ST-Ericsson In Wonderland

There’s something a bit Alice-in-Wonderland about the statements coming out of STMicroelectronics and ST-Ericsson.

Recently we had STMicro’s US boss saying that ST-Ericsson will produce a plan for getting out of its troubles “in the next period.”

Goodness knows what “next period” means, but the latest ST-E CEO has been in place since December 1st – three and a half months – and it seems lethargic still to lack a plan to deal with a company losing $1.50 on every sales $, with a collapsed Nokia – its main customer, with a debt of $800 million, with no obvious source of 28nm fab and with a delayed new product schedule.

These problems have been obvious to everyone for many months. But not, apparently to ST. Could it be that ST suddenly thought last November: ‘It’s going a bit pear-shaped at ST-E, perhaps we better get a chap to produce a plan. The debt’s only  increasing at $200 million a quarter so there’s no hurry. Give him six months.”

Maybe the truth is there isn’t a solution.


ST’s US boss reassures us that: “They’re pushing hard to get the new products out. They are working every day.”


That’s nice.


Then we get the ST-E CTO leaving and ST-E announcing that Ericsson would appoint the replacement not the ST-E board. This is despite the fact that STMicro’s US boss, when asked who was in the driving seat at ST-E – was it ST or Ericsson – replied: “ST is managing that for sure, because it’s the semiconductor expert.”


Then the latest announcement is that Soitec says that ST-Ericsson may use SOI wafers to make its chips.


“We are delighted that it (FD-SOI) could be adopted by ST-Ericsson for their next generation of products,” says Joel Hartmann of STMicroelectronics.

The ‘could’ makes the endorsement underwhelming.

ST-E fails to say what products or at what process generation SOI will be used. It does say SOI will deliver 35% better power consumption but doesn’t say in comparison with what.

Paul Boudre, COO of Soitec, says the FD-SOI technology is “years ahead of when alternative processes will be available from foundries.” However if ST-E can’t get FD-SOI from foundries, it will have to rely on Crolles for fab. Crolles’ capacity is 5,000 wafers a week and it has to be shared with other products. ST-E cannot live by Crolles alone.

What is coming out of ST and ST-E sounds half-baked.



  1. Thanks very much Mike, that rather confirms my suspicions about the ST-E/Soitec/ST remarks on FD-SOI – the statements didn’t contain a commitment to the manufacturing of the part. And, in view of what you say about process availability, how could they? Maybe the Reuters story yesterday contained the clue to the FD-SOI announcement. ST is dressing up ST-E for sale, and a nice piece of ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘breakthrough’ technology helps boost the achievable price.

  2. Intel, Samsung and TSMC are committed to bulk at 28nm and 20nm, GF has a different SOI process and is known to be going with something else at 20nm so this leaves the only two fabs that can make FD-SOI currently as Crolles and one IBM fab. The IBM fab is believed to be full so even if Crolles can make 5000 wpw it isn’t going to supply more than a percentage of ST-E’s current requirements, let alone what they would need if NovaThor and hence STE achieve some true success.

  3. Thanks Mike, that’s in tune with other weaselly-worded announcements.

  4. Thanks Anonymous2, I sometimes wish people trying to make a point wouldn’t wrap in up in yards of unnecessary verbiage – but you have taken me to the nub of the thing for which I’m grateful

  5. Thank you Adele, but please note Mike’s point above that Lamouche said IF Nova Thor was made using FD-SOI it would have these characteristics and not that it actually would be made in FD-SOI.

  6. Deep in the spec :
    1 GHz STE U8500 dual-core processor
    All their other recent designs used the Snapdragon – it would be interesting to compare those with this one.

  7. Regarding the Advanced Substrate news article – if one reads the slide what it says is that IF the NovaThor was made in FD-SOI it WOULD have these better characteristics. No mention that it would be !!

  8. David, to hear it directly from Lamouche (re: prototypes of NovaThor 8540 smartphone/tablet processors on 28nm FDSOI will be available this year), check out his presentation at the ST-E Analyst briefing in Barcelona — you can get the audio link at He talks extensively about FD-SOI in minutes 39-46, and again in the Q&A. The key slide in his ppt is #29. I blogged about it yesterday — see Cheers.

  9. Well, actually there is a mentioning at the bullet “Facts”:
    1 GHz STE U8500 dual-core processor
    This is now the 3th Sony phone announced with STE U8500 platform. Tunnels can be long and half of the time there’s light at the end …

  10. I’ve read it, chs9996. But there’s no mention of ST-E in it.

  11. Thanks [Anonymous] I wasn’t at the Barcelona presentation and wasn’t aware of any decision to put NovaThor on 28nm FD-SOI until this press release came out which seemed ambiguous. I assume the only source of 28nm FD-SOI is Crolles, or can ST-E get it from IBM? And, if from Crolles only, how much of Crolles’ 4/5K wpw total capacity can be allocated to NovaThor?

  12. Absolutely Robert, I think everyone knows the capabilities of ST-E but can’t understand why the leadership of the company is taking so long to get products out, find a 28nm process, and sign up new clients. I believe dynamic leadership of the sort Sanjay Jha showed at Qualcomm and |Motorola Mobility could get this company on track (And the word is Jha is to leave Motorola Mobility soon). I wish the company all the success in the world -it would be awful to hand over the whole market to Qualcomm and that is what will happen if ST-E top management, -or ST for that matter – don’t get this situation sorted out.

  13. David, I’m with Anonymous you need to stop being so down on STE. This SOI process will give NOK exactly the edge it needs to ship samples in serious volume.
    Yield wont be an issue for samples, and given the way NOK is loosing market share, even production volume can probably be supported by the R&D fab.
    You’ve gotta give STE a chance, how was it that the “Life of Brian” song went, “always look on the bright side of life…

  14. There was an [Anonymous] and an anonymous [Anonymous] and this reply was for anonymous. You know how hens get when there’s a fox outside – that’s how STE seems to be.

  15. Same anon than above.
    Sorry, I do not get what you mean with hens and foxes…

  16. Delicately put, anonymous, but STE does put one in mind of a bunch of hens in a flurry as the fox approaches.

  17. There’s a very big difference between saying we ‘WILL’ adopt SOI and saying we ‘COULD’ adopt SOI [Anonymous] and in this case Soitec’s press release quoted Joel Hartmann saying ST-E ‘COULD’ adopt SOI. Maybe you’re right that all these remarks coming out of ST and STE are capable of misinterpretation because of poor translation. But they give the impression of weaselly worded statements trying to cover up unpalatable facts at a time when ST and STE need to be open, up-front, bold and transparent about how they intend to stop the rot at ST-E. It doesn’t look like leadership at the moment – it looks like hiding in a funk hole.

  18. Dear Mr Manners,
    It “would” be nice to be a bit more objective from time to time. If I “may”.
    I guess we did not read the same release.
    You pay attention to “could” that is probably a poor translation from French. “Could” should be read in consideration of the context “ST-E has selected”. This means it is a done deal, isn’t it?
    “Could” become then “will be able to”.
    Rather than sticking to a semantic analysis, you could, as a respectful journalist that you are, go a bit deeper into the analysis prior to jumping to wrong conclusions:
    Referring to the latest STE CEO talk to analyst in Barcelona, you “could” capture facts relevant to the product roadmap.
    You “would” understand that “could” stands for “will” and that this technology will be key differentiation for STE: Wonderland

  19. The 5000 wpw figure comes from ST’s US boss.

  20. Given STE’s problems 5000 wafers per week (actually I believe it is nearer 4000) is more than enough 🙂

  21. I never realised that ST-Ericsson had a female anatomy. I suppose it explains what’s been going on there, they’ve just had a little PMT, right?
    But it’s kind of worrying. After all, if they are as f*****d as some people allege, the next period may be a while yet? 😉

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