"Don't believe the idiots writing these things," we were told by an industry insider after asking him whether he thought Isuppli's view that high costs of semiconductor manufacturing equipment would kill off Moore's Law in just five years was accurate.
In a statement, Isuppli's director and chief analyst, Len Jelinek yesterday suggested that "The usable limit for semiconductor process technology will be reached when chip process geometries shrink to be smaller than 20 nanometers (nm), to 18nm nodes" and that "at those nodes, the industry will start getting to the point where semiconductor manufacturing tools are too expensive to depreciate with volume production, [that is], their costs will be so high, that the value of their lifetime productivity can never justify it."
But according to In-Stat's chief technology strategist, Jim McGregor, a lot of companies are facing financial difficulty at the moment due to over expansion in the industry and the general economy, and this "has nothing to do with this argument."
McGregor told the INQ, "even Gordon Moore has predicted the end of Moore's Law twice, but he was wrong both times." Reassuring indeed.
According to McGregor, Moore's Law - the observation that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles roughly every two years - is "a key fundamental driver of the industry from an economics perspective." Future challenges, says McGregor emphatically, will most likely be down to technology issues rather than equipment costs, so Isuppli is spouting nonsense.
Indeed, every new technology goes over some road-bumps, especially involving start-up costs, but these tend to drop rapidly once moved into regular production. "EUV [extreme ultraviolet] will likely be the next significant technology to go through this cycle," McGregor told us.
McGregor did concede that the lifecycle of certain technologies is being extended by firms who are in some cases choosing not to migrate to every new process node, but he maintained new process tech is still the key driver of small design geometries, including memory density, logic density, power consumption, etc.
"Moore's Law also improves the cost per device and per wafer," added McGregor, who also noted that "the industry has and will continue to go through changes because of some of the cost issues." These include the formation of process development alliances, like IBM's alliances, the transition to foundry manufacturing, and design for manufacturing techniques like computational lithography.
"Many people have predicted the end of Moore's Law and they have all been wrong," sighed McGregor. The same apparently goes for those foolhardy enough to attempt to predict changes in the dynamics of the semiconductor industry.
"There have always been challenges to the semiconductor technology roadmap, but for every obstacle, the industry has developed a solution and that will continue as long as we are talking about the hundreds of billion of dollars in revenue that are generated every year," he concluded.