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Philips exec sees 3C convergence in China

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

Keywords:Vivek Nanda? EE Times-Asia? Philips? 3C? China?

Wang: I see a jump in 3C convergence in the next six months to one year.

As senior director and technical support manager for Greater China, Charles Wang manages the entire technical support function of Greater China for Philips Semiconductors. He brought with him 25 years of experience in the electronics industry!including a stint with Cadence Design Systems Inc.!when he joined Philips Semiconductors in May 2005. Since then, Wang has reorganized and streamlined Philips' technical support organizations in Greater China, put together plans to upgrade the technical competency of GC teams, and taken charge of directing and managing the technical teams for design-in and design-win activities.

Wang spoke to EE Times-Asia at this year's International IC-China Conference in Shanghai about near-field communication (NFC) standardization, Philips' Nexperia platform, 3C convergence and Chinese engineers.

EE Times:Please describe your role in Philips' operations in China.
Charles Wang:My job is to manage the whole technical support of the Greater China region, which covers mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. We have support centers in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Taipei. About 60 personnel man each center, depending on the area's customer base. We're organized in such a way that each location supports the customers in its vicinity. Each has teams specializing in handset, TV or audio equipment design. I manage and take care of the whole thing. We have about 300 engineers in the Greater China area.

I also play a role in quality management. There are two parts to quality management. One is managing how our products are affected by quality issues once in production. The other is determining how to operate efficiently and improve our relationships with customers.

What level of design work is Philips doing at your Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai support centers?
Each center focuses on an application!mobile phone, TV or audio. They vary from case to case. On one side, we have reference designs!chipsets, drivers, protocol software. On the other, we have customer end-products with features such as multimedia, MP3 or USB. What we do is customize these reference designs according to the level of the customers' R&D capability. So sometimes, we do more; sometimes, we do less. But when we do more, we need the help of the customer and the ISV [independent software vendor] to provide the application for, say, MP3. We study how to integrate the functions and make sure that company requirements and our platform are made known to the ISV. Sometimes, the customer has better capability, like those with their own design houses. All we have to do is answer questions about the reference design. But to handle customers with their different needs, our engineers have to be very capable not only in terms of the reference design, but also in applications.

Usually, when we sign with a customer, they will take our platform to develop a model of the product, then we provide our design service. Depending on how big an order is or how competent the customers are, we adjust the number of people working on a design.

What's the latest on NFC standardization, and what is Philips' strategy for NFC?
Philips is one of the founding members of a consortium called the NFC Forum, along with a number of players, such as Nokia. Currently, Philips has chips that are ready and are actually going through three trials. One trial was set in Caen, France for Samsung mobile phones, in collaboration with France Telecom and Orange, a local mobile phone company, enabling the use of mobile phones for payments, banking, ticketing or hotel bookings. There were 200 users participating in that trial, which began in October and concluded last April. We have another trial in Hamburg, Germany using Nokia phones that recently went commercial. That's basically for the transportation system, particularly in ticketing. Another trial is happening in Taiwan with BenQ. That's also for mass transit.

The technology has been developed. The chip is ready. We are working with handset vendors to try different applications. We anticipate this technology to be available in the near future.

NFC follows the Zigbee standard. You probably know that the standards issue is not settled in China yet, but we anticipate that it should be settled pretty soon.

You've had success with the Nexperia platform. But with the speed at which 3C convergence is getting picked up in the market, is the platform approach still the right one for Philips to take, or are you looking at others?
I think the platform is still the best approach to handle 3C convergence. We know that 2C is happening now. 3C depends on one's point of view!a lot of people say it's happening, that it's around the corner, or it's going to be a reality very soon. The only way to approach these convergences is to use the platform approach.

The advantage of the platform approach is that you have the marginal design and the IP reusability. With these, you reduce time-to-market and costs. And that has not changed. The issue now in using the platform approach is how to distinguish yourself from the rest, since everybody is into platforms these days. The key is in how you use your application with the platform. This requires some effort. I know this very well because my team is working with customers building mobile phones or DTVs, and they all want their brand to showcase a different feature.

When a vendor uses a platform, how would they reduce time-to-market and cost while accomplishing easy integration to produce a winning product? That is what we are planning to work on. Nexperia is a suitable platform to go in that direction.

Everybody's thinking of ways for implementation and how quickly or how conveniently you can provide added capability. It's the same in the chip industry!they all use the same EDA tools, but some chips are better than the others. Why? I think that flexibility, IP reusability and experience in the type of development are factors that make a lot of difference.

What are the market trends in China and what strategies is Philips using in response to these?
I think 3C convergence is clearly happening in China. We envision something like a mobile phone or a smart phone being able to connect to its consumer, and function as a communication vehicle with 3G and do payments with NFC. These features will happen. The technology platform is being formed!by Philips or by its competitors. T3G already has the first chip ready for TD-SCDMA and Edge.

Technology is maturing for 3C convergence. The question now is the application. I think in China, because of its unique business environment, the applications may be more unique than those in Europe. So those applications will mature in the next six months because there's a whole other platform. A business has to accept those applications and work with them. For instance, by next year, mobile phones will be paying credit card bills, so you'll have to be working with the banking industry. Mobile phones will pay for transport tickets, so you must work with transport systems. Those developments are going to happen, and those applications will be different from those in Europe or the United States. These unique applications will drive the development of Philips after the 3C convergence.

I see a jump in 3C convergence in the next six months to one year. And from there, it will explode into all kinds of applications. Now you see early adoption touching ground with these applications. Give it a year and you'll see some applications kick off big time.

What is your message to electronics engineers in China?
I personally saw 2C convergence occur. Soon, I will see 3C. There's a continuing need for engineers to understand two points. One is to understand the technology behind it. 3C means communication, consumer and computer. You and your team have to understand that.

The second thing is to understand the end customer's perspective. You have to know the whole dynamics!it's not pure technology, and it's not pure cost. It's really how you keep a balance of cost in terms of the feature and how your technology supports it. That requires the engineer to understand not only the technology, but also the customer and the market.

Often, engineers have only one point of view!technology. A super-rich product with 80 percent of its features being used takes a long time to build. So I think electronic engineers really have to understand the market and the customer, which had not been the case in the last 10 years. Engineers were for engineering, while marketers handled market requirements. For the new generation, you have to do both to be successful!not only for yourself, but for the industry and your company.

I think our engineers are too technical, which they naturally must be up to a point. But they also have to understand the market and anticipate its requirements.

- Vivek Nanda
Electronics Engineering Times-Asia

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