Sony to restructure semiconductor operations

Friday 19th October 2007, 11:11:00 PM, written by Carl Bender

In a move confirming previous reports, Sony announced yesterday that a deal has been struck for the transfer of Playstation-related fabrication facilities to Toshiba's control by March of '08. The facilities in question consist of Sony's 300mm SOI lines at Nagasaki and Sony's interest in the OTSS Sony/Toshiba joint fab in Oita, responsible for production of the RSX and several PS2-related ICs. Parallel to the line transfer, a new company will be formed to manage the fabrication of the Cell B.E. and RSX on behalf of SCE at the Toshiba-owned facilities, with Toshiba taking a 60% stake and Sony/Sony Computer Entertainment each controlling 20% of the new entity.

The OTSS joint fabrication facility and the Nagasaki 300mm SOI lines were once a part of a grander effort by former Sony executive Ken Kutaragi to push Sony up through the ranks of the world's semiconductor giants by using the Playstation business as the base from which R&D and equipment expenditures could be recouped. However, upon being passed over for the position of group CEO in favor of Sir Howard Stringer in March of '05, Kutaragi was stripped of his control over both the electronics and semiconductor divisions of Sony in a broad corporate reshuffling. Since that time, the semiconductor strategy at Sony has shifted towards more modest aspirations in line with Stringer's profitability goals; recent comments out of Sony have indicated that apart from their lucrative operations in image sensors, Sony has little interest in continuing to invest in the cash-intensive arms race that has characterized modern fab construction.

Sony has confirmed that they will instead re-focus their energies on IC design rather than production, expanding relationships with both IBM and Toshiba going into the 45nm era to serve the fabrication requirements for complex silicon. Longtime partners on the CMOS process, Sony and Toshiba committed towards the joint development of the 45nm CMOS for consumer electronics and gaming applications. In tandem, Sony also announced that they would be working with IBM to transition the East Fishkill Cell B.E. lines to the 45nm SOI process, with Sony Computer Entertainment to be a primary recipient of the output.

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