Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Rumor: Apple is Establishing CIS Design Center in France, ST Lays Off

According to unconfirmed rumors, Apple has approached an individual who used to work for ST with a view to set up an Apple imaging center in the Grenoble area. Apparently, Apple is getting interested in ST's SPAD technology used in LG G3 for AF. The ex-ST individual is working to broker Apple access to this technology, based in Grenoble.

Seeing the recent stream of ToF patents from Primesense-Apple, one can speculate that Apple is contemplating the use of ST SPADs in its oncoming 3D camera.

Meanwhile, ST is reducing its image sensor footprint on the Edinburgh, Scotland site, pulling out of doing optical modules in the wake of continued reduced market share. Reportedly, Apple has had a recruitment day for image sensor designers in Edinburgh, with very select invites.

Update: The post has been updated according to a request I've received.

15 comments:

  1. With this description, this individual is very easy to identify. Is this an intentional leakage??

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. All of the patents were from a pre-Apple acquisition PrimeSense. I would not consider that a strong indicator of Apple's sudden interest in ToF.

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  4. Lots of layouts in France... people cost too much there ?

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    1. This is new to me. In US qualified engineers are paid 3x more!! This is pure disinformation

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    2. The engineers in the US may cost more but are easier to get rid of if a business needs to downsize, gets sold, etc. The problem with France (and Europe in general) is shedding people is hard (almost impossible, or some ridiculous severance) so you don't hire them in the first place unless you really, really need them. Or if you are global you put your center somewhere else.

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    3. With the cash Apple has, they can buy La France :)- now.

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  5. Most people are aware (not rumor-stage anymore) that ST is trying to sell its mobile CMOS imaging business for about 4 years now already. They even tried to sell the division to one Chinese potential target. Mobile imaging business of STMicro never made profit (>80% revenues still too much linked to Nokia and Blackberry at that times). In past years, many key engineers from Edinbourgh camera module division went to Apple. And now it is also starting from the Grenoble silicon imaging sensor division. Automotive & industrial imaging business will likely stay @ ST group and will be ultimately be integrated into the IMS "Industrial multi-segment" business unit. SPAD sensors from ST are certainly not inside this LGE phone... it is rather the ToF sensor from STMicro which won high volume @ LGE and that is likely to be of interest to Apple... so strange how rumors can deviate from what is really happening...

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    1. Two other comments on the rumor side:

      - Heptagon bought Mesa Imaging for their TOF technology (that's fact). The rumor is why: to supply proximity sensors to Apple. No clue if it is true, but makes sense based on Heptagon's customer base and focus.

      - Just a side comment that I was always amazed by the huge number of Aptina people that ended up at Apple - dozens before it was finally acquired by ON. Apple basically poached the talent and started their own group instead of buying the company, letting ON pick up what is left. This is speculation/opinion but I watched this happen over a 5 year period.

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    2. There's more to the picture than meets the eye even though a picture tells 1000 words!

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    3. Hey anonymous, these are two statements I do use constantly in my talks, my courses and my web-site, but I just want to mention to the readers of this blog : this comment was NOT mine !

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  6. It is not sure that the Aptina people that Apple poached were actually meant for CIS development at Apple; many speculated that there were other motives (personal) for it. Most, perhaps all with the exception of a few, are doing inspection/quality check duties at Apple. How creative is that compared to sensor design that they were doing at Aptina?

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  7. It is no secret that there are SPADs in ST ToF modules, it is even written on their website (http://www.st.com/web/en/catalog/mmc/FM132/SC1934 after a basic google for "ST SPAD sensor"). Anyway, I find it strange that ST would sell this know-how to Apple and loose margin by just being a foundry for Apple designed sensors (except if they are looking for a big runner in Crolles fabs whatever the price).
    Pierre Boulenc

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  8. this person is already quit active, i heard.

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