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Personal electronics seen driving ICs

Posted: 01 Jun 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:personal electronics? cellphones? personal media player? health monitor? sensor?

Personal electronics such as cellphones, personal media players, health monitors and sensors will be the chip industry's new drivers, national semiconductor Corp. CEO Brian Halla predicts.

While National Semiconductor's business is almost exclusively high-margin analog, company principals told EE Times in a private briefing that personal consumer electronics looms large in its thinking.

Personal-electronics applications change what Halla calls "the man-to-machine" ratio. As people equip themselves with multiple machines, they exponentially multiply the consumption of semiconductors. Rather than the MIPS requirement of computers and IT systems, personal electronics will become the 21st-century semiconductor industry's driver. The analog components business!projected to grow 10 percent a year through 2007, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association!is the differentiator of personal electronics, said Halla.

The company's books suggest success for this strategy. National reported profits of $77.4 million on revenue of $449.2 million for Q1 that ended in February!down, with the entire industry, 13 percent from the same quarter last year, but still reflecting a 52.7 percent gross margin.

Power-management products are partitioned between two divisions!power management and portable power. Combined, they account for roughly 45 percent of the company's revenue, said Ed Lam, VP for the power-management division. In switching regulators alone, National shipped $474.5 million worth of ICs in 2004!for a 29.2 percent share of a $1.625 billion market.

The portable-power products group, under VP Peter Henry, focuses on the power requirements of cellphones and other battery-powered handhelds. The cellphone industry has been notorious in its efforts to add features without sacrificing battery life or talk time. Henry's concerns, in addition to battery voltage management, include RF system efficiency, aesthetic lighting techniques for keypads and displays, and low-power interfaces.

Many of National's audio product developments have been similarly harnessed to cellphones and portables, said Michael Polacek, VP and general manager of the company's audio group. Polacek believes that National is the No. 1 supplier of audio ICs to the cellphone industry.

Flat-panel TVs are also among the drivers for audio product development.

- Stephan Ohr

EE Times

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