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Philips pairs with Samsung for next-gen mobile platform

Posted: 10 Sep 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:philips semiconductors? samsung electronics? texas instruments? mobile handset silicon? series 60?

Philips Semiconductors is set to announce a strategic agreement to develop a next-generation mobile phone platform with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, the world's third-largest handset maker, in hopes of shaking Texas Instruments Inc.'s hold on the mobile handset silicon market, according to two independent industry sources.

In a related development, another mobile handset platform is scheduled to emerge in the next several months from Infineon Technologies AG, which is working with an unidentified handset vendor on the platform.

The efforts by Philips and Infineon will join a number of mobile platforms vying for the attention of handset makers. The moves serve further notice that the close-knit club of handset vendors and their silicon supporters is cracking open its doors. The motivation appears to be jump-starting the market by mitigating the risks to new players of propagating 2.5G and, eventually, 3G equipment.

It is an abrupt change for an industry that heretofore has put its fortunes in the hands of a few giants who built their market share on proprietary hardware and software. By devoting vast engineering resources to Nokia and Ericsson for development of platforms based on its chipsets, TI had just about sewn up the mobile handset silicon market. Philips and Infineon managed to score a couple of component-level design contracts with household names like Ericsson and Siemens but were shut out of platform development.

Infineon's forthcoming platform will include a complete set of software and hardware to provide a fast, low-risk route-to-market for makers of high-volume basic or midrange "feature phones," said Stephan Mentz, senior product marketing manager for customized wireless solutions at Infneon.

Sea of change

The mobile industry landscape, previously characterized by proprietary software and a handset vendor's internally-developed hardware, is undergoing several changes. In the last 12 months, both Nokia and Ericsson have offered homegrown handset technologies as "open platforms" to third-party handset vendors.

Ericsson spun out Ericsson Mobile Platforms as a wholly-owned company a year ago to offer turnkey solutions to handset vendors wishing to get to market quickly with minimal risk. And Nokia is trying to build a de facto industry standard for smart phones with its Series 60 platform, which has already been licensed to Siemens, Matsushita, and Samsung. Those licensees, along with Nokia, control 60 percent of the global handset market.

The various mobile platforms are intended to meet a growing demand by manufacturers to quickly generate a number of cost-effective models, each with different features not directly addressed by either Nokia's Series 60 or Microsoft Corp.'s Smartphone platform.

In this environment, a big handset vendor can pursue a multipronged strategy. Samsung's partnership with Philips Semiconductors, for example, will represent the third mobile platform where Samsung is staking a claim. The company is already in both Nokia's Series 60 camp and Microsoft's SmartPhone 2002 camp. Neil Strother, senior analyst at In-Stat/MDR, said that Samsung is "hedging its bets and plans to take advantage of both OS platforms."

Mario Rivas, EVP of communications businesses at Philips Semiconductors, declined to comment on his company's strategic partnership with Samsung, but acknowledged that it is about to introduce a mobile handset platform built on in-house reference designs. Designs for today's 2.5G network will come first, followed by 3G designs later this year, he said. Philips Semiconductors has already sold "10 million (mobile handset) turnkey system solutions this year and that number will be multiplied by several times in 2003," Rivas claimed.

Separately, Philips Semiconductors unveiled on Wednesday (Sep. 4) an agreement with Ericsson Mobile Platforms to provide semiconductor devices to Ericsson Mobile Platforms' reference designs.

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times





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