Developments to Watch
THE LAST GASP FOR GaAs CHIPS? NOT BY A LONG SHOT
Gallium arsenide (GaAs) has long been the semiconductor material of the future. Proponents insist that silicon will someday run out of gas, and GaAs will then become the choice for tomorrow's ever-faster chips. But each time it seemed that gallium arsenide's day was dawning, silicon found new reserves of speed. So, GaAs is still an also-ran in chips.
Even if GaAs won't displace silicon anytime soon, it's about to get a big shot in the arm: Both Motorola Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc., America's two top chipmakers, will make major investments this year in GaAs production. Motorola is committing $100 million to its push, aiming mainly at chips for the telecommunications market. TI probably won't reveal details of its GaAs plans until late this year. Ironically, these moves come just as three GaAs startups--Gazelle Microcircuits, GigaBit Logic, and TriQuint Semiconductor--are struggling to stay alive by merging. The trio's combined game plan should be ready later this month.EDITED BY NAOMI FREUNDLICH