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TI bets on China for MCU design

Posted: 28 Jun 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MCU? microcontroller? MCU design?

Multinational chip companies who've consigned some of their design work to China tend to do so as quietly as possible; but a few leading companies are clearly making deeper inroads in China, and they're not especially shy about it.

Texas Instruments Inc. is a good example.

Its newest MCU design center based in Shanghai recently saw its first locally designed device successfully taped out. While TI is not disclosing the size of its team, Scott Roller, vice president of TI Microcontrollers, in a recent interview with EE Times, described the MCU design center in Shanghai as "a sizeable team, with multiple designs going on."

TI's Shanghai-based MCU design center, whose operation started in early 2011, is the newest addition to the company's three others worldwide. They include design centers in Germany, Bangalore and Dallas.

It's important to note that TI's facility in China is not there just to support existing MCU products. Rather, it actually executes some MCU product line development from China. "This is to develop MCUsbuilt in China for China," said Roller. The design center performs every jobranging from sales, application developers to system and processor designers and application field engineersnecessary to do the design work in one place. "We cover everythingfrom front to back end," said Roller.

Why design in China?
Asked why design in China, Roller gave two straightforward reasons: "First, you can move much faster. Second, by designing it locally, there will be less room for misinterpretation."

Although in theory, that may make sense, not every multinational has gone that far in their public commitment to designing in China.

Earlier this month at the Freescale Technology Forum in San Antonio, Texas, Gregg Lowe, Freescale Semiconductor's new president and CEO,�said the China market is in transition from a low-cost manufacturer of electronics products designed in the West to a true high-tech hub with the design capability to create products for its massive domestic market.

Chip vendors who want to sell products in China need a strong presence there, Lowe said. IC vendors don't necessarily need to design their products in China, but they need to have applications engineers and system engineers right there to be successful there, Lowe said.

The fundamental difference in China, however, is China's speed, said Allen Wu, president of ARM China. Design cycles for SoCs in China are generally much shorter, he observed. "From design starts to tapeout, sometimes it takes only five to six months. [Local companies] make decisions much more quickly and they react to the market very fast."

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