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Analog IC design stays strong

Posted: 04 Jan 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ic? design? analog? digital? cagr?

Kidgell: Just when people thought that analog will slowly disappear because of the advent of the digital age, the analog IC market stays strong.

We can look at the semiconductor industry from two sides: the product side or geographical side. From the product portfolio side, the analog IC market will continue to grow steadily. The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics forecasted that the analog IC market will grow to above $35 billion in 2006, representing a 10 percent CAGR since 2002.

Last year, National Semiconductor's analog portfolio grew 23 percent as the company refocused on analog products. Just when people thought that analog would slowly disappear because of the advent of the digital age, the analog IC market stayed strong and continues to do so. This is because analog technology helps differentiate end products. While digital ICs take quantum leaps in processing speeds, analog ICs bring better sound, image quality and power management to end products. As more digital ICs are being deployed in electronic devices, more analog ICs are needed to turn the digital signals into something that is understood by our analog world.

From the geographical point of view, China is the fastest growing region as electronics manufacturing has moved to Asia. Also, the domestic markets in Asia have become bigger. This growing cluster attracted two major upstream activities: semiconductor packaging and design activities.

National Semiconductor just started the operation of its test and assembly plant in Suzhou, which has the capability of producing 1 million ICs a day. By bringing IC design activities closer to customers, design teams enjoy faster time-to-market. And because time-to-market is critical to success, we see more design teams being set up in Asia. The company has recently established design centers in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea that currently work on audio amplifiers, power management and flat-panel displays.

However, analog technology is still new in Asia, thus making it difficult to set up design centers in the region. The earlier players in the Asian silicon industry like South Korea and Taiwan have focused on digital technology over the last few decades. Today, the industry is experiencing shortage in analog IC designers. When we talked to research institutes and universities, we found out that many of their academic and training programs were on digital ICs. Therefore, by establishing a joint partnership with Zheijang University, we have devised plans to develop talents in analog engineering.

Analog technology will be a hot topic in 2005. It will continue to be an engine of growth for the IC market.

- Martin Kidgell
VP and Managing Director, Asia-Pacific
National Semiconductor Corp.

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