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Halla Says U.S. Chip Industry Must Move Beyond Moore's Law

National Semiconductor Corp. chief Brian Halla wants the U.S. chip industry to end its reliance on Moore's Law as its calling card.
Halla and others worry that lawmakers don't fully understand the competitive threat posed by China, and that is is building state-of-the-art facilities that could eventually rival U.S. manufacturing prowess.

At a recent Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) event in Washington, Halla said he was surprised to learn that only one lawmaker in attendance had been to China. "We have to get [the politicians'] attention by saying that we are trying to save the competitiveness of our industry," he said.

National Semiconductor's Chairman, President and CEO
Brian Halla

Halla, who is scheduled to take over as SIA chairman later this year, would prefer to form a task force of legislators and industry executives that would visit Chinese factories. Wary that an industry-sponsored trip would be seen as a junket, however, he said the SIA would probably instead produce a video illustrating the emergence of Chinese chip makers.

Halla said U.S. chip makers should meanwhile find ways to benefit from China's emergence. He pointed to the purchasing power of China's huge middle class, estimated to be about 400 million people, as a massive market for electronics. National Semiconductor opened its first major manufacturing facility in China in October 2004, a test and assembly plant in Suzhou Industrial Park.

As SIA's new chairman, Halla said he wants to reduce the industry's overreliance on Intel CEO Craig Barrett as its chief spokesman. Barrett is retiring in May. Halla also said he would campaign to pressure China to respect intellectual property rights, something he said could best be accomplished by working with top Chinese chip makers. Ultimately, he said, those companies will also want to protect their IP.

Halla again touted personal technology rather than IT as a key industry driver. He pointed to the proliferation of personal electronic devices as a huge opportunity for chip makers, with individuals potentially carrying several gadgets.