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Microchip seeks to 'elbow out' MCU rivals

Posted: 17 Apr 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:microcontroller? Microchip elbow out strategy? MCU?

New initiatives
Microchip continues to diversify and roll new products, as part of its "elbow out" strategy. For example, the company is beefing up its 32bit MCU lines. It recently announced that embedded designers can combine digital signal processing and MCU control code with the 32bit PIC32 microcontroller family, using its no-cost, royalty-free DSP library. This new library, which was added to the MPLAB C Compiler for PIC32 MCUs at no additional cost, can execute a 256-point, 16bit RADIX-2 Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) in 283?s, which is approximately 22 percent faster than Microchip's previous PIC32 DSP library.

It has also made a string of small acquisitions to propel its MCU and analog lines. Last October, Microchip acquired Hampshire Company Inc. for an undisclosed price. Hampshire is a supplier of universal touch screen controller electronics and software technology.

Atmel, Cypress and others compete in the emerging touchscreen IC arena. "Interest in touchscreens for smart phones has been spurred by Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone," said Tina Teng, an analyst with iSuppli Corp. "Competitors throughout the wireless business have offered or are preparing alternative productsthe so-called 'iPhone killers,' which employ touchscreen technology."

The majority of these iPhone killers are employing resistive touchscreen technology, as opposed to the projected-capacitive solution used in the iPhone. iSuppli's optimistic forecast for global smart phone unit shipments calls for 192.3 million units in 2009, up 11.1 percent from 173.6 million in 2008.

"Microchip appears well-positioned" in touchscreen ICs, according to a recent report from Gartner. "Microchip has perhaps the broadest portfolio of touch technologies, including resistive, capacitive and inductive-touch controllers."

In another deal, Microchip in March acquired Hi-Tech Software, a provider of development tools for embedded systems. Based in Brisbane, Australia, Hi-Tech is a third-party provider of C compilers for Microchip's 8-, 16- and 32bit microcontrollers and other products. Terms were not disclosed.

In April, Microchip acquired privately held security and life-safety IC provider R&E International Inc. R&E is a provider of ICs for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and other life safety systems, where Microchip already enjoys a strong market position.

Microchip is also interested in Supertex. According to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Microchip in January disclosed that it owns a 5.4 percent stake in Supertex, a publicly-held mixed signal semiconductor manufacturer. In March, Microchip purchased additional shares of Supertex and now holds 6.1 percent of the mixed-signal chip vendor, according to a regulatory filing.

Microchip is not buying Supertexyet. Supertex gives Microchip a view into some new and emerging markets. "Don't read anything more in Supertex other than it's a good investment," Sanghi said.

Time will tell. It would not surprise observers if Microchip makes a play for Supertex or another chip maker this year. MCU rival Luminary Micro Inc. is another possible candidate. Atmel is out of the pictureat least for now.

So what's next? Microchip needs "to keep its focus and not get distracted by the downturn," said Broadpoint.AmTech's Freedman.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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