nature Materials paper, the researchers have described a new approach for greatly increasing the conductivity of organic semiconductors, formed of carbon-based molecules rather than silicon atoms. The dopant, a ruthenium-containing compound, was a reducing agent, which means it added electrons to the organic semiconductor as part of the doping process. The addition of the electrons was the key to increasing the semiconductor’s conductivity. The compound belongs to a newly-introduced class of dopants called dimeric organometallic dopants. Unlike many other powerful reducing agents, these dopants are stable when exposed to air but still work as strong electron donors both in solution and solid state.

Georgia Tech’s Seth Marder, a Regents Professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Stephen Barlow, a research scientist in the school, led the development of the new dopant. They called the ruthenium compound a “hyper-reducing dopant.”

They said it was unusual, not only in its combination of electron donation strength and air stability but also in its ability to work with a class of organic semiconductors that have previously been very difficult to dope. In studies conducted at Princeton, the researchers found that the new dopant increased the conductivity of these semiconductors by about a million times.

The ruthenium compound was a dimer, meaning it consisted of two identical molecules, or monomers, connected by a chemical bond.  As is, the compound proved relatively stable and, when added to these difficult-to-dope semiconductors, it did not react and remained in its equilibrium state. That posed a problem because to increase the conductivity of the organic semiconductor, the ruthenium dimer needed to split and release its two identical monomers.

Princeton’s Lin, the study’s lead author, said the researchers looked for different ways to break up the ruthenium dimer and activate the doping. Eventually, he and Berthold Wegner, a visiting graduate student from the group of Norbert Koch at Humboldt University, took a hint from how photosynthetic systems work. They irradiated the system with ultraviolet light, which excited molecules in the semiconductor and initiated the reaction. Under exposure to the light, the dimers were able to dope the semiconductor, leading to a roughly 100,000 times increase in the conductivity.

After that, the researchers made an interesting observation.

“Once the light was turned off, one might naively expect the reverse reaction to occur and the increased conductivity to disappear,” said Georgia Tech’s Marder, who is also associate director of the Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE) at Georgia Tech. “However, this was not the case.”

The researchers found that the ruthenium monomers remained isolated in the semiconductor, increasing conductivity, even though thermodynamics should have returned the molecules to their original configuration as dimers. Antoine Kahn, a Princeton professor who led the research team, said the physical layout of the molecules inside the doped semiconductor provides a likely answer to this puzzle. The hypothesis is that the monomers are scattered in the semiconductor in such a way that it was very difficult for them to return to their original configuration and re-form the ruthenium dimer. To recombine, he said, the monomers would have to have faced in the correct orientation, but in the mixture, they remained askew. So, even though thermodynamics showed that dimers should reform, most never snapped back together.

“The question is why aren’t these things moving back together into equilibrium,” said Kahn, who is Stephen C. Macaleer ’63 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science. “The answer is they are kinetically trapped.”

In fact, the researchers observed the doped semiconductor for over a year and found very little decrease in the electrical conductivity. Also, by observing the material in light-emitting diodes fabricated by the group of Barry Rand, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Princeton and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, the researchers discovered that doping was continuously re-activated by the light produced by the device.

“The light activates the system more, which leads to more light production and more activation until the system is fully activated, said Marder, who is Georgia Power Chair in Energy Efficiency. “This alone is a novel and surprising observation.”

The paper was co-authored by Kyung Min Lee, Michael A. Fusella, and Fengyu Zhang, of Princeton, and Karttikay Moudgil of Georgia Tech. Research was funded by the National Science Foundation (grants DMR-1506097, DMR-1305247), the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Solid-State Lighting program (award DE-EE0006672) and the DoE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering (award DE-SC0012458), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (project SFB 951) and the Helmholtz Energy-Alliance Hybrid Photovoltaics project.

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Worldwide PC shipments declined 2% in 4Q17 and 2.8% for the year

Worldwide PC shipments totaled 71.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 2 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2016, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. For the year, 2017 PC shipments surpassed 262.5 million units, a 2.8 percent decline from 2016. It was the 13th consecutive quarter of declining global PC shipments, as well as the sixth year of annual declines. However, Gartner analysts said there were some signs for optimism.

“In the fourth quarter of 2017, there was PC shipment growth in Asia/Pacific, Japan and Latin America. There was only a moderate shipment decline in EMEA,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “However, the U.S. market saw a steep decline, which offset the generally positive results in other regions.

“The fourth quarter results confirmed again that PCs are no longer popular holiday gift items. This does not mean that PCs will disappear from households,” Kitagawa said. “Rather, the PC will become a more specialized, purpose-driven device. PC buyers will look for quality and functionality rather than looking for the lowest price, which will increase PC average selling prices (ASPs) and improve profitability in the long run. However, until this point is reached, the market will have to go through the shrinking phase caused by fewer PC users.”

HP Inc. moved into the No. 1 position in the fourth quarter of 2017, as its shipments grew 6.6 percent, and its market share totaled 22.5 percent (see Table 1). The company showed year-over-year growth in all regions, including the challenging U.S. market. For the fourth consecutive quarter, Lenovo experienced a decline in shipments. Lenovo had moderate growth in EMEA and Asia/Pacific, but shipments declined in North America.

Table 1
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q17 (Thousands of Units)

Company

4Q17 Shipments

4Q17 Market Share (%)

4Q16 Shipments

4Q16 Market Share (%)

4Q17-4Q16 Growth (%)

HP Inc.

16,076

22.5

15,084

20.7

6.6

Lenovo

15,742

22.0

15,857

21.7

-0.7

Dell

10,841

15.2

10,767

14.7

0.7

Apple

5,449

7.6

5,374

7.4

1.4

Asus

4,731

6.6

5,336

7.3

-11.3

Acer Group

4,726

6.6

4,998

6.8

-5.4

Others

13,990

19.6

15,599

21.4

-10.3

Total

71,556

100.0

73,015

100.0

-2.0

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Source: Gartner (January 2018)

Dell’s shipments grew slightly in the fourth quarter of 2017. Dell did well in EMEA, Asia/Pacific and Latin America, but it had weak results in North America. Generally, Dell has put a higher priority on profitability over market share.

Steep PC shipment decline in the U.S.

In the U.S., PC shipments surpassed 15.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, an 8 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2016 (see Table 2). Four of the top five vendors experienced a decline in U.S. PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2017. HP Inc. was the only vendor to increase shipments in the quarter. The decline was attributed to weak consumer demand despite holiday season sales.

“U.S. consumer confidence was high in the fourth quarter of 2017, but that did not influence PC demand. U.S. holiday sales were filled with popular products, such as voice-enabled speakers, and newly released smartphones,” Kitagawa said. “PCs simply could not compete against these gift items during the holiday season. We did see some consistent growth of gaming and high-end PCs.”

Table 2
Preliminary U.S. PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q17 (Thousands of Units)

Company

4Q17 Shipments

4Q17 Market Share (%)

4Q16 Shipments

4Q16 Market Share (%)

4Q17-4Q16 Growth (%)

HP Inc.

5,130

33.7

5,049

30.5

1.6

Dell

3,691

24.3

4,209

25.4

-12.3

Apple

1,972

13.0

2,003

12.1

-1.6

Lenovo

1,792

11.8

2,344

14.2

-23.6

Acer Group

587

3.9

661

4.0

-11.2

Others

2,042

13.4

2,276

13.8

-10.3

Total

15,214

100.0

16,543

100.0

-8.0

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Source: Gartner (January 2018)

PC shipments in EMEA totaled 21.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 1.4 percent decline year over year. PC demand in the U.K. was still ailing and unit shipments into Germany were weaker than expected. PC revenue is expected to be up year over year in Western Europe. The rise in ASPs is due to currency fluctuations, the need for vendors to offset rising component costs, and a product-mix shift toward higher-value items, such as gaming systems and high-performing notebooks.

The Asia/Pacific PC market totaled 25 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 0.6 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2016. The consumer market stabilized with fourth-quarter online promotions in many countries, which drove demand for gaming PCs and thin and light notebooks. China experienced its first positive PC shipment growth since the first quarter of 2012. The success of the 11.11 shopping festival and the continuing demand for PCs in the commercial market drove the China PC market to 1.1 percent growth in the quarter.

PC market consolidation in 2017

For the year, worldwide PC shipments totaled 262.5 million units in 2017, a 2.8 percent decrease from 2016 (see Table 3). As the PC industry continues to consolidate, the top four vendors in 2017 accounted for 64 percent of global PC shipments. In 2011, the top four vendors accounted for 45 percent of PC shipments.

“The top vendors have taken advantage of their volume operations to lower production costs, pushing small to midsize vendors out of the market,” Kitagawa said.

Table 3
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 2017 (Thousands of Units)

Company

2017

Shipments

2017 Market

Share (%)

2016

Shipments

2016 Market Share (%)

2017-2016 Growth (%)

HP Inc.

55,162

21.0

52,734

19.5

4.6

Lenovo

54,714

20.8

55,951

20.7

-2.2

Dell

39,871

15.2

39,421

14.6

1.1

Apple

19,299

7.4

18,546

6.9

4.1

Asus

17,967

6.8

20,496

7.6

-12.3

Acer Group

17,088

6.5

18,274

6.8

-6.5

Others

58,435

22.3

64,683

23.9

-9.7

Total

262,537

100.0

270,106

100.0

-2.8

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.
Source: Gartner (January 2018)

These results are preliminary. Final statistics will be available soon to clients of Gartner’s PC Quarterly Statistics Worldwide by Region program. This program offers a comprehensive and timely picture of the worldwide PC market, allowing product planning, distribution, marketing and sales organizations to keep abreast of key issues and their future implications around the globe.

 

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UMC files patent infringement lawsuit against Micron

United Microelectronics Corporation (NYSE:UMC; TWSE:2303) (“UMC”), a global semiconductor foundry, today announced that the company has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Micron Semiconductor (Xi’an) Co., Ltd. and Micron Semiconductor (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. in the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The lawsuit covers three areas that allegedly infringe upon UMC’s patent rights in China, including specific memory applications that relate to DDR4, SSD and memory used in graphics cards.

In the complaint, UMC has requested the court to order the defendant(s) to stop manufacturing, processing, importing, selling and intending to sell the allegedly infringing products, destroy all inventory and related molds and tools and demand that Micron compensate the company for a total amount of RMB 270 million in damages.

UMC has devoted a great deal of resources and manpower to researching and developing semiconductor manufacturing technology. Its achievements can be applied to logic chips or memory chips (DRAM), and the company has applied for patents in various countries while continuing to monitor these patents as market conditions evolve. After conducting an in-depth review, UMC found that Micron’s products sold in mainland China did indeed infringe upon the patent rights of the company, and thus patent infringement litigation has been pursued in order to obtain fair judgment.

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