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Renesas takes the first steps towards creating an ecosystem of its own

The news that Renesas is to outsource 40nm mcu manufacture to TSMC is not surprising; what is surprising is Renesas' decision to make its proprietary MONOS embedded flash technology available to anyone who wants to use it.

Renesas has, it claims, learned some big lessons from the Earthquake. One is not to have all your eggs in one basket and, hence, the decision to transfer manufacturing responsibility for all future leading edge products to TSMC.
The decision to outsource, rather than invest in building its own leading edge facilities, is very much business led. It's one of a list of companies who have looked at the cost of 40nm manufacturing and beyond and decided foundries are the only way to go.
Renesas Technology was originally created in 2003 through a merger between Hitachi Electronics and Mitsubishi's mcu business. It then merged with NEC Electronics in 2010 to form today's organisation. Part of the reasoning behind the mergers was to create more cost effective structures.
Following the latest merger, Renesas' management has needed to make major realignments – slimming the manufacturing network as well as working out which parts of an effectively duplicated mcu portfolio to retain. Outsourcing to TSMC is the result of some of that debate.
But what are we to make of the availability – through TSMC – of MONOS? The move runs contrary to what most Japanese companies have done it the past, which is to maintain a close grip on their technology. Renesas believes the move will see the creation of an ecosystem based around its embedded flash technology. Will competitive mcu developers pick up on the technology or is it more likely that fabless chip companies will take advantage?
'Ecosystem' is one of the industry's hot terms. ARM's ecosystem has developed around its core technology; partners supply the various elements needed to create something larger. What kind of ecosystem might develop around a memory technology? Or is this the first step in a process that might see Renesas' mcu cores available as IP?

Graham Pitcher

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