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Last year in my post Breakfast Nibbles: Predictions for 2019, I made various predictions for the year. Let's see how well I did. The predictions were also republished as the last chapter of last year's A Year of Breakfasts.
My first prediction was the memory pricing would decline, and it certainly has, down 55% over the last couple of years.
My next prediction was that some of China’s capacity would start to come online and would affect memory pricing. To be honest, I can’t find good information on how much is being produced and whether that was a contributor to the memory price decline. So I can’t claim a bullseye for that one.
I predicted that 5G rollouts would begin, and they did. I also said that 2019 would mostly be a year of marketing hype, and I think that was clearly correct.
I predicted that EDA in the cloud would be a thing, and I think that has been true. Of course, not everything has moved to the cloud, but Cadence Cloud and Cloudburst have plenty of users.
Deep learning, neural networks, and artificial intelligence. Well, you could barely move without hearing about these topics during 2019. I said that I expected inference increasingly to be done at the edge and that is certainly the vector that the technology is following. I predicted deep learning would be used in some EDA tools and we have some deep learning in JasperGold and in Virtuoso. Also, there are experiments in Innovus and Allegro.
My prediction that automotive would be a fast-growing segment of the semiconductor industry was not exactly wrong, but not exactly right either. The hype about autonomous driving has turned to a more pragmatic approach and an acceptance that right now we can only build level 2+ vehicles and full autonomy (level 5) is years away. Autonomy is not going to arrive in one fell swoop, it is going to incrementally arrive year by year.
On the process front, I said that 7nm would be mainstream and EUV would be in full-volume production. That came true. In 2020, 5nm will be mainstream. I predicted that 3nm would be gate-all-around with ruthenium interconnect. Well, nobody has said much about 3nm yet, so the jury is out on that one.
It is obvious that the big segments that I talked about above are going to continue into 2020:
5G will roll out in 2020 but will still largely be hype in the US where the right spectrum is not available, and mmWave has a lot of issues since it is such short range.
EDA in the cloud will continue to grow, I’m sure. If I was starting a semiconductor company today, I’d not consider building my own data center.
Deep learning and artificial intelligence will incrementally appear in design tools, but I don’t think it is going to dramatically upend the design cycle. We are a long way from “no human in the loop” design.
We are a long way from no human in the car, too. Cars will continue to get more automated, and the move towards electric traction seems well underway now. But it is going to be a long slow grind, not an overnight transformation. But keep an eye on trucks. Since they are so expensive, they can afford large amounts of electronics that would be economically silly in a car. Expect to see level 4 trucks, especially between cities, become mainstream.
On the process front, 5nm will go into high-volume manufacturing. Expect to see lots of announcements about 3nm processes, but I suspect that 3nm is not going to follow on the heels of 5nm anything like as closely as 5nm followed 7nm. EUV will continue to get stronger with more powerful light-sources, probably successful pellicles, and more sensitive photoresist.
But there is another important technology to keep Moore's Law going and that is advanced packaging, sometimes called 3D packaging. Increasingly big systems are not made by integrating everything onto a monolithic die. This will be the year that advanced packaging technologies really come into their own and go completely mainstream.
Breakfast Bytes will continue to appear every morning in 2020. That’s not a hard prediction to make since it’s up to me to make it come true!
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