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Freescale undergoes "identity" makeover

Posted: 28 Jun 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:embedded processing? sensor technology? analog?

So, will this breadth eventually help Freescale stand out on the embedded processing market? What do they still lack? What could ultimately tip the scales, giving Freescale bragging rights as a leader of "embedded processing" in five years from now?

In a quest for answers, EE Times asked five questions to Freescale's leaders during the FTF. Here are their responses.

1. Connectivity (or lack thereof)
Freescale said it wants to play a key role in the connected smart mobile market. How could it compete in that market, without offering cellular [baseband] connectivity portions?

Lisa Su, Freescale's senior vice president and general manager responsible for networking and multimedia, openly acknowledged that dumping Freescale's cellular business was "a topic heavily debated within the company." That may be an understatement. This was one of the most emotional and controversial decisions this company had to make. It was "gut-wrenching," said Tom Deitrich, senior vice president and general manager of cellular products and RF, analog & sensors at Freescale.

But Su made it clear: "We have chosen to de-emphasize the baseband business."

Freescale decided not to pump more money into constantly evolving cellular technology, partly because that could cost the company dearlythus starving other divisions of much needed investment. Moreover, staying in the baseband rat race could easily hang the company out to dry as the price of baseband chips gets clobbered.

But SoC vendors in the smartphone business today point out that handset guys, in search of multimode cellular baseband solutions (LTE included), have grown reluctant to even set up a meeting with a chip vendor who doesn't have "a platform solution" including baseband.

Su, however, insisted that the decision [of not offering connectivity] has "not limited us from the opportunities."

Why? Because Freescale made a conscious effort not to follow the path well traveled by its competitors focused on connectivity (marrying a baseband with an application processor and pitching it as a platform solution). Freescale foresees greater opportunity in offering a solution that includes a multimedia processor along with sensors, power management and other analog components C pre-integrated.

Albeit sans connectivity, Freescale calls it "a system's solution."

While this doesn't sound kosher, one could argue that it depends on how you define a market. Many in the industry think that smartphones own the smart mobile device market. Su said, "We don't believe in that model." Freescale is after "a much more diverse set of smart devices, applications and geography." That ranges from white-box media tablets in China, e-readers to automotive infotainment devices and anything that comes with displays.

Whether this is a copout (to avoid the challenge of coping with the toughest smartphone market) or a brilliant strategy remains to be seen.

But Freescale is sticking to its guns, applying much needed discipline to its broad product lines. It's also learning to say "no" to certain products. This is all about "choices" and "coming to grips with what Freescale is all about," said Beyer.

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