Friday, September 05, 2014

EETimes on Omnivision Takeover Offer

EETimes-Asia publishes an interview with Nicky Lu, chairman of Etron (Hsinchu, Taiwan), chair of the Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association and chair of the World Semiconductor Council, talking about China intentions in semiconductors. Few quotes on the offer to Omnivision:

If it succeeds in the OmniVision acquisition, China can easily take OminVision's business away from TSMC and bring it to SMIC. As far as Lu is concerned, "The game is fair, and things in China are moving faster than ever."

By taking over the world's leading CMOS image sensor vendor, China will gain instant access to the global market and the company's formidable market share. More importantly, such a deal generates demand for volume production of CMOS image sensors in China (not in Taiwan)—enough to fill the capacity of home-grown Chinese fabs like Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) based in Shanghai.

29 comments:

  1. I can share the exact feeling of this gentleman. Chinese guys have no confidence on western companies and also the business is largely interfered with political events. So China trys all the best to have a complete domestic technology pool. This is simply the beginning.

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  2. In this scenario, as presented, OVTI becomes a sort of nationalized image sensor company. This can only be good news for the other players for the rest of the world's market. Not so good news for Galaxycore. Wonder what happens to them? Furthermore, I think TSMC did a huge amount of work to make their image sensor process as good as it is. Moving from TSMC to SMIC is not going to be as simple as it sounds for staying on the leading edge of advanced technology. There is a big knowledge base within TSMC on image sensors. I don't think SMIC is there yet as Galaxycore is not leading edge. Lastly, I wonder how satellite R&D centers, like the Oslo group, will fare under a China-nationalized Omnivision? Well, that is all under that particular scenario. Even if the takeover bid succeeds, perhaps Omnivision won't be treated as a Chinese national asset.

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  3. The satellite groups were never a good fit with OV -- culturally and other wise. There is a feeling within OV (i know it first hand) -- it's management and personnel in silicon valley -- that they are a shining example of Chinese excellence and success. Not that the feeling is not justified, but it is more of a nationalistic and cultural pride vis-a-vis the western counterparts than as a commercial success in a technology. With that being the thread running through the ranks it was only a matter of time that they went back to their 'home'. So this offer for takeover takes it to its logical end. The Oslo center will be discarded IMO. They must try to sell themselves to ON whose focus now is on automotive, which is precisely where Oslo can add value.
    I see OV being slowly sucked into mainland China with just some support personnel spread across the US and Europe to honor it prior commitments.

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    1. For me, they are of course a shining example of Chinese excellence and success. But it's also an example that Chinese tradition and culture can benefit a lot from Western culture, tradition and social organization. For a mainland Chinese, these guys are very Westernized indeed. It's quite funny !!

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    2. A shining example of Chinese excellence at business, yes! Not sure about the technical side. What are key innovations or inventions done by the Chinese guys at Omnivision please?

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    3. OV is one of the very first CIS companies who successfully produces BSI sensor in mass production by using bulk wafer process. From my humble experience, they should have at least some contributions in the technical side, otherwise only commerical hot air can not conduct to this scale of success.

      -yang ni

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    4. Several companies announced BSI image sensors at almost the same time. I think TSMC did the fabrication details and yield details. You should give credit to TSMC for technology, and OVTI for good business sense and practices. You can compare BSI talks given in 2009 IISW by TSMC and OVTI. One is on technology, one is on performance measurement.

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    5. All the BSI work involving thinning of bulk wafers, laser annealing conditions, backside implant recipes, etc were done by TSMC. If you've worked with TSMC you will know that they usually run tons of wafers, even without a customer asking for or paying for them, to get the process conditions right. So it is TSMC that should get the credit for technical excellence for BSI, not OV.

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  4. I agree with Dr. Fossum that moving fabs is not easy - I have gone through it several times and it can take a couple of years to move a single device. Saying it was "easy" was a glib statement from Mr. Lu, and having met with him and discussed business I found him to be of little substance and someone who relies on connections and name dropping rather than having any real insight.

    That is not to say there is an effort in Mainland China to buy up IP since they are so poor at developing it on their own (they are much better at buying it or stealing it), but throwing money around and expecting things to just stay the same isn't going to work in the the long run. If this happens they will just become another mass production, low margin follower.

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    1. Actually, Omnivision owns one of the most extensive patent portfolios in the industry, and pays the license fees for some other patents. Saying the they are stealing something is not true.

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    2. Rhodes came to Omnivision after being let go from Micron, not Aptina. BSI at TSMC was probably started and managed by Omnivision but heavy lifting was all done by TSMC. Still they deserve credit for taking such a risk to move BSI to mass production.

      Most companies appropriate (aka "steal") good ideas from other companies and then either modify them to get their own patent or wait until they are forced to license it. Omnivision is generally no different. But it is true, we don't usually see too many papers or good patents coming out of Omnivision. I can't really think of one.

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    3. Your statement is largely offset by your personal emotion !
      From my point of view, the contribution of OV to CMOS sensors should be observed together with TSMC's contributions. OV is the only pure Fabless company who has such scale of commercial success today. Others are Fab based.

      -yang ni

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    4. Sounds desperate or an racist. mind to share what contribution/innovation you made to the image sensor world? OV people are too busy working to bring the best products to consumers, no time for watering...

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    5. @Anon @9:13 pm
      So, in your opinion the OV people are too busy to file important patents or papers? OV has benefitted greatly from engineers around the world sharing information and ideas and pushing the state of the art forward. It is a shame that you think they are too busy to share back and give back. I hope this is not the Chinese way - it isn't in my experience. Fortunately, some guys, like Rhodes and recently Solhusvik do take the time to give back and participate in our community. It would be great to see more from OV, at least to an extent similar to that of Samsung or Sony or the former-Aptina or ST.

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  6. Buying IP with cash reserves doesn't qualify for inventiveness. What original idea has the company contributed to the image sensors field, that is not just routine incremental improvement? that is the question to be answered. Rehashing, reproducing Chipworks reports is usually the norm, but that is only a couple of years after Sony/Samsung release their products!

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    1. Your accusations seem largely vague. Could you provide facts? There are a large number of image sensor patents. But if they are not worth to be commercialized then what is the use of innovation? I remember that Eric mentioned this in a recent ISW article.

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    2. If you're not aware, OV bought all of Kodak's patent portfolio a few years ago!

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  7. I think there is some defensive motivation sponsored by China government in this deal.

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  8. This dicussion has become pointless.

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  9. Vlad et all,

    Hate to correct you, but Samsung dwarfs OVT in developed IP/patents due to providing process and design. OVT has acquired much of its IP (a portion - not all of Kodak portfolio for example for defensive purposes) and has very little process IP. (fabless nature)

    Also, wafer thinning equipment providers were intrigal in helping TSMC to produce lower yields and wafer handling in BSI, something OVT was clueless about. Among investor analysts, OVT's weakness was their CEO and the company's overall lack of process knowledge - getting "owned" at times by TSMC. Other weakenessed included not being always honest to investor analysts and being very selective with information over the years. I attribute this to a lack of western cultural awareness, that sooner or later, truth is exposed as opposed to how business is conducted in many parts of Asia where there is zero oversight from agencies. Strengths included being known to be the cockroach of the imaging industry......it can't be killed and everytime an entity tries, it just moves to another area. Great tenacity for a small company who has been able to turn on a dime at times and reinvent.

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    3. Vladimir, please delete the racist comments in this blog, from both sides.

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  10. Just a reminder, TSMC was founded and is running by Chinese.

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    1. TSMC has nothing to do with China government

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  11. what's the point of all these discussions?
    OVT is founded, managed by Chinese, TSMC is (kinda) of Chinese, SMIC is Chinese.
    TSMC even owns like 15% share of SMIC.
    Now, a chinese captial want to buy OVT, how does that change anything at all?

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  12. Omnivision-SMIC vs. Glaxycore-tsmc ---> SAMSUNG ---------->>> SONY

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  13. All of these discussion becoming totally pointless and rude !

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