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TI again eyes read-channel chip market for disk drives

Posted: 12 May 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:hard-disk drives? microdrives? hdd? soc? mixed-signal?

Several years after Texas Instruments Inc. exited the market for read-channel chips used in hard-disk drives, the company is considering the possibility of a return.

The company is fascinated with the potential of 1-inch microdrives, said Steve LaVerde, vice president of the company's mixed-signal and power products group. TI executives are in discussions with several unnamed companies that are planning to make the microdrives.

"We are constantly considering opportunities," LaVerde acknowledged. "We've invested heavily in disk drive ICs, and consider ourselves well positioned."

Currently, TI manufactures pre-amps and motor drivers for HDDs. Read channels and hard-disk controllers - as well as the SoCs that integrate both - are well within the company's design and manufacturing capabilities, LaVerde indicated in a presentation Tuesday (May 10) to securities analysts.

Currently, Agere Systems has the largest share of the hard drive SoC market, followed by Marvell Semiconductor. Other players include Infineon Technologies AG and STMicroelectronics.

TI acquired read-channel IC leader Silicon Systems Inc. (SSI) at a time when the technology was shifting from analog peak detection to digital oversampling. At the time, CMOS parts were also displacing BiCMOS in this market. SSI missed several generations of technology before parent TI decided to withdraw from the read-channel IC business.

With disk drive densities increasing at a frenetic pace, companies like ST and Infineon have found it practical to deliver parts for alternating generations of the technology.

Even without read channels, TI's disk-drive IC business is roughly $500 million - nearly one-fourth of its analog and mixed-signal IC revenues, LaVerde said.

- Stephan Ohr

EE Times

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