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From the EIC: Global competitiveness, outsourcing, and education in the semiconductor industry

Pages: pp. 5-6

I have earlier talked about the changing global semiconductor industry ("The Changing Face of IC Design and Its Industry," IEEE Design & Test, Nov.-Dec. 2003). This is an industry in massive structural transformation, from manufacturing migration to the rise of fabless design houses in a rapidly disaggregating marketplace for semiconductors. And yet, it presents a tremendous potential for economic growth as never before: Semiconductors account for about 19% (in dollar value) of the trillion-dollar electronic systems market with another 10% proliferation potential fueled by the expanding wireless and consumer appliance markets. Computing remains a major consumer of chips, with semiconductor sales and employment closely tracking IT spending ( Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, Aug. 2004).

The controversy over outsourcing jobs to low-cost labor markets is currently rocking the IT industry ("Changing Labor Market Conditions for High Tech Professionals," The scope of this issue extends beyond the semiconductor industry, but perhaps its long-term effects are felt more deeply here. The semiconductor industry has always been a global industry—from the movement of materials to talent—it has relied on the best and most cost-effective resources on the planet. The effects of structural changes in the semiconductor industry are felt worldwide. For a variety of reasons related to public policy, this outsourcing debate is particularly heated in the US. The US educational system has been intimately tied to the American high-tech immigration experience. Thus, any debate about such issues must be cognizant of its long-term impact on technological competitiveness in an era of broadened educational experience.

With this issue, D&T launches its Perspectives department, edited by Yervant Zorian and Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, focusing on the current topic of global competitiveness and outsourcing. There is no denying the painful effects of outsourcing in the high-tech industry: Many in this industry have felt these at the most personal level. Yet, is it really business as usual, a phenomenon faced by other industries before? Or is something more fundamental going on? To wit, engineering jobs also provide fertile training ground for high-tech entrepreneurial talent; witness the number of start-ups created by former engineers. If routine engineering jobs shift overseas, where will the future talent for new industrial leadership come from? The US higher educational system has been the hub of gathering such talent, refining and training it to provide the talent pool for the semiconductor industry. How is this pool changing? Is it ultimately an act of science and technology or social policy that would determine the semiconductor industry's long-term fate? D&T provides a forum to sift through these intertwined issues in a column with contributions from Stephen Unger, professor, Columbia University; T.J. Rodgers, founder, president, and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor; and Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, professor, the University of California, Berkeley. With the diversity of opinions coming from academia versus industry, US versus European views, D&T hopes that this edition of its department can help engender an educated debate on this vital topic and looks forward to your opinions in follow-up columns.

This issue of D&T also contains the second part of the special issue on embedded systems for real-time multimedia, continued from September-October 2004. These articles address architectural design and application programming for multimedia SoCs. Lv and coauthors present a methodology using trace modeling and simulations to drive the architectural design of an image-understanding application. La Rosa, Lavagno, and Passerone describe an environment for application development on reconfigurable platforms. Delaney, Simunic, and Jayant describe a low-energy implementation of high-quality speech recognition applications in embedded devices. In a nontheme article, Neuberger, Kastensmidt, and Reis use redundancy coding to improve fault tolerance in SoC memories. Continuing the celebration of 20 years of D&T, Ken Wagner, former editor in chief and current interviews editor, looks back at the articles and people who have had a lasting impact on the design-and-test profession.

As we welcome you to a new year of grim realities with the ever-present optimism of a profession built on the excitement of discovery and innovation, on behalf of D&T's entire editorial board and staff, I thank you for your continued participation as reader and contributor to D&T!



Rajesh Gupta

Editor in Chief

IEEE Design & Test of Computers


In the November-December 2004 issue, the article "Enhancing Yield at the End of the Technology Roadmap" by Naran Sirisantana, Bipul C. Paul, and Kaushik Roy—which appeared on pp. 563–571—was omitted from the table of contents. IEEE Design & Test regrets this error.

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