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Taiwan design house innovates to succeed

Posted: 01 Jan 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:judith cheng? prolific technology? taiwan? design house? usb interface?

Chang: Continuous innovation can save you from being a one-hit wonder.

Catching up with advanced semiconductor processes and the increasing number of competitors is giving Taiwan design houses a hard time in the electronics industry. Ching-Tang Chang, founder and president of Prolific Technology Inc., believes that to be successful in the field, design houses need to develop new products fortified with a high level of differentiation.

Established less than a decade ago, Prolific Technology has positioned its expertise in smart I/O technologies such as USBs and the ieee 1394. Aside from interface controller ICs, Prolific has capabilities extending to soc products that cover multimedia applications such as MPEG-4, JPEG and MP3, GPS, VoIP and mixed-signal ICs. Prolific started with only seven employees, headquartered at the ITRI Incubator Center. Today, Prolific has more than a hundred employees with profits reaching $38.7 million each year.

"In the beginning, we decided to work with some partners, but we didn't know which products to focus on. Because I've been working on R&D of PCs, I realized that PC interfaces and peripherals were changing from the traditional parallel bus to the serial bus," narrated Chang, who also worked for General Electric Co. and the Computer and Communication Research Labs of ITRI. This inspired him to pursue smart I/O solutions for Prolific.

For two years, the company supplied all kinds of peripherals for IEEE 1394, USB, storage facilities and data I/O controllers. Then Prolific shifted its focus to SoCs, where it dealt with digital multimedia, GPS, communication and mixed-signal technologies.

Its first product was not a USB chip, but an interface IC for Apple Computer's printer, Chang said. When the company was just starting, Prolific had financial problems. So when the Apple opportunity came, he accepted it, even if he wasn't familiar with specifications for Apple's PCs. Prolific delivered the product, which earned a profit of more than $890,000. This unexpected order rescued Prolific in time.

Chang suggested that IC design startups should first devote its resources to a high-profit, large-market field and stabilize the business first. He also pointed out that company leaders should steer the business to developing next-generation products to sustain progress.

"Continuous innovation can save you from being a one-hit wonder," Chang said. After the success of its legacy smart I/O products, Prolific is focusing on SoC platforms, broadening application offerings to multimedia and communication fields.

"The challenge in SoC design is integrating several kinds of IP bus, hardware and software systemswhich could spell success or failure," Chang said. He added that success in SoC design lies not only on the strength of the technology being developed, but also in the flexibility to offer the right solutions for various applications.

- Judith Cheng
EE TimesTaiwan

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